Front Page Titles (by Subject) FIRST DIVISION. - A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Vol. 1 (The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustine)
Return to Title Page for A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Vol. 1 (The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustine)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
FIRST DIVISION. - Philip Schaff, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Vol. 1 (The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustine) 
A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. Philip Schaff, LL.D. (Buffalo: The Christian Literature Co., 1886). Vol. 1 The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin, with a Sketch of his Life and Work.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
to hermogenianus1augustin sends greeting.
1. I would not presume, even in playful discussion, to attack the philosophers of the Academy;2 for when could the authority of such eminent men fail to move me, did I not believe their views to be widely different from those commonly ascribed to them? Instead of confuting them, which is beyond my power, I have rather imitated them to the best of my ability. For it seems to me to have been suitable enough to the times in which they flourished, that whatever issued pure from the fountainhead of Platonic philosophy should be rather conducted into dark and thorny thickets for the refreshment of a very few men, than left to flow in open meadow-land, where it would be impossible to keep it clear and pure from the inroads of the vulgar herd. I use the word herd advisedly; for what is more brutish than the opinion that the soul is material? For defence against the men who held this, it appears to me that such an art and method of concealing the truth3 was wisely contrived by the new Academy. But in this age of ours, when we see none who are philosophers,—for I do not consider those who merely wear the cloak of a philosopher to be worthy of that venerable name,—it seems to me that men (those, at least, whom the teaching of the Academicians has, through the subtlety of the terms in which it was expressed, deterred from attempting to understand its actual meaning) should be brought back to the hope of discovering the truth, lest that which was then for the time useful in eradicating obstinate error, should begin now to hinder the casting in of the seeds of true knowledge.
2. In that age the studies of contending schools of philosophers were pursued with such ardour, that the one thing to be feared was the possibility of error being approved. For every one who had been driven by the arguments of the sceptical philosophers from a position which he had supposed to be impregnable, set himself to seek some other in its stead, with a perseverance and caution corresponding to the greater industry which was characteristic of the men of that time, and the strength of the persuasion then prevailing, that truth, though deep and hard to be deciphered, does lie hidden in the nature of things and of the human mind. Now, however, such is the indisposition to strenuous exertion, and the indifference to the liberal arts, that so soon as it is noised abroad that, in the opinion of the most acute philosophers, truth is unattainable, men send their minds to sleep, and cover them up for ever. For they presume not, forsooth, to imagine themselves to be so superior in discernment to those great men, that they shall find out what, during his singularly long life, Carneades,4 with all his diligence, talents, and leisure, besides his extensive and varied learning, failed to discover. And if, contending somewhat against indolence, they rouse themselves so far as to read those books in which it is, as it were, proved that the perception of truth is denied to man, they relapse into lethargy so profound, that not even by the heavenly trumpet can they be aroused.
3. Wherefore, although I accept with the greatest pleasure your candid estimate of my brief treatise, and esteem you so much as to rely not less on the sagacity of your judgment than on the sincerity of your friendship, I beg you to give more particular attention to one point, and to write me again concerning it,—namely, whether you approve of that which, in the end of the third book,5 I have given as my opinion, in a tone perhaps of hesitation rather than of certainty, but in statements, as I think, more likely to be found useful than to be rejected as incredible. But whatever be the value of those treatises [the books against the Academicians], what I most rejoice in is, not that I have vanquished the Academicians, as you express it (using the language rather of friendly partiality than of truth), but that I have broken and cast away from me the odious bonds by which I was kept back from the nourishing breasts of philosophy, through despair of attaining that truth which is the food of the soul.
to zenobius augustin sends greeting.1
1. We are, I suppose, both agreed in maintaining that all things with which our bodily senses acquaint us are incapable of abiding unchanged for a single moment, but, on the contrary, are moving and in perpetual transition, and have no present reality, that is, to use the language of Latin philosophy, do not exist.2 Accordingly, the true and divine philosophy admonishes us to check and subdue the love of these things as most dangerous and disastrous, in order that the mind, even while using this body, may be wholly occupied and warmly interested in those things which are ever the same, and which owe their attractive power to no transient charm. Although this is all true, and although my mind, without the aid of the senses, sees you as you really are, and as an object which may be loved without disquietude, nevertheless I must own that when you are absent in body, and separated by distance, the pleasure of meeting and seeing you is one which I miss, and which, therefore, while it is attainable, I earnestly covet. This my infirmity (for such it must be) is one which, if I know you aright, you are well pleased to find in me; and though you wish every good thing for your best and most loved friends, you rather fear than desire that they should be cured of this infirmity. If, however, your soul has attained to such strength that you are able both to discern this snare, and to smile at those who are caught therein, truly you are great, and different from what I am. For my part, as long as I regret the absence of any one from me, so long do I wish him to regret my absence. At the same time, I watch and strive to set my love as little as possible on anything which can be separated from me against my will. Regarding this as my duty, I remind you, in the meantime, whatever be your frame of mind, that the discussion which I have begun with you must be finished, if we care for each other. For I can by no means consent to its being finished with Alypius, even if he wished it. But he does not wish this; for he is not the man to join with me now in endeavouring, by as many letters as we could send, to detain you with us, when you decline this, under the pressure of some necessity to us unknown.
to nebridius augustin sends greeting.3
1. Whether I am to regard it as the effect of what I may call your flattering language, or whether the thing be really so, is a point which I am unable to decide. For the impression was sudden, and I am not yet resolved how far it deserves to be believed. You wonder what this can be. What do you think? You have almost made me believe, not indeed that I am happy—for that is the heritage of the wise alone—but that I am at least in a sense happy: as we apply the designation man to beings who deserve the name only in a sense if compared with Plato’s ideal man, or speak of things which we see as round or square, although they differ widely from the perfect figure which is discerned by the mind of a few. I read your letter beside my lamp after supper: immediately after which I lay down, but not at once to sleep; for on my bed I meditated long, and talked thus with myself—Augustin addressing and answering Augustin: “Is it not true, as Nebridius affirms, that I am happy?” “Absolutely true it cannot be, for that I am still far from wise he himself would not deny.” “But may not a happy life be the lot even of those who are not wise?” “That is scarcely possible; because, in that case, lack of wisdom would be a small misfortune, and not, as it actually is, the one and only source of unhappiness.” “How, then, did Nebridius come to esteem me happy? Was it that, after reading these little books of mine, he ventured to pronounce me wise? Surely the vehemence of joy could not make him so rash, especially seeing that he is a man to whose judgment I well know so much weight is to be attached. I have it now: he wrote what he thought would be most gratifying to me, because he had been gratified by what I had written in those treatises; and he wrote in a joyful mood, without accurately weighing the sentiments entrusted to his joyous pen. What, then, would he have said if he had read my Soliloquies? He would have rejoiced with much more exultation, and yet could find no loftier name to bestow on me than this which he has already given in calling me happy. All at once, then, he has lavished on me the highest possible name, and has not reserved a single word to add to my praises, if at any time he were made by me more joyful than he is now. See what joy does.”
2. But where is that truly happy life? where? ay, where? Oh! if it were attained, one would spurn the atomic theory of Epicurus. Oh! if it were attained, one would know that there is nothing here below but the visible world. Oh! if it were attained, one would know that in the rotation of a globe on its axis, the motion of points near the poles is less rapid than of those which he half way between them,—and other such like things which we likewise know. But now, how or in what sense can I be called happy, who know not why the world is such in size as it is, when the proportions of the figures according to which it is framed do in no way hinder its being enlarged to any extent desired? Or how might it not be said to me—nay, might we not be compelled to admit that matter is infinitely divisible; so that, starting from any given base (so to speak), a definite number of corpuscles must rise to a definite and ascertainable quantity? Wherefore, seeing that we do not admit that any particle is so small as to be insusceptible of further diminution, what compels us to admit that any assemblage of parts is so great that it cannot possibly be increased? Is there perchance some important truth in what I once suggested confidentially to Alypius, that since number, as cognisable by the understanding, is susceptible of infinite augmentation, but not of infinite diminution,1 because we cannot reduce it lower than to the units, number, as cognisable by the senses (and this, of course, just means quantity of material parts or bodies), is on the contrary susceptible of infinite diminution, but has a limit to its augmentation? This may perhaps be the reason why philosophers justly pronounce riches to be found in the things about which the understanding is exercised, and poverty in those things with which the senses have to do. For what is poorer than to be susceptible of endless diminution? and what more truly rich than to increase as much as you will, to go whither you will, to return when you will and as far as you will, and to have as the object of your love that which is large and cannot be made less? For whoever understands these numbers loves nothing so much as the unit; and no wonder, seeing that it is through it that all the other numbers can be loved by him. But to return: Why is the world the size that it is, seeing that it might have been greater or less? I do not know: its dimensions are what they are, and I can go no further. Again: Why is the world in the place it now occupies rather than in another? Here, too, it is better not to put the question; for whatever the answer might be, other questions would still remain. This one thing greatly perplexed me, that bodies could be infinitely subdivided. To this perhaps an answer has been given, by setting over against it the converse property of abstract number [viz. its susceptibility of infinite multiplication].
3. But stay: let us see what is that indefinable object2 which is suggested to the mind. This world with which our senses acquaint us is surely the image of some world which the understanding apprehends. Now it is a strange phenomenon which we observe in the images which mirrors reflect to us,—that however great the mirrors be, they do not make the images larger than the objects placed before them, be they ever so small; but in small mirrors, such as the pupil of the eye, although a large surface be placed over against them, a very small image is formed, proportioned to the size of the mirror.3 Therefore if the mirrors be reduced in size, the images reflected in them are also reduced; but it is not possible for the images to be enlarged by enlarging the mirrors. Surely there is in this something which might reward further investigation; but meanwhile, I must sleep.4 Moreover, if I seem to Nebridius to be happy, it is not because I seek, but because perchance I have found something. What, then, is that something? Is it that chain of reasoning which I am wont so to caress as if it were my sole treasure, and in which perhaps I take too much delight?
4. “Of what parts do we consist?” “Of soul and body.” “Which of these is the nobler?” “Doubtless the soul.” “What do men praise in the body?” “Nothing that I see but comeliness.” “And what is comeliness of body?” “Harmony of parts in the form, together with a certain agreeableness of colour.” “Is this comeliness better where it is true or where it is illusive?” “Unquestionably it is better where it is true.” “And where is it found true?” “In the soul.” “The soul, therefore, is to be loved more than the body; but in what part of the soul does this truth reside?” “In the mind and understanding.” “With what has the understanding to contend?” “With the senses.” “Must we then resist the senses with all our might?” “Certainly.” “What, then, if the things with which the senses acquaint us give us pleasure?” “We must prevent them from doing so.” “How?” “By acquiring the habit of doing without them, and desiring better things.” “But if the soul die, what then?” “Why, then truth dies, or intelligence is not truth, or intelligence is not a part of the soul, or that which has some part immortal is liable to die: conclusions all of which I demonstrated long ago in my Soliloquies to be absurd because impossible; and I am firmly persuaded that this is the case, but somehow through the influence of custom in the experience of evils we are terrified, and hesitate. But even granting, finally, that the soul dies, which I do not see to be in any way possible, it remains nevertheless true that a happy life does not consist in the evanescent joy which sensible objects can yield: this I have pondered deliberately, and proved.”
Perhaps it is on account of reasonings such as these that I have been judged by my own Nebridius to be, if not absolutely happy, at least in a sense happy. Let me also judge myself to be happy: for what do I lose thereby, or why should I grudge to think well of my own estate? Thus I talked with myself, then prayed according to my custom, and fell asleep.
5. These things I have thought good to write to you. For it gratifies me that you should thank me when I write freely to you whatever crosses my mind; and to whom can I more willingly write nonsense1 than to one whom I cannot displease? But if it depends upon fortune whether one man love another or not, look to it, I pray you, how can I be justly called happy when I am so elated with joy by fortune’s favours, and avowedly desire that my store of such good things may be largely increased? For those who are most truly wise, and whom alone it is right to pronounce happy, have maintained that fortune’s favours ought not to be the objects of either fear or desire.
Now here I used the word “cupi:”2 will you tell me whether it should be “cupi” or “cupiri?” And I am glad this has come in the way, for I wish you to instruct me in the inflexion of this verb “cupio,” since, when I compare similar verbs with it, my uncertainty as to the proper inflexion increases. For “cupio” is like “fugio,” “sapio,” “jacio,” “capio;” but whether the infinitive mood is “fugiri” or “fugi,” “sapiri” or “sapi,” I do not know. I might regard “jaci” and “capi”3 as parallel instances answering my question as to the others, were I not afraid lest some grammarian should “catch” and “throw” me like a ball in sport wherever he pleased, by reminding me that the form of the supines “jactum” and “captum” is different from that found in the other verbs “fugitum,” “cupitum,” and “sapitum.” As to these three words, moreover, I am likewise ignorant whether the penultimate is to be pronounced long and with circumflex accent, or without accent and short. I would like to provoke you to write a reasonably long letter. I beg you to let me have what it will take some time to read. For it is far beyond my power to express the pleasure which I find in reading what you write.
to nebridius augustin sends greeting.
1. It is very wonderful how completely I was taken by surprise, when, on searching to discover which of your letters still remained unanswered, I found only one which held me as your debtor,—that, namely, in which you request me to tell you how far in this my leisure, which you suppose to be great, and which you desire to share with me, I am making progress in learning to discriminate those things in nature with which the senses are conversant, from those about which the understanding is employed. But I suppose it is not unknown to you, that if one becomes more and more fully imbued with false opinions, the more fully and intimately one exercises himself in them, the corresponding effect is still more easily produced in the mind by contact with truth. Nevertheless my progress, like our physical development, is so gradual, that it is difficult to define its steps distinctly, just as though there is a very great difference between a boy and a young man, no one, if daily questioned from his boyhood onward, could at any one date say that now he was no more a boy, but a young man.
2. I would not have you, however, so to apply this illustration as to suppose that, in the vigour of a more powerful understanding, I have arrived as it were at the beginning of the soul’s manhood. For I am yet but a boy, though perhaps, as we say, a promising boy, rather than a good-for-nothing. For although the eyes of my mind are for the most part perturbed and oppressed by the distractions produced by blows inflicted through things sensible, they are revived and raised up again by that brief process of reasoning: “The mind and intelligence are superior to the eyes and the common faculty of sight; which could not be the case unless the things which we perceive by intelligence were more real than the things which we perceive by the faculty of sight.” I pray you to help me in examining whether any valid objection can be brought against this reasoning. By it, meanwhile, I find myself restored and refreshed; and when, after calling upon God for help, I begin to rise to Him, and to those things which are in the highest sense real, I am at times satisfied with such a grasp and enjoyment of the things which eternally abide, that I sometimes wonder at my requiring any such reasoning as I have above given to persuade me of the reality of those things which in my soul are as truly present to me as I am to myself.
Please look over your letters yourself, for I own that you will be in this matter at greater pains than I, in order to make sure that I am not perchance unwittingly still owing an answer to any of them: for I can hardly believe that I have so soon got from under the burden of debts which I used to reckon as so numerous; albeit, at the same time, I cannot doubt that you have had some letters from me to which I have as yet received no reply.
to augustin nebridius sends greeting.
Is it true, my beloved Augustin, that you are spending your strength and patience on the affairs of your fellow-citizens (in Thagaste), and that the leisure from distractions which you so earnestly desired is still withheld from you? Who, I would like to know, are the men who thus take advantage of your good nature, and trespass on your time? I believe that they do not know what you love most and long for. Have you no friend at hand to tell them what your heart is set upon? Will neither Romanianus nor Lucinianus do this? Let them hear me at all events. I will proclaim aloud; I will protest that God is the supreme object of your love, and that your heart’s desire is to be His servant, and to cleave to Him. Fain would I persuade you to come to my home in the country, and rest here; I shall not be afraid of being denounced as a robber by those countrymen of yours, whom you love only too well, and by whom you are too warmly loved in return.
to augustin nebridius sends greeting.
1. Your letters I have great pleasure in keeping as carefully as my own eyes. For they are great, not indeed in length, but in the greatness of the subjects discussed in them, and in the great ability with which the truth in regard to these subjects is demonstrated. They shall bring to my ear the voice of Christ, and the teaching of Plato and of Plotinus. To me, therefore, they shall ever be pleasant to hear, because of their eloquent style; easy to read, because of their brevity; and profitable to understand, because of the wisdom which they contain. Be at pains, therefore, to teach me everything which, to your judgment, commends itself as holy or good. As to this letter in particular, answer it when you are ready to discuss a subtle problem in regard to memory, and the images presented by the imagination.1 My opinion is, that although there can be such images independently of memory, there is no exercise of memory independently of such images.2 You will say, What, then, takes place when memory is exercised in recalling an act of understanding or of thought? I answer this objection by saying, that such acts can be recalled by memory for this reason, that in the supposed act of understanding or of thought we gave birth to something conditioned by space or by time, which is of such a nature that it can be reproduced by the imagination: for either we connected the use of words with the exercise of the understanding and with the thoughts, and words are conditioned by time, and thus fall within the domain of the senses or of the imaginative faculty; or if we did not join words with the mental act, our intellect at all events experienced in the act of thinking something which was of such a nature as could produce in the mind that which, by the aid of the imaginative faculty, memory could recall. These things I have stated, as usual, without much consideration, and in a somewhat confused manner: do you examine them, and, rejecting what is false, acquaint me by letter with what you hold as the truth on this subject.
2. Listen also to this question: Why, I should like to know, do we not affirm that the phantasy [imaginative faculty] derives all its images from itself, rather than say that it receives these from the senses? For it is possible that, as the intellectual faculty of the soul is indebted to the senses, not for the objects upon which the intellect is exercised, but rather for the admonition arousing it to see these objects, in the same manner the imaginative faculty may be indebted to the senses, not for the images which are the objects upon which it is exercised, but rather for the admonition arousing it to contemplate these images. And perhaps it is in this way that we are to explain the fact that the imagination perceives some objects which the senses never perceived, whereby it is shown that it has all its images within itself, and from itself. You will answer me what you think of this question also.
to nebridius augustin sends greeting.
Memory may be exercised independently of such images as are presented by the imagination.
1. I shall dispense with a formal preface, and to the subject on which you have for some time wished to hear my opinion I shall address myself at once; and this I do the more willingly, because the statement must take some time.
It seems to you that there can be no exercise of memory without images, or the apprehension of some objects presented by the imagination, which you have been pleased to call “phantasiæ.” For my part, I entertain a different opinion. In the first place, we must observe that the things which we remember are not always things which are passing away, but are for the most part things which are permanent. Wherefore, seeing that the function of memory is to retain hold of what belongs to time past, it is certain that it embraces on the one hand things which leave us, and on the other hand things from which we go away. When, for example, I remember my father, the object which memory recalls is one which has left me, and is now no more; but when I remember Carthage, the object is in this case one which still exists, and which I have left. In both cases, however, memory retains what belongs to past time. For I remember that man and this city, not by seeing them now, but by having seen them in the past.
2. You perhaps ask me at this point, Why bring forward these facts? And you may do this the more readily, because you observe that in both the examples quoted the object remembered can come to my memory in no other way than by the apprehension of such an image as you affirm to be always necessary. For my purpose it suffices meanwhile to have proved in this way that memory can be spoken of as embracing also those things which have not yet passed away: and now mark attentively how this supports my opinion. Some men raise a groundless objection to that most famous theory invented by Socrates, according to which the things that we learn are not introduced to our minds as new, but brought back to memory by a process of recollection; supporting their objection by affirming that memory has to do only with things which have passed away, whereas, as Plato himself has taught, those things which we learn by the exercise of the understanding are permanent, and being imperishable, cannot be numbered among things which have passed away: the mistake into which they have fallen arising obviously from this, that they do not consider that it is only the mental act of apprehension by which we have discerned these things which belongs to the past; and that it is because we have, in the stream of mental activity, left these behind, and begun in a variety of ways to attend to other things, that we require to return to them by an effort of recollection, that is, by memory. If, therefore, passing over other examples, we fix our thoughts upon eternity itself as something which is for ever permanent, and consider, on the one hand, that it does not require any image fashioned by the imagination as the vehicle by which it may be introduced into the mind; and, on the other hand, that it could never enter the mind otherwise than by our remembering it,—we shall see that, in regard to some things at least, there can be an exercise of memory without any image of the thing remembered being presented by the imagination.
The mind is destitute of images presented by the imagination, so long as it has not been informed by the senses of external things.
3. In the second place, as to your opinion that it is possible for the mind to form to itself images of material things independently of the services of the bodily senses, this is refuted by the following argument:—If the mind is able, before it uses the body as its instrument in perceiving material objects, to form to itself the images of these; and if, as no sane man can doubt, the mind received more reliable and correct impressions before it was involved in the illusions which the senses produce, it follows that we must attribute greater value to the impressions of men asleep than of men awake, and of men insane than of those who are free from such mental disorder: for they are, in these states of mind, impressed by the same kind of images as impressed them before they were indebted for information to these most deceptive messengers, the senses; and thus, either the sun which they see must be more real than the sun which is seen by men in their sound judgment and in their waking hours, or that which is an illusion must be better than what is real. But if these conclusions, my dear Nebridius, are, as they obviously are, wholly absurd, it is demonstrated that the image of which you speak is nothing else than a blow inflicted by the senses, the function of which in connection with these images is not, as you write, the mere suggestion or admonition occasioning their formation by the mind within itself, but the actual bringing in to the mind, or, to speak more definitely, impressing upon it of the illusions to which through the senses we are subject. The difficulty which you feel as to the question how it comes to pass that we can conceive in thought, faces and forms which we have never seen, is one which proves the acuteness of your mind. I shall therefore do what may extend this letter beyond the usual length; not, however, beyond the length which you will approve, for I believe that the greater the fulness with which I write to you, the more welcome shall my letter be.
4. I perceive that all those images which you as well as many others call phantasiæ, may be most conveniently and accurately divided into three classes, according as they originate with the senses, or the imagination, or the faculty of reason. Examples of the first class are when the mind forms within itself and presents to me the image of your face, or of Carthage, or of our departed friend Verecundus, or of any other thing at present or formerly existing, which I have myself seen and perceived. Under the second class come all things which we imagine to have been, or to be so and so: e.g. when, for the sake of illustration in discourse, we ourselves suppose things which have no existence, but which are not prejudicial to truth; or when we call up to our own minds a lively conception of the things described while we read history, or hear, or compose, or refuse to believe fabulous narrations. Thus, according to my own fancy, and as it may occur to my own mind, I picture to myself the appearance of Æneas, or of Medea with her team of winged dragons, or of Chremes, or Parmeno.1 To this class belong also those things which have been brought forward as true, either by wise men wrapping up some truth in the folds of such inventions, or by foolish men building up various kinds of superstition; e.g. the Phlegethon of Tartarus, and the five caves of the nation of darkness,2 and the North Pole supporting the heavens, and a thousand other prodigies of poets and of heretics. Moreover, we often say, when carrying on a discussion, “Suppose that three worlds, such as the one which we inhabit, were placed one above another;” or, “Suppose the earth to be enclosed within a four-sided figure,” and so on: for all such things we picture to ourselves, and imagine according to the mood and direction of our thoughts. As for the third class of images, it has to do chiefly with numbers and measure; which are found partly in the nature of things, as when the figure of the entire world is discovered, and an image consequent upon this discovery is formed in the mind of one thinking upon it; and partly in sciences, as in geometrical figures and musical harmonies, and in the infinite variety of numerals: which, although they are, as I think, true in themselves as objects of the understanding, are nevertheless the causes of illusive exercises of the imagination, the misleading tendency of which reason itself can only with difficulty withstand; although it is not easy to preserve even the science of reasoning free from this evil, since in our logical divisions and conclusions we form to ourselves, so to speak, calculi or counters to facilitate the process of reasoning.
5. In this whole forest of images, I believe that you do not think that those of the first class belong to the mind previous to the time when they find access through the senses. On this we need not argue any further. As to the other two classes a question might reasonably be raised, were it not manifest that the mind is less liable to illusions when it has not yet been subjected to the deceptive influence of the senses, and of things sensible; and yet who can doubt that these images are much more unreal than those with which the senses acquaint us? For the things which we suppose, or believe, or picture to ourselves, are in every point wholly unreal; and the things which we perceive by sight and the other senses, are, as you see, far more near to the truth than these products of imagination. As to the third class, whatever extension of body in space I figure to myself in my mind by means of an image of this class, although it seems as if a process of thought had produced this image by scientific reasonings which did not admit of error, nevertheless I prove it to be deceptive, these same reasonings serving in turn to detect its falsity. Thus it is wholly impossible for me to believe [as, accepting your opinion, I must believe] that the soul, while not yet using the bodily senses, and not yet rudely assaulted through these fallacious instruments by that which is mortal and fleeting, lay under such ignominious subjection to illusions.
6. “Whence then comes our capacity of conceiving in thought things which we have never seen?” What, think you, can be the cause of this, but a certain faculty of diminution and addition which is innate in the mind, and which it cannot but carry with it whithersoever it turns (a faculty which may be observed especially in relation to numbers)? By the exercise of this faculty, if the image of a crow, for example, which is very familiar to the eye, be set before the eye of the mind, as it were, it may be brought, by the taking away of some features and the addition of others, to almost any image such as never was seen by the eye. By this faculty also it comes to pass, that when men’s minds habitually ponder such things, figures of this kind force their way as it were unbidden into their thoughts. Therefore it is possible for the mind, by taking away, as has been said, some things from objects which the senses have brought within its knowledge, and by adding some things, to produce in the exercise of imagination that which, as a whole, was never within the observation of any of the senses; but the parts of it had all been within such observation, though found in a variety of different things: e.g., when we were boys, born and brought up in an inland district, we could already form some idea of the sea, after we had seen water even in a small cup; but the flavour of strawberries and of cherries could in no wise enter our conceptions before we tasted these fruits in Italy. Hence it is also, that those who have been born blind know not what to answer when they are asked about light and colours. For those who have never perceived coloured objects by the senses are not capable of having the images of such objects in the mind.
7. And let it not appear to you strange, that though the mind is present in and intermingled with all those images which in the nature of things are figured or can be pictured by us, these are not evolved by the mind from within itself before it has received them through the senses from without. For we also find that, along with anger, joy, and other such emotions, we produce changes in our bodily aspect and complexion, before our thinking faculty even conceives that we have the power of producing such images [or indications of our feeling]. These follow upon the experience of the emotion in those wonderful ways (especially deserving your attentive consideration), which consist in the repeated action and reaction of hidden numbers1 in the soul, without the intervention of any image of illusive material things. Whence I would have you understand—perceiving as you do that so many movements of the mind go on wholly independently of the images in question—that of all the movements of the mind by which it may conceivably attain to the knowledge of bodies, every other is more likely than the process of creating forms of sensible things by unaided thought, because I do not think that it is capable of any such conceptions before it uses the body and the senses.
Wherefore, my well beloved and most amiable brother, by the friendship which unites us, and by our faith in the divine law itself,2 I would warn you never to link yourself in friendship with those shadows of the realm of darkness, and to break off without delay whatever friendship may have been begun between you and them. That resistance to the sway of the bodily senses which it is our most sacred duty to practise, is wholly abandoned if we treat with fondness and flattery the blows and wounds which the senses inflict upon us.
to augustin nebridius sends greeting.
1. As I am in haste to come to the subject of my letter, I dispense with any preface or introduction. When at any time it pleases higher (by which I mean heavenly) powers to reveal anything to us by dreams in our sleep, how is this done, my dear Augustin, or what is the method which they use? What, I say, is their method, i.e. by what art or magic, by what agency or enchantments, do they accomplish this? Do they by their thoughts influence our minds, so that we also have the same images presented in our thoughts? Do they bring before us, and exhibit as actually done in their own body or in their own imagination, the things which we dream? But if they actually do these things in their own body, it follows that, in order to our seeing what they thus do, we must be endowed with other bodily eyes beholding what passes within while we sleep. If, however, they are not assisted by their bodies in producing the effects in question, but frame such things in their own imaginative faculty, and thus impress our imaginations, thereby giving visible form to what we dream; why is it, I ask, that I cannot compel your imagination to reproduce those dreams which I have myself first formed by my imagination? I have undoubtedly the faculty of imagination, and it is capable of presenting to my own mind the picture of whatever I please; and yet I do not thereby cause any dream in you, although I see that even our bodies have the power of originating dreams in us. For by means of the bond of sympathy uniting it to the soul, the body compels us in strange ways to repeat or reproduce by imagination anything which it has once experienced. Thus often in sleep, if we are thirsty, we dream that we drink; and if we are hungry, we seem to ourselves to be eating; and many other instances there are in which, by some mode of exchange, so to speak, things are transferred through the imagination from the body to the soul.
Be not surprised at the want of elegance and subtlety with which these questions are here stated to you; consider the obscurity in which the subject is involved, and the inexperience of the writer; be it yours to do your utmost to supply his deficiencies.
to nebridius augustin sends greeting.
1. Although you know my mind well, you are perhaps not aware how much I long to enjoy your society. This great blessing, however, God will some day bestow on me. I have read your letter, so genuine in its utterances, in which you complain of your being in solitude, and, as it were, forsaken by your friends, in whose society you found the sweetest charm of life. But what else can I suggest to you than that which I am persuaded is already your exercise? Commune with your own soul, and raise it up, as far as you are able, unto God. For in Him you hold us also by a firmer bond, not by means of bodily images, which we must meanwhile be content to use in remembering each other, but by means of that faculty of thought through which we realize the fact of our separation from each other.
2. In considering your letters, in answering all of which I have certainly had to answer questions of no small difficulty and importance, I was not a little stunned by the one in which you ask me by what means certain thoughts and dreams are put into our minds by higher powers or by superhuman agents.1 The question is a great one, and, as your own prudence must convince you, would require, in order to its being satisfactorily answered, not a mere letter, but a full oral discussion or a whole treatise. I shall try, however, knowing as I do your talents, to throw out a few germs of thought which may shed light on this question, in order that you may either complete the exhaustive treatment of the subject by your own efforts, or at least not despair of the possibility of this important matter being investigated with satisfactory results.
3. It is my opinion that every movement of the mind affects in some degree the body. We know that this is patent even to our senses, dull and sluggish though they are, when the movements of the mind are somewhat vehement, as when we are angry, or sad, or joyful. Whence we may conjecture that, in like manner, when thought is busy, although no bodily effect of the mental act is discernible by us, there may be some such effect discernible by beings of aerial or etherial essence whose perceptive faculty is in the highest degree acute,—so much so, that, in comparison with it, our faculties are scarcely worthy to be called perceptive. Therefore these footprints of its motion, so to speak, which the mind impresses on the body, may perchance not only remain, but remain as it were with the force of a habit; and it may be that, when these are secretly stirred and played upon, they bear thoughts and dreams into our minds, according to the pleasure of the person moving or touching them: and this is done with marvellous facility. For if, as is manifest, the attainments of our earth-born and sluggish bodies in the department of exercise, e.g. in the playing of musical instruments, dancing on the tight-rope, etc., are almost incredible, it is by no means unreasonable to suppose that beings which act with the powers of an aerial or etherial body upon our bodies, and are by the constitution of their natures able to pass unhindered through these bodies, should be capable of much greater quickness in moving whatever they wish, while we, though not perceiving what they do, are nevertheless affected by the results of their activity. We have a somewhat parallel instance in the fact that we do not perceive how it is that superfluity of bile impels us to more frequent outbursts of passionate feeling; and yet it does produce this effect, while this superfluity of bile is itself an effect of our yielding to such passionate feelings.
4. If, however, you hesitate to accept this example as a parallel one, when it is thus cursorily stated by me, turn it over in your thoughts as fully as you can. The mind, if it be continually obstructed by some difficulty in the way of doing and accomplishing what it desires, is thereby made continually angry. For anger, so far as I can judge of its nature, seems to me to be a tumultuous eagerness to take out of the way those things which restrict our freedom of action. Hence it is that usually we vent our anger not only on men, but on such a thing, for example, as the pen with which we write, bruising or breaking it in our passion; and so does the gambler with his dice, the artist with his pencil, and every man with the instrument which he may be using, if he thinks that he is in some way thwarted by it. Now medical men themselves tell us that by these frequent fits of anger bile is increased. But, on the other hand, when the bile is increased, we are easily, and almost without any provocation whatever, made angry. Thus the effect which the mind has by its movement produced upon the body, is capable in its turn of moving the mind again.
5. These things might be treated at very great length, and our knowledge of the subject might be brought to greater certainty and fulness by a large induction from relevant facts. But take along with this letter the one which I sent you lately concerning images and memory,2 and study it somewhat more carefully; for it was manifest to me, from your reply, that it had not been fully understood. When, to the statements now before you, you add the portion of that letter in which I spoke of a certain natural faculty whereby the mind does in thought add to or take from any object as it pleases, you will see that it is possible for us both in dreams and in waking thoughts to conceive the images of bodily forms which we have never seen.
to nebridius augustin sends greeting.
1. No question of yours ever kept me so disturbed while reflecting upon it, as the remark which I read in your last letter, in which you chide me for being indifferent as to making arrangements by which it may be possible for us to live together. A grave charge, and one which, were it not unfounded, would be most perilous. But since satisfactory reasons seem to prove that we can live as we would wish to do better here than at Carthage, or even in the country, I am wholly at a loss, my dear Nebridius, what to do with you. Shall such a conveyance as may best suit your state of health be sent from us to you? Our friend Lucinianus informs me that you can be carried without injury in a palanquin. But I consider, on the other hand, how your mother, who could not bear your absence from her when you were in health, will be much less able to bear it when you are ill. Shall I myself then come to you? This I cannot do, for there are some here who cannot accompany me, and whom I would think it a crime for me to leave. For you already can pass your time agreeably when left to the resources of our own mind; but in their case the object of present efforts is that they may attain to this. Shall I go and come frequently, and so be now with you, now with them? But this is neither to live together, nor to live as we would wish to do. For the journey is not a short one, but so great at least that the attempt to perform it frequently would prevent our gaining the wished-for leisure. To this is added the bodily weakness through which, as you know, I cannot accomplish what I wish, unless I cease wholly to wish what is beyond my strength.
2. To occupy one’s thoughts throughout life with journeyings which you cannot perform tranquilly and easily, is not the part of a man whose thoughts are engaged with that last journey which is called death, and which alone, as you understand, really deserves serious consideration. God has indeed granted to some few men whom He has ordained to bear rule over churches, the capacity of not only awaiting calmly, but even desiring eagerly, that last journey, while at the same time they can meet without disquietude the toils of those other journeyings; but I do not believe that either to those who are urged to accept such duties through desire for worldly honour, or to those who, although occupying a private station, covet a busy life, so great a boon is given as that amid bustle and agitating meetings, and journeyings hither and thither, they should acquire that familiarity with death which we seek: for both of these classes had it in their power to seek edification1 in retirement. Or if this be not true, I am, I shall not say the most foolish of all men, but at least the most indolent, since I find it impossible, without the aid of such an interval of relief from care and toil, to taste and relish that only real good. Believe me, there is need of much withdrawal of oneself from the tumult of the things which are passing away, in order that there may be formed in man, not through insensibility, not through presumption, not through vainglory, not through superstitious blindness, the ability to say, “I fear nought.” By this means also is attained that enduring joy with which no pleasurable excitement found elsewhere is in any degree to be compared.
3. But if such a life does not fall to the lot of man, how is it that calmness of spirit is our occasional experience? Wherefore is this experience more frequent, in proportion to the devotion with which any one in his inmost soul worships God? Why does this tranquillity for the most part abide with one in the business of life, when he goes forth to its duties from that sanctuary? Why are there times in which, speaking, we do not fear death, and, silent, even desire it? I say to you—for I would not say it to every one—to you whose visits to the upper world I know well, Will you, who have often felt how sweetly the soul lives when it dies to all mere bodily affections, deny that it is possible for the whole life of man to become at length so exempt from fear, that he may be justly called wise? Or will you venture to affirm that this state of mind on which reason leans has ever been your lot, except when you were shut up to commune with your own heart? Since these things are so, you see that it remains only for you to share with me the labour of devising how we may arrange to live together. You know much better than I do what is to be done in regard to your mother, whom your brother Victor, of course, does not leave alone. I will write no more, lest I turn your mind away from considering this proposal.
to nebridius augustin sends greeting.
1. When the question, which has long been brought before me by you with something even of friendly chiding, as to the way in which we might live together, was seriously disturbing my mind, and I had resolved to write to you, and to beg an answer from you bearing exclusively on this subject, and to employ my pen on no other theme pertaining to our studies, in order that the discussion of this matter between us might be brought to an end, the very short and indisputable conclusion stated in your letter lately received at once delivered me from all further solicitude; your statement being to the effect that on this matter there ought to be no further deliberation, because as soon as it is in my power to come to you, or in your power to come to me, we shall feel alike constrained to improve the opportunity. My mind being thus, as I have said, at rest, I looked over all your letters, that I might see what yet remained unanswered. In these I have found so many questions, that even if they were easily solved, they would by their mere number more than exhaust the time and talents of any man. But they are so difficult, that if the answering of even one of them were laid upon me, I would not hesitate to confess myself heavily burdened. The design of this introductory statement is to make you desist for a little from asking new questions until I am free from debt, and that you confine yourself in your answer to the statement of your opinion of my replies. At the same time, I know that it is to my own loss that I postpone for even a little while the participation of your divine thoughts.
2. Hear, therefore, the view which I hold concerning the mystery of the Incarnation which the religion wherein we have been instructed commends to our faith and knowledge as having been accomplished in order to our salvation; which question I have chosen to discuss in preference to all the rest, although it is not the most easily answered. For those questions which are proposed by you concerning this world do not appear to me to have a sufficiently direct reference to the obtaining of a happy life; and whatever pleasure they yield when investigated, there is reason to fear lest they take up time which ought to be devoted to better things. With regard, then, to the subject which I have at this time undertaken, first of all I am surprised that you were perplexed by the question why not the Father, but the Son, is said to have become incarnate, and yet were not also perplexed by the same question in regard to the Holy Spirit. For the union of Persons in the Trinity is in the Catholic faith set forth and believed, and by a few holy and blessed ones understood, to be so inseparable, that whatever is done by the Trinity must be regarded as being done by the Father, and by the Son, and by the Holy Spirit together; and that nothing is done by the Father which is not also done by the Son and by the Holy Spirit; and nothing done by the Holy Spirit which is not also done by the Father and by the Son; and nothing done by the Son which is not also done by the Father and by the Holy Spirit. From which it seems to follow as a consequence, that the whole Trinity assumed human nature; for if the Son did so, but the Father and the Spirit did not, there is something in which they act separately.1 Why, then, in our mysteries and sacred symbols, is the Incarnation ascribed only to the Son? This is a very great question, so difficult, and on a subject so vast, that it is impossible either to give a sufficiently clear statement, or to support it by satisfactory proofs. I venture, however, since I am writing to you, to indicate rather than explain what my sentiments are, in order that you, from your talents and our intimacy, through which you thoroughly know me, may for yourself fill up the outline.
3. There is no nature, Nebridius—and, indeed, there is no substance—which does not contain in itself and exhibit these three things: first, that it is; next, that it is this or that; and third, that as far as possible it remains as it is. The first of these three presents the original cause of nature from which all things exist; the second presents the form2 according to which all things are fashioned and formed in a particular way; the third presents a certain permanence, so to speak, in which all things are. Now, if it be possible that a thing can be, and yet not be this or that, and not remain in its own generic form; or that a thing can be this or that, and yet not be, and not remain in its own generic form, so far as it is possible for it to do so; or that a thing can remain in its own generic form according to the force belonging to it, and yet not be, and not be this or that,—then it is also possible that in that Trinity one Person can do something in which the others have no part. But if you see that whatever is must forthwith be this or that, and must remain so far as possible in its own generic form, you see also that these Three do nothing in which all have not a part. I see that as yet I have only treated a portion of this question, which makes its solution difficult. But I wished to open up briefly to you—if, indeed, I have succeeded in this—how great in the system of Catholic truth is the doctrine of the inseparability of the Persons of the Trinity, and how difficult to be understood.
4. Hear now how that which disquiets your mind may disquiet it no more. The mode of existence (Species—the second of the three above named) which is properly ascribed to the Son, has to do with training, and with a certain art, if I may use that word in regard to such things, and with the exercise of intellect, by which the mind itself is moulded in its thoughts upon things. Therefore, since by that assumption of human nature the work accomplished was the effective presentation to us of a certain training in the right way of living, and exemplification of that which is commanded, under the majesty and perspicuousness of certain sentences, it is not without reason that all this is ascribed to the Son. For in many things which I leave your own reflection and prudence to suggest, although the constituent elements be many, some one nevertheless stands out above the rest, and therefore not unreasonably claims a right of possession, as it were, of the whole for itself: as, e.g., in the three kinds of questions above mentioned,1 although the question raised be whether a thing is or not, this involves necessarily also both what it is (this or that), for of course it cannot be at all unless it be something, and whether it ought to be approved of or disapproved of, for whatever is is a fit subject for some opinion as to its quality; in like manner, when the question raised is what a thing is, this necessarily involves both that it is, and that its quality may be tried by some standard; and in the same way, when the question raised is what is the quality of a thing, this necessarily involves that that thing is, and is something, since all things are inseparably joined to themselves;—nevertheless, the question in each of the above cases takes its name not from all the three, but from the special point towards which the inquirer directed his attention. Now there is a certain training necessary for men, by which they might be instructed and formed after some model. We cannot say, however, regarding that which is accomplished in men by this training, either that it does not exist, or that it is not a thing to be desired [i.e. we cannot say what it is, without involving an affirmation both of its existence and of its quality]; but we seek first to know what it is, for in knowing this we know that by which we may infer that it is something, and in which we may remain. Therefore the first thing necessary was, that a certain rule and pattern of training be plainly exhibited; and this was done by the divinely appointed method of the Incarnation, which is properly to be ascribed to the Son, in order that from it should follow both our knowledge, through the Son, of the Father Himself, i.e. of the one first principle whence all things have their being, and a certain inward and ineffable charm and sweetness of remaining in that knowledge, and of despising all mortal things,—a gift and work which is properly ascribed to the Holy Spirit. Wherefore, although in all things the Divine Persons act perfectly in common, and without possibility of separation, nevertheless their operations behoved to be exhibited in such a way as to be distinguished from each other, on account of the weakness which is in us, who have fallen from unity into variety. For no one ever succeeds in raising another to the height on which he himself stands, unless he stoop somewhat towards the level which that other occupies.
You have here a letter which may not indeed put an end to your disquietude in regard to this doctrine, but which may set your own thoughts to work upon a kind of solid foundation; so that, with the talents which I well know you to possess, you may follow, and, by tho piety in which especially we must be stedfast, may apprehend that which still remains to be discovered.
Omitted, as only a fragment of the text of the letter is preserved.
to nebridius augustin sends greeting.
1. I do not feel pleasure in writing of the subjects which I was wont to discuss; I am not at liberty to write of new themes. I see that the one would not suit you, and that for the other I have no leisure. For, since I left you, neither opportunity nor leisure has been given me for taking up and revolving the things which we are accustomed to investigate together. The winter nights are indeed too long, and they are not entirely spent in sleep by me; but when I have leisure, other subjects [than those which we used to discuss] present themselves as having a prior claim on my consideration.2 What, then, am I to do? Am I to be to you as one dumb, who cannot speak, or as one silent, who will not speak? Neither of these things is desired, either by you or by me. Come, then, and hear what the end of the night succeeded in eliciting from me during the time in which it was devoted to following out the subject of this letter.
2. You cannot but remember that a question often agitated between us, and which kept us agitated, breathless, and excited, was one concerning a body or kind of body, which belongs perpetually to the soul, and which, as you recollect, is called by some its vehicle. It is manifest that this thing, if it moves from place to place, is not cognisable by the understanding. But whatever is not cognisable by the understanding cannot be understood. It is not, however, utterly impossible to form an opinion approximating to the truth concerning a thing which is outside the province of the intellect, if it lies within the province of the senses. But when a thing is beyond the province of the intellect and of the senses, the speculations to which it gives rise are too baseless and trifling; and the thing of which we treat now is of this nature, if indeed it exists. Why, then, I ask, do we not finally dismiss this unimportant question, and with prayer to God raise ourselves to the supreme serenity of the Highest existing nature?
3. Perhaps you may here reply: “Although bodies cannot be perceived by the understanding, we can perceive with the understanding many things concerning material objects; e.g. we know that matter exists. For who will deny this, or affirm that in this we have to do with the probable rather than the true? Thus, though matter itself lies among things probable, it is a most indisputable truth that something like it exists in nature. Matter itself is therefore pronounced to be an object cognisable by the senses; but the assertion of its existence is pronounced to be a truth cognisable by the intellect, for it cannot be perceived otherwise. And so this unknown body, about which we inquire, upon which the soul depends for its power to move from place to place, may possibly be cognisable by senses more powerful than we possess, though not by ours; and at all events, the question whether it exists is one which may be solved by our understandings.”
4. If you intend to say this, let me remind you that the mental act we call understanding is done by us in two ways: either by the mind and reason within itself, as when we understand that the intellect itself exists; or by occasion of suggestion from the senses, as in the case above mentioned, when we understand that matter exists. In the first of these two kinds of acts we understand through ourselves, i.e. by asking instruction of God concerning that which is within us; but in the second we understand by asking instruction of God regarding that of which intimation is given to us by the body and the senses. If these things be found true, no one can by his understanding discover whether that body of which you speak exists or not, but the person to whom his senses have given some intimation concerning it. If there be any living creature to which the senses give such intimation, since we at least see plainly that we are not among the number, I regard the conclusion established which I began to state a little ago, that the question [about the vehicle of the soul] is one which does not concern us. I wish you would consider this over and over again, and take care to let me know the product of your consideration.
to nebridius augustin sends greeting.
1. I have preferred to reply to your last letter, not because I undervalued your earlier questions, or enjoyed them less, but because in answering you I undertake a greater task than you think. For although you enjoined me to send you a superlatively long1 letter, I have not so much leisure as you imagine, and as you know I have always wished to have, and do still wish. Ask not why it is so: for I could more easily enumerate the things by which I am hindered, than explain why I am hindered by them.
2. You ask why it is that you and I, though separate individuals, do many things which are the same, but the sun does not the same as the other heavenly bodies. Of this thing I must attempt to explain the cause. Now, if you and I do the same things, the sun also does many things which the other heavenly bodies do: if in some things it does not the same as the others, this is equally true of you and me. I walk, and you walk; it is moved, and they are moved: I keep awake, and you keep awake; it shines, and they shine: I discuss, and you discuss; it goes its round, and they go their rounds. And yet there is no fitness of comparison between mental acts and things visible. If, however, as is reasonable, you compare mind with mind, the heavenly bodies, if they have any mind, must be regarded as even more uniform than men in their thoughts or contemplations, or whatever term may more conveniently express such activity in them. Moreover, as to the movements of the body, you will find, if you reflect on this with your wonted attention, that it is impossible for precisely the same thing to be done by two persons. When we walk together, do you think that we both necessarily do the same thing? Far be such thought from one of your wisdom! For the one of us who walks on the side towards the north, must either, in taking the same step as the other, get in advance of him, or walk more slowly than he does. Neither of these things is perceptible by the senses; but you, if I am not mistaken, look to what we know by the understanding rather than to what we learn by the senses. If, however, we move from the pole towards the south, joined and chnging to each other as closely as possible, and treading on a sheet of marble or even ivory smooth and level, a perfect identity is as unattainable in our motions as in the throbbings of our pulses, or in our figures and faces. Put us aside, and place in our stead the sons of Glaucus, and you gain nothing by this substitution: for even in these twins so perfectly resembling each other, the necessity for the motions of each being peculiarly his own, is as great as the necessity for their birth as separate individuals.
3. You will perhaps say: “The difference in this case is one which only reason can discover; but the difference between the sun and the other heavenly bodies is to the senses also patent.” If you insist upon my looking to their difference in magnitude, you know how many things may be said as to the distances by which they are removed from us, and into how great uncertainty that which you speak of as obvious may thus be brought back. I may, however, concede that the actual size corresponds with the apparent size of the heavenly bodies, for I myself believe this; and I ask you to show me any one whose senses were incapable of remarking the prodigious stature of Nævius, exceeding by a foot that of the tallest man.1 By the way, I think you have been just too eager to discover some man to match him; and when you did not succeed in the search, have resolved to make me stretch out my letter so as to rival his dimensions.2 If therefore even on earth such variety in size may be seen, I think that it need not surprise us to find the like in the heavens. If, however, the thing which moves your surprise is that the light of no other heavenly body than the sun fills the day, who, I ask you, has ever been manifested to men so great as that Man whom God took into union with Himself, in another way entirely than He has taken all other holy and wise men who ever lived? for if you compare Him with other men who were wise, He is separated from them by superiority greater far than that which the sun has above the other heavenly bodies. This comparison let me charge you by all means attentively to study; for it is not impossible that to your singularly gifted mind I may have suggested, by this cursory remark, the solution of a question which you once proposed to me concerning the humanity of Christ.
4. You also ask me whether that highest Truth and highest Wisdom and Form (or Archetype) of things, by whom all things were made, and whom our creeds confess to be the only-begotten Son of God, contains the idea3 of mankind in general, or also of each individual of our race. A great question. My opinion is, that in the creation of man there was in Him the idea only of man generally, and not of you or me as individuals; but that in the cycle of time the idea of each individual, with all the varieties distinguishing men from each other, lives in that pure Truth. This I grant is very obscure; yet I know not by what kind of illustration light may be shed upon it, unless perhaps we betake ourselves to those sciences which lie wholly within our minds. In geometry, the idea of an angle is one thing, the idea of a square is another. As often, therefore, as I please to describe an angle, the idea of the angle, and that alone, is present to my mind; but I can never describe a square unless I fix my attention upon the idea of four angles at the same time. In like manner, every man, considered as an individual man, has been made according to one idea proper to himself; but in the making of a nation, although the idea according to which it is made be also one, it is the idea not of one, but of many men collectively. If, therefore, Nebridius is a part of this universe, as he is, and the whole universe is made up of parts, the God who made the universe could not but have in His plan the idea of all the parts. Wherefore, since there is in this idea of a very great number of men, it does not belong to man himself as such; although, on the other hand, all the individuals are in wonderful ways reduced to one. But you will consider this at your convenience. I beg you meanwhile to be content with what I have written, although I have already outdone Nævius himself.
to romanianus augustin sends greeting.
1. This letter indicates a scarcity of paper,4 but not so as to testify that parchment is plentiful here. My ivory tablets I used in the letter which I sent to your uncle. You will more readily excuse this scrap of parchment, because what I wrote to him could not be delayed, and I thought that not to write to you for want of better material would be most absurd. But if any tablets of mine are with you, I request you to send them to meet a case of this kind. I have written something, as the Lord has deigned to enable me, concerning the Catholic religion, which before my coming I wish to send to you, if my paper does not fail me in the meantime. For you will receive with indulgence any kind of writing from the office of the brethren who are with me. As to the manuscripts of which you speak, I have entirely forgotten them, except the books de Oratore; but I could not have written anything better than that you should take such of them as you please, and I am still of the same mind; for at this distance I know not what else I can do in the matter.
2. It gave me very great pleasure that in your last letter you desired to make me a sharer of your joy at home; but
Yet I know you would not have me forget this, nor are you yourself unmindful of it. Wherefore, if some leisure is granted you for more profound meditation, improve this divine blessing. For when these things fall to our lot, we should not only congratulate ourselves, but show our gratitude to those to whom we owe them; for if in the stewardship of temporal blessings we act in a manner that is just and kind, and with the moderation and sobriety of spirit which befits the transient nature of these possessions,—if they are held by us without laying hold on us, are multiplied without entangling us, and serve us without bringing us into bondage,—such conduct entitles us to the recompense of eternal blessings. For by Him who is the Truth it was said: “If ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who will give you that which is your own?” Let us therefore disengage ourselves from care about the passing things of time; let us seek the blessings that are imperishable and sure: let us soar above our worldly possessions. The bee does not the less need its wings when it has gathered an abundant store; for if it sink in the honey it dies.
from maximus of madaura to augustin.
1. Desiring to be frequently made glad by communications from you, and by the stimulus of your reasoning with which in a most pleasant way, and without violation of good feeling, you recently attacked me, I have not forborne from replying to you in the same spirit, lest you should call my silence an acknowledgment of being in the wrong. But I beg you to give these sentences an indulgent kindly hearing, if you judge them to give evidence of the feebleness of old age.
Grecian mythology tells us, but without sufficient warrant for our believing the statement, that Mount Olympus is the dwelling-place of the gods. But we actually see the market-place of our town occupied by a crowd of beneficent deities; and we approve of this. Who could ever be so frantic and infatuated as to deny that there is one supreme God, without beginning, without natural offspring, who is, as it were, the great and mighty Father of all? The powers of this Deity, diffused throughout the universe which He has made, we worship under many names, as we are all ignorant of His true name, the name God2 being common to all kinds of religious belief. Thus it comes, that while in diverse supplications we approach separately, as it were, certain parts of the Divine Being, we are seen in reality to be the worshippers of Him in whom all these parts are one.
2. Such is the greatness of your delusion in another matter, that I cannot conceal the impatience with which I regard it. For who can bear to find Mygdo honoured above that Jupiter who hurls the thunderbolt; or Sanæ above Juno, Minerva, Venus, and Vesta; or the arch-martyr Namphanio (oh horror!) above all the immortal gods together? Among the immortals, Lucitas also is looked up to with no less religious reverence, and others in an endless list (having names abhorred both by gods and by men), who, when they met the ignominious end which their character and conduct had deserved, put the crowning act upon their criminal career by affecting to die nobly in a good cause, though conscious of the infamous deeds for which they were condemned. The tombs of these men (it is a folly almost beneath our notice) are visited by crowds of simpletons, who forsake our temples and despise the memory of their ancestors, so that the prediction of the indignant bard is notably fulfilled: “Rome shall, in the temples of the gods, swear by the shades of men.”3 To me it almost seems at this time as if a second campaign of Actium had begun, in which Egyptian monsters, doomed soon to perish, dare to brandish their weapons against the gods of the Romans.
3. But, O man of great wisdom, I beseech you, lay aside and reject for a little while the vigour of your eloquence, which has made you everywhere renowned; lay down also the arguments of Chrysippus, which you are accustomed to use in debate; leave for a brief season your logic, which aims in the forthputting of its energies to leave nothing certain to any one; and show me plainly and actually who is that God whom you Christians claim as belonging specially to you, and pretend to see present among you in secret places. For it is in open day, before the eyes and ears of all men, that we worship our gods with pious supplications, and propitiate them by acceptable sacrifices; and we take pains that these things be seen and approved by all.
4. Being, however, infirm and old, I withdraw myself from further prosecution of this contest, and willingly consent to the opinion of the rhetorician of Mantua, “Each one is drawn by that which pleases himself best.”4
After this, O excellent man, who hast turned aside from my faith, I have no doubt that this letter will be stolen by some thief, and destroyed by fire or otherwise. Should this happen, the paper will be lost, but not my letter, of which I will always retain a copy, accessible to all religious persons. May you be preserved by the gods, through whom we all, who are mortals on the surface of this earth, with apparent discord but real harmony, revere and worship Him who is the common Father of the gods and of all mortals.
to maximus of madaura.
1. Are we engaged in serious debate with each other, or is it your desire that we merely amuse ourselves? For, from the language of your letler, I am at a loss to know whether it is due to the weakness of your cause, or through the courteousness of your manners, that you have preferred to show yourself more witty than weighty in argument. For, in the first place, a comparison was drawn by you between Mount Olympus and your market-place, the reason for which I cannot divine, unless it was in order to remind me that on the said mountain Jupiter pitched his camp when he was at war with his father, as we are taught by history, which your religionists call sacred; and that in the said market-place Mars is represented in two images, the one unarmed, the other armed, and that a statue of a man placed over against these restrains with three extended fingers the fury of their demonship from the injuries which he would willingly inflict on the citizens. Could I then ever believe that by mentioning that market-place you intended to revive my recollection of such divinities, unless you wished that we should pursue the discussion in a jocular spirit rather than in earnest? But in regard to the sentence in which you said that such gods as these are members, so to speak, of the one great God, I admonish you by all means, since you vouchsafe such an opinion, to abstain very carefully from profane jestings of this kind. For if you speak of the One God, concerning whom learned and unlearned are, as the ancients have said, agreed, do you affirm that those whose savage fury—or, if you prefer it, whose power—the image of a dead man keeps in check are members of Him? I might say more on this point, and your own judgment may show you how wide a door for the refutation of your views is here thrown open. But I restrain myself, lest I should be thought by you to act more as a rhetorician than as one earnestly defending truth.
2. As to your collecting of certain Carthaginian names of deceased persons, by which you think reproach may be cast, in what seems to you a witty manner, against our religion, I do not know whether I ought to answer this taunt, or to pass it by in silence. For if to your good sense these things appear as trifling as they really are, I have not time to spare for such pleasantry. If, however, they seem to you important, I am surprised that it did not occur to you, who are apt to be disturbed by absurdly-sounding names, that your religionists have among their priests Eucaddires, and among their deities Abaddires. I do not suppose that these were absent from your mind when you were writing, but that, with your courtesy and genial humour, you wished for the unbending of our minds, to recall to our recollection what ludicrous things are in your superstition. For surely, considering that you are an African, and that we are both settled in Africa, you could not have so forgotten yourself when writing to Africans as to think that Punic names were a fit theme for censure. For if we interpret the signification of these words, what else does Namphanio mean than “man of the good foot,” i.e. whose coming brings with it some good fortune, as we are wont to say of one whose coming to us has been followed by some prosperous event, that he came with a lucky foot? And if the Punic language is rejected by you, you virtually deny what has been admitted by most learned men, that many things have been wisely preserved from oblivion in books written in the Punic tongue. Nay, you ought even to be ashamed of having been born in the country in which the cradle of this language is still warm, i.e. in which this language was originally, and until very recently, the language of the people. If, however, it is not reasonable to take offence at the mere sound of names, and you admit that I have given correctly the meaning of the one in question, you have reason for being dissatisfied with your friend Virgil, who gives to your god Hercules an invitation to the sacred rites celebrated by Evander in his honour, in these terms, “Come to us, and to these rites in thine honour, with auspicious foot.”1 He wishes him to come “with auspicious foot;” that is to say, he wishes Hercules to come as a Namphanio, the name about which you are pleased to make much mirth at our expense. But if you have a penchant for ridicule, you have among yourselves ample material for witticisms—the god Stercutius, the goddess Cloacina, the Bald Venus, the gods Fear and Pallor, and the goddess Fever, and others of the same kind without number, to whom the ancient Roman idolaters erected temples, and judged it right to offer worship; which if you neglect, you are neglecting Roman gods, thereby making it manifest that you are not thoroughly versed in the sacred rites of Rome; and yet you despise and pour contempt on Punic names, as if you were a devotee at the altars of Roman deities.
3. In truth, however, I believe that perhaps you do not value these sacred rites any more than we do, but only take from them some unaccountable pleasure in your time of passing through this world: for you have no hesitation about taking refuge under Virgil’s wing, and defending yourself with a line of his:
“Each one is drawn by that which pleases himself best.”1
If, then, the authority of Maro pleases you, as you indicate that it does, you will be pleased with such lines as these: “First Saturn came from lofty Olympus, fleeing before the arms of Jupiter, an exile bereft of his realms,”2 —and other such statements, by which he aims at making it understood that Saturn and your other gods like him were men. For he had read much history, confirmed by ancient authority, which Cicero also had read, who makes the same statement in his dialogues, in terms more explicit than we would venture to insist upon, and labours to bring it to the knowledge of men so far as the times in which he lived permitted.
4. As to your statement, that your religious services are to be preferred to ours because you worship the gods in public, but we use more retired places of meeting, let me first ask you how you could have forgotten your Bacchus, whom you consider it right to exhibit only to the eyes of the few who are initiated. You, however, think that, in making mention of the public celebration of your sacred rites, you intended only to make sure that we would place before our eyes the spectacle presented by your magistrates and the chief men of the city when intoxicated and raging along your streets; in which solemnity, if you are possessed by a god, you surely see of what nature he must be who deprives men of their reason. If, however, this madness is only feigned, what say you to this keeping of things hidden in a service which you boast of as public, or what good purpose is served by so base an imposition? Moreover, why do you not foretell future events in your songs, if you are endowed with the prophetic gift? or why do you rob the bystanders, if you are in your sound mind?
5. Since, then, you have recalled to our remembrance by your letter these and other things which I think it better to pass over meanwhile, why may not we make sport of your gods, which, as every one who knows your mind, and has read your letters, is well aware, are made sport of abundantly by yourself? Therefore, if you wish us to discuss these subjects in a way becoming your years and wisdom, and, in fact, as may be justly required of us, in connection with our purpose, by our dearest friends, seek some topic worthy of being debated between us; and be careful to say on behalf of your gods such things as may prevent us from supposing that you are intentionally betraying your own cause, when we find you rather bringing to our remembrance things which may be said against them than alleging anything in their defence. In conclusion, however, lest this should be unknown to you, and you might thus be brought unwittingly into jestings which are profane, let me assure you that by the Christian Catholics (by whom a church has been set up in your own town also) no deceased person is worshipped, and that nothing, in short, which has been made and fashioned by God is worshipped as a divine power. This worship is rendered by them only to God Himself, who framed and fashioned all things.3
These things shall be more fully treated of, with the help of the one true God, whenever I learn that you are disposed to discuss them seriously.
to cœlestinus augustin sends greeting.
1. Oh how I wish that I could continually say one thing to you! It is this: Let us shake off the burden of unprofitable cares, and bear only those which are useful. For I do not know whether anything like complete exemption from care is to be hoped for in this world. I wrote to you, but have received no reply. I sent you as many of my books against the Manichæans as I could send in a finished and revised condition, and as yet nothing has been communicated to me as to the impression they have made on your4 judgment and feelings. It is now a fitting opportunity for me to ask them back, and for you to return them. I beg you therefore not to lose time in sending them, along with a letter from yourself, by which I eagerly long to know what you are doing with them, or with what further help you think that you require still to be furnished in order to assail that error with success.
2. As I know you well, I ask you to accept and ponder the following brief sentences on a great theme. There is a nature which is susceptible of change with respect to both place and time, namely, the corporeal. There is another nature which is in no way susceptible of change with respect to place, but only with respect to time, namely, the spiritual. And there is a third Nature which can be changed neither in respect to place nor in respect to time: that is, God. Those natures of which I have said that they are mutable in some respect are called creatures; the Nature which is immutable is called Creator. Seeing, however, that we affirm the existence of anything only in so far as it continues and is one (in consequence of which, unity is the condition essential to beauty in every form), you cannot fail to distinguish, in this classification of natures, which exists in the highest possible manner; and which occupies the lowest place, yet is within the range of existence; and which occupies the middle place, greater than the lowest, but coming short of the highest. That highest is essential blessedness; the lowest, that which cannot be either blessed or wretched; and the intermediate nature lives in wretchedness when it stoops towards that which is lowest, and in blessedness when it turns towards that which is highest. He who believes in Christ does not sink his affections in that which is lowest, is not proudly self-sufficient in that which is intermediate, and thus he is qualified for union and fellowship with that which is highest; and this is the sum of the active life to which we are commanded, admonished, and by holy zeal impelled to aspire.
to gaius augustin sends greeting.
1. Words cannot express the pleasure with which the recollection of you filled my heart after I parted with you, and has often filled my heart since then. For I remember that, notwithstanding the amazing ardour which pervaded your inquiries after truth, the bounds of proper moderation in debate were never transgressed by you. I shall not easily find any one who is more eager in putting questions, and at the same time more patient in hearing answers, than you approved yourself. Gladly therefore would I spend much time in converse with you; for the time thus spent, however much it might be, would not seem long. But what avails it to discuss the hindrances on account of which it is difficult for us to enjoy such converse? Enough that it is exceedingly difficult. Perhaps at some future period it may be made very easy; may God grant this! Meanwhile it is otherwise. I have given to the brother by whom I have sent this letter the charge of submitting all my writings to your eminent wisdom and charity, that they may be read by you. For nothing written by me will find in you a reluctant reader; for I know the goodwill which you cherish towards me. Let me say, however, that if, on reading these things, you approve of them, and perceive them to be true, you must not consider them to be mine otherwise than as given to me; and you are at liberty to turn to that same source whence proceeds also the power given you to appreciate their truth. For no one discerns the truth of that which he reads from anything which is in the mere manuscript, or in the writer, but rather by something within himself, if the light of truth, shining with a clearness beyond what is men’s common lot, and very far removed from the darkening influence of the body, has penetrated his own mind. If, however, you discover some things which are false and deserve to be rejected, I would have you know that these things have fallen as dew from the mists of human frailty, and these you are to reckon as truly mine. I would exhort you to persevere in seeking the truth, were it not that I seem to see the mouth of your heart already opened wide to drink it in. I would also exhort you to cling with manly tenacity to the truth which you have learned, were it not that you already manifest in the clearest manner that you possess strength of mind and fixedness of purpose. For all that lives within you has, in the short time of our fellowship, revealed itself to me, almost as if the bodily veil had been rent asunder. And surely the merciful providence of our God can in no wise permit a man so good and so remarkably gifted as you are to be an alien from the flock of Christ.
to antoninus augustin sends greeting.
1. As letters are due to you by two of us, a part of our debt is repaid with very abundant usury when you see one of the two in person; and since by his voice you, as it were, hear my own, I might have refrained from writing, had I not been called to do it by the urgent request of the very person whose journey to you seemed to me to make this unnecessary. Accordingly I now hold converse with you even more satisfactorily than if I were personally with you, because you both read my letter, and you listen to the words of one in whose heart you know that I dwell. I have with great joy studied and pondered the letter sent by your Holiness, because it exhibits both your Christian spirit unsullied by the guile of an evil age, and your heart full of kindly feeling towards myself.
2. I congratulate you, and I give thanks to our God and Lord, because of the hope and faith and love which are in you; and I thank you, in Him, for thinking so well of me as to believe me to be a faithful servant of God, and for the love which with guileless heart you cherish towards that which you commend in me; although, indeed, there is occasion rather for congratulation than for thanks in acknowledging your goodwill in this thing. For it is profitable for yourself that you should love for its own sake that goodness which he of course loves who loves another because he believes him to be good, whether that other be or be not what he is supposed to be. One error only is to be carefully avoided in this matter, that we do not think otherwise than truth demands, not of the individual, but of that which is true goodness in man. But, my brother well-beloved, seeing that you are not in any degree mistaken either in believing or in knowing that the great good for men is to serve God cheerfully and purely, when you love any man because you believe him to share this good, you reap the reward, even though the man be not what you suppose him to be. Wherefore it is fitting that you should on this account be congratulated; but the person whom you love is to be congratulated, not because of his being for that reason loved, but because of his being truly (if it is the case) such an one as the person who for this reason loves him esteems him to be. As to our real character, therefore, and as to the progress we may have made in the divine life, this is seen by Him whose judgment, both as to that which is good in man, and as to each man’s personal character, cannot err. For your obtaining the reward of blessedness so far as this matter is concerned, it is sufficient that you embrace me with your whole heart because you believe me to be such a servant of God as I ought to be. To you, however, I also render many thanks for this, that you encourage me wonderfully to aspire after such excellence, by your praising me as if I had already attained it. Many more thanks still shall be yours, if you not only claim an interest in my prayers, but also cease not to pray for me. For intercession on behalf of a brother is more acceptable to God when it is offered as a sacrifice of love.
3. I greet very kindly your little son, and I pray that he may grow up in the way of obedience to the salutary requirements of God’s law. I desire and pray, moreover, that the one true faith and worship, which alone is catholic, may prosper and increase in your house; and if you think any labour on my part necessary for the promotion of this end, do not scruple to claim my service, relying upon Him who is our common Lord, and upon the law of love which we must obey. This especially would I recommend to your pious discretion, that by reading the word of God, and by serious conversation with your partner,1 you should either plant the seed or foster the growth in her heart of an intelligent fear of God. For it is scarcely possible that any one who is concerned for the soul’s welfare, and is therefore without prejudice resolved to know the will of the Lord, should fail, when enjoying the guidance of a good instructor, to discern the difference which exists between every form of schism and the one Catholic Church.
to my lord bishop valerius, most blessed and venerable, my father most warmly cherished with true love in the sight of the lord, augustin, presbyter, sends greeting in the lord.
1. Before all things I ask your pious wisdom to take into consideration that, on the one hand, if the duties of the office of a bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, be discharged in a perfunctory and time-serving manner, no work can be in this life more easy, agreeable, and likely to secure the favour of men, especially in our day, but none at the same time more miserable, deplorable, and worthy of condemnation in the sight of God; and, on the other hand, that if in the office of bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, the orders of the Captain of our salvation be observed, there is no work in this life more difficult, toilsome, and hazardous, especially in our day, but none at the same time more blessed in the sight of God.2 But what the proper mode of discharging these duties is, I did not learn either in boyhood or in the earlier years of manhood; and at the time when I was beginning to learn it, I was constrained as a just correction for my sins (for I know not what else to think) to accept the second place at the helm, when as yet I knew not how to handle an oar.
2. But I think that it was the purpose of my Lord hereby to rebuke me, because I presumed, as if entitled by superior knowledge and excellence, to reprove the faults of many sailors before I had learned by experience the nature of their work. Therefore, after I had been sent in among them to share their labours, then I began to feel the rashness of my censures; although even before that time I judged this office to be beset with many dangers. And hence the tears which some of my brethren perceived me shedding in the city at the time of my ordination, and because of which they did their utmost with the best intentions to console me, but with words which, through their not knowing the causes of my sorrow, did not reach my case at all.1 But my experience has made me realize these things much more both in degree and in measure than I had done in merely thinking of them: not that I have now seen any new waves or storms of which I had not previous knowledge by observation, or report, or reading, or meditation; but because I had not known my own skill or strength for avoiding or encountering them, and had estimated it to be of some value instead of none. The Lord, however, laughed at me, and was pleased to show me by actual experience what I am.
3. But if He has done this not in judgment, but in mercy, as I confidently hope even now, when I have learned my infirmity, my duty is to study with diligence all the remedies which the Scriptures contain for such a case as mine, and to make it my business by prayer and reading to secure that my soul be endued with the health and vigour necessary for labours so responsible. This I have not yet done, because I have not had time; for I was ordained at the very time when I was thinking of having, along with others, a season of freedom from all other occupation, that we might acquaint ourselves with the divine Scriptures, and was intending to make such arrangements as would secure unbroken leisure for this great work. Moreover, it is true that I did not at any earlier period know how great was my unfitness for the arduous work which now disquiets and crushes my spirit. But if I have by experience learned what is necessary for a man who ministers to a people in the divine sacraments and word, only to find myself prevented from now obtaining what I have learned that I do not possess, do you bid me perish, father Valerius? Where is your charity? Do you indeed love me? Do you indeed love the Church to which you have appointed me, thus unqualified, to minister? I am well assured that you love both; but you think me qualified, whilst I know myself better; and yet I would not have come to know myself if I had not learned by experience.
4. Perhaps your Holiness replies: I wish to know what is lacking to fit you for your office. The things which I lack are so many, that I could more easily enumerate the things which I have than those which I desire to have. I may venture to say that I know and unreservedly believe the doctrines pertaining to our salvation. But my difficulty is in the question how I am to use this truth in ministering to the salvation of others, seeking what is profitable not for myself alone, but for many, that they may be saved. And perhaps there may be, nay, beyond all question there are, written in the sacred books, counsels by the knowledge and acceptance of which the man of God may so discharge his duties to the Church in the things of God, or at least so keep a conscience void of offence in the midst of ungodly men, whether living or dying, as to secure that that life for which alone humble and meek Christian hearts sigh is not lost. But how can this be done, except, as the Lord Himself tells us, by asking, seeking, knocking, that is, by praying, reading, and weeping? For this I have by the brethren made the request, which in this petition I now renew, that a short time, say till Easter, be granted me by your unfeigned and venerable charity.
5. For what shall I answer to the Lord my Judge? Shall I say, “I was not able to acquire the things of which I stood in need, because I was engrossed wholly with the affairs of the Church”? What if He thus reply: “Thou wicked servant, if property belonging to the Church (in the collection of the fruits of which great labour is expended) were suffering loss under some oppressor, and it was in thy power to do something in defence of her rights at the bar of an earthly judge, wouldst thou not, leaving the field which I have watered with my blood, go to plead the cause with the consent of all, and even with the urgent commands of some? And if the decision given were against the Church, wouldst thou not, in prosecuting an appeal, go across the sea; and would no complaint be heard summoning thee home from an absence of a year or more, because thy object was to prevent another from taking possession of land required not for the souls, but for the bodies of the poor, whose hunger might nevertheless be satisfied in a way much easier and more acceptable to me by my living trees, if these were cultivated with care? Wherefore, then, dost thou allege that thou hadst not time to learn how to cultivate my field?” Tell me, I beseech you, what could I reply? Are you perchance willing that I should say, “The aged Valerius is to blame; for, believing me to be instructed in all things necessary, he declined, with a determination proportioned to his love for me, to give me permission to learn what I had not acquired”?
6. Consider all these things, aged Valerius; consider them, I beseech you, by the goodness and severity of Christ, by His mercy and judgment, by Him who has inspired you with such love for me that I dare not displease you, even when the advantage of my soul is at stake. You, moreover, appeal to God and to Christ to bear witness to me concerning your innocence and charity, and the sincere love which you bear to me, just as if all these were not things about which I may myself willingly take my oath. I therefore appeal to the love and affection which you have thus avouched. Have pity on me, and grant me, for the purpose for which I have asked it, the time which I have asked; and help me with your prayers, that my desire may not be in vain, and that my absence may not be without fruit to the Church of Christ, and to the profit of my brethren and fellow-servants. I know that the Lord will not despise your love interceding for me, especially in such a cause as this; and accepting it as a sacrifice of sweet savour, He will restore me to you, perhaps, within a period shorter than I have craved, thoroughly furnished for His service by the profitable counsels of His written word.
to bishop aurelius, augustin, presbyter, sends greeting.
1. When, after long hesitation, I knew not how to frame a suitable reply to the letter of your Holiness (for all attempts to express my feelings were baffled by the strength of affectionate emotions which, rising spontaneously, were by the reading of your letter much more vehemently inflamed), I cast myself at last upon God, that He might, according to my strength, so work in me that I might address to you such an answer as should be suitable to the zeal for the Lord and the care of His Church which we have in common, and in accordance with your dignity and the respect which is due to you from me. And, first of all, as to your belief that you are aided by my prayers, I not only do not decline this assurance, but I do even willingly accept it. For thus, though not through my prayers, assuredly in yours, our Lord will hear me. As to your most benignant approval of the conduct of brother Alypius in remaining in connection with us, to be an example to the brethren who desire to withdraw themselves from this world’s cares, I thank you more warmly than words can declare. May the Lord recompense this to your own soul! The whole company, therefore, of brethren which has begun to grow up together beside me, is bound to you by gratitude for this great favour; in bestowing which, you, being far separated from us only by distance on the surface of the earth, have consulted our interest as one in spirit very near to us. Wherefore, to the utmost of our power we give ourselves to prayer that the Lord may be pleased to uphold along with you the flock which has been committed to you, and may never anywhere forsake you, but be present as your help in all times of need, showing in His dealings with His Church, through your discharge of priestly functions, such mercy as spiritual men with tears and groanings implore Him to manifest.
2. Know, therefore, most blessed lord, venerable for the superlative fulness of your charity, that I do not despair, but rather cherish lively hope that, by means of that authority which you wield, and which, as we trust, has been committed to your spirit, not to your flesh alone, our Lord and God may be able, through the respect due to councils1 and to yourself, to bring healing to the many carnal blemishes and disorders which the African Church is suffering in the conduct of many, and is bewailing in the sorrow of a few of her members. For whereas the apostle had in one passage briefly set forth as fit to be hated and avoided three classes of vices, from which there springs an innumerable crop of vicious courses, only one of these—that, namely, which he has placed second—is very strictly punished by the Church; but the other two, viz. the first and third, appear to be tolerable in the estimation of men, and so it may gradually come to pass that they shall even cease to be regarded as vices. The words of the chosen vessel are these: “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”2
3. Of these three, then, chambering and wantonness are regarded as crimes so great, that any one stained with these sins is deemed unworthy not merely of holding office in the Church, but also of participation in the sacraments; and rightly so. But why restrict such censure to this form of sin alone? For rioting and drunkenness are so tolerated and allowed by public opinion, that even in services designed to honour the memory of the blessed martyrs, and this not only on the annual festivals (which itself must be regarded as deplorable by every one who looks with a spiritual eye upon these things), but every day, they are openly practised. Were this corrupt practice objectionable only because of its being disgraceful, and not on the ground of impiety, we might consider it as a scandal to be tolerated with such amount of forbearance as is within our power. And yet, even in that case, what are we to make of the fact that, when the same apostle had given a long list of vices, among which he mentioned drunkenness, he concluded with the warning that we should not even eat bread with those who are guilty of such things?1 But let us, if it must be so, bear with these things in the luxury and disorder of families, and of those convivial meetings which are held within the walls of private houses; and let us take the body of Christ in communion with those with whom we are forbidden to eat even the bread which sustains our bodies; but at least let this outrageous insult be kept far away from the tombs of the sainted dead, from the scenes of sacramental privilege, and from the houses of prayer. For who may venture to forbid in private life excesses which, when they are practised by crowds in holy places, are called an honouring of the martyrs?
4. If Africa were the first country in which an attempt were made to put down these things, her example would deserve to be esteemed worthy of imitation by all other countries;2 but when, both throughout the greater part of Italy and in all or almost all the churches beyond the sea, these practices either, as in some places, never existed, or, as in other places where they did exist, have been, whether they were recent or of long standing, rooted out and put down by the diligence and the censures of bishops who were holy men, entertaining true views concerning the life to come;—when this, I say, is the case, do we hesitate as to the possibility of removing this monstrous defect in our morals, after an example has been set before us in so many lands? Moreover, we have as our bishop a man belonging to those parts, for which we give thanks earnestly to God; although he is a man of such moderation and gentleness, in fine, of such prudence and zeal in the Lord, that even had he been a native of Africa, the persuasion would have been wrought in him by the Scriptures, that a remedy must be applied to the wound which this loose and disorderly custom has inflicted. But so wide and deep is the plague caused by this wickedness, that, in my opinion, it cannot be completely cured without interposition of a council’s authority. If, however, a beginning is to be made by one church, it seems to me, that as it would be presumptuous for any other church to attempt to change what the Church of Carthage still maintained, so would it also be the height of effrontery for any other to wish to persevere in a course which the Church of Carthage had condemned. And for such a reform in Carthage, what better bishop could be desired than the prelate who, while he was a deacon, solemnly denounced these practices?
5. But that over which you then sorrowed you ought now to suppress, not harshly, but as it is written, “in the spirit of meekness.”3 Pardon my boldness, for your letter revealing to me your true brotherly love gives me such confidence, that I am encouraged to speak as freely to you as I would to myself. These offences are taken out of the way, at least in my judgment, by other methods than harshness, severity, and an imperious mode of dealing,—namely, rather by teaching than by commanding, rather by advice than by denunciation.4 Thus at least we must deal with the multitude; in regard to the sins of a few, exemplary severity must be used. And if we do employ threats, let this be done sorrowfully, supporting our threatenings of coming judgment by the texts of Scripture, so that the fear which men feel through our words may be not of us in our own authority, but of God Himself. Thus an impression shall be made in the first place upon those who are spiritual, or who are nearest to that state of mind; and then by means of the most gentle, but at the same time most importunate exhortations, the opposition of the rest of the multitude shall be broken down.5
6. Since, however, these drunken revels and luxurious feasts in the cemeteries are wont to be regarded by the ignorant and carnal multitude as not only an honour to the martyrs, but also a solace to the dead, it appears to me that they might be more easily dissuaded from such scandalous and unworthy practices in these places, if, besides showing that they are forbidden by Scripture, we take care, in regard to the offerings for the spirits of those who sleep, which indeed we are bound to believe to be of some use, that they be not sumptuous beyond what is becoming respect for the memory of the departed, and that they be distributed without ostentation, and cheerfully to all who ask a share of them; also that they be not sold, but that if any one desires to offer any money as a religious act, it be given on the spot to the poor. Thus the appearance of neglecting the memory of their deceased friends, which might cause them no small sorrow of heart, shall be avoided, and that which is a pious and honourable act of religious service shall be celebrated as it should be in the Church. This may suffice meanwhile in regard to rioting and drunkenness.
7. As to “strife and deceit,”6 what right have I to speak, seeing that these vices prevail more seriously among our own order than among our congregations? Let me, however, say that the source of these evils is pride, and a desire for the praises of men, which also frequently produces hypocrisy. This is successfully resisted only by him who is penetrated with love and fear of God, through the multiplied declarations of the divine books; provided, however, that such a man exhibit in himself a pattern both of patience and of humility, by assuming as his due less praise and honour than is offered to him: at the same time neither accepting all nor refusing all that is rendered to him by those who honour him; and as to the portion which he does accept, receiving it not for his own sake, seeing that he ought to live wholly in the sight of God and to despise human applause, but for the sake of those whose welfare he cannot promote if by too great self-abasement he lose his place in their esteem. For to this pertains that word, “Let no man despise thy youth;”1 while he who said this says also in another place, “If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”2
8. It is a great matter not to exult in the honours and praises which come from men, but to reject all vain pomp; and, if some of this be necessary, to make whatever is thus retained contribute to the benefit and salvation of those who confer the honour. For it has not been said in vain, “God will break the bones of those who seek to please men.”3 For what could be feebler, what more destitute of the firmness and strength which the bones here spoken of figuratively represent, than the man who is prostrated by the tongue of slanderers, although he knows that the things spoken against him are false? The pain arising from this thing would in no wise rend the bowels of his soul, if its bones had not been broken by the love of praise. I take for granted your strength of mind: therefore it is to myself that I say those things which I am now stating to you. Nevertheless you are willing, I believe, to consider along with me how important and how difficult these things are. For the man who has not declared war against this enemy has no idea of its power; for if it be comparatively easy to dispense with praise so long as it is denied to him, it is difficult to forbear from being captivated with praise when it is offered. And yet the hanging of our minds upon God ought to be so great, that we would at once correct those with whom we may take that liberty, when we are by them undeservedly praised, so as to prevent them from either thinking us to possess what is not in us, or regarding that as ours which belongs to God, or commending us for things which, though we have them, and perhaps have them in abundance, are nevertheless in their nature not worthy of commendation, such as are all those good things which we have in common with the lower animals or with wicked men. If, however, we are deservedly praised on account of what God has given us, let us congratulate those to whom what is really good yields pleasure; but let us not congratulate ourselves on the fact of our pleasing men, but on the fact of our being (if it is the case) such in the sight of God as we are in their esteem, and because praise is given not to us, but to God, who is the giver of all things which are truly and justly praised. These things are daily repeated to me by myself, or rather by Him from whom proceed all profitable instructions, whether they are found in the reading of the divine word or are suggested from within to the mind; and yet, although strenuously contending with my adversary, I often receive wounds from him when I am unable to put away from myself the fascinating power of the praise which is offered to me.
9. These things I have written, in order that, if they are not now necessary for your Holiness (your own thoughts suggesting to you other and more useful considerations of this kind, or your Holiness being above the need of such remedies), my disorders at least may be known to you, and you may know that which may move you to deign to plead with God for me as my infirmity demands: and I beseech you, by the humanity of Him who hath commanded us to bear each other’s burdens, that you offer such intercession most importunately on my behalf. There are many things in regard to my life and conversation, of which I will not write, which I would confess with tears if we were so situated that nothing was required but my mouth and your ears as the means of communication between my heart and your heart. If, however, the aged Saturninus, venerated by us and beloved by all here with unreserved and unfeigned affection, whose brotherly love and devotion to you I observed when I was with you,—if he, I say, is pleased to visit us so soon as he finds it convenient, whatever converse we may be able to enjoy with that holy and spiritually-minded man shall be esteemed by us very little, if at all, different from personal conference with your Excellency. With entreaties too earnest for words to express their urgency, I beg you to condescend to join us in asking and obtaining from him this favour. For the people of Hippo fear much, and far more than they ought, to let me go to so great a distance from them, and will on no account trust me by myself so far as to permit me to see the field given by your care and generosity to the brethren, of which, before your letter came, we had heard through our brother and fellow-servant Parthenius, from whom we have also learned many other things which we longed to know. The Lord will accomplish the fulfilment of all the other things which we still desiderate.
to maximin, my well-beloved lord and brother, worthy of honour, augustin, presbyter of the catholic church, sends greeting in the lord.
1. Before entering on the subject on which I have resolved to write to your Grace, I shall briefly state my reasons for the terms used in the title of this letter, lest these should surprise either yourself or any other person. I have written “to my lord,” because it is written: “Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”1 Seeing, therefore, that in this duty of writing to you I am actually by love serving you, I do only what is reasonable in calling you “my lord,” for the sake of that one true Lord who gave us this command. Again, as to my having written “well-beloved,” God knoweth that I not only love you, but love you as I love myself; for I am well aware that I desire for you the very blessings which I am fain to make my own. As to my adding the words “worthy of honour,” I did not mean, by adding this, to say that I honour your episcopal office, for to me you are not a bishop; and this I trust you will take as spoken with no intention to give offence, but from the conviction that in our mouth Yea should be Yea, and Nay, Nay: for neither you nor any one who knows us can fail to know that you are not my bishop, and I am not your presbyter. “Worthy of honour” I therefore willingly call you on this ground, that I know you to be a man; and I know that man was made in the image and likeness of God, and is placed in honour by the very order and law of nature, if by understanding the things which he ought to understand he retain his honour. For it is written, “Man being placed in honour did not understand: he is compared to the brutes devoid of reason, and is made like unto them.”2 Why then may I not address you as worthy of honour, inasmuch as you are a man, especially since I dare not despair of your repentance and salvation so long as you are in this life? Moreover, as to my calling you “brother,” you are well acquainted with the precept divinely given to us, according to which we are to say, “Ye are our brethren,” even to those who deny that they are our brethren; and this has much to do with the reason which has made me resolve to write to you, my brother. Now that the reason for my making such an introduction to my letter has been given, I bespeak your calm attention to what follows.
2. When I was in your district, and was with all my power expressing my abhorrence of the sad and deplorable custom followed by men who, though they boast of the name of Christians, do not hesitate to rebaptize Christians, there were not wanting some who said in praise of you, that you do not conform to this custom. I confess that at first I did not believe them; but afterwards, considering that it was possible for the fear of God to take possession of a human soul exercised in meditation upon the life to come, in such a way as to restrain a man from most manifest wickedness, I believed their statement, rejoicing that by holding such a resolution you showed yourself averse to complete alienation from the Catholic Church. I was even on the outlook for an opportunity of conversing with you, in order that, if it were possible, the small difference which still remained between us might be taken away, when, behold, a few days ago it was reported to me that you had rebaptized a deacon of ours belonging to Mutugenna! I was deeply grieved both for his melancholy fall and for your sin, my brother, which surprised and disappointed me. For I know what the Catholic Church is. The nations are Christ’s inheritance, and the ends of the earth are His possession. You also know what the Catholic Church is; or if you do not know it, apply your attention to discern it, for it may be very easily known by those who are willing to be taught. Therefore, to rebaptize even a heretic who has received in baptism the seal of holiness which the practice3 of the Christian Church has transmitted to us, is unquestionably a sin; but to rebaptize a Catholic is one of the worst of crimes. As I did not, however, believe the report, because I still retained my favourable impression of you, I went in person to Mutugenna. The miserable man himself I did not succeed in finding, but I learned from his parents that he had been made one of your deacons. Nevertheless I still think so favourably of you, that I will not believe that he has been rebaptized.
3. Wherefore, my beloved brother, I beseech you, by the divine and human natures of our Lord Jesus Christ, have the kindness to reply to this letter, telling me what has been done, and so to write as knowing that I intend to read your letter aloud to our brethren in the church. This I have written, lest, by afterwards doing that which you did not expect me to do, I should give offence to your Charity, and give you occasion for making a just complaint against me to our common friends. What can reasonably prevent you from answering this letter I do not see. For if you do rebaptize, you have nothing to apprehend from your colleagues when you write that you are doing that which they would command you to do even if you were unwilling; and if you, moreover, defend this by the best arguments known to you, as a thing which ought to be done, your colleagues, so far from being displeased on this account, will praise you. But if you do not rebaptize, hold fast your Christian liberty, my brother Maximin; hold it fast, I implore you: fixing your eye on Christ, fear not the censure, tremble not before the power of any man. Fleeting is the honour of this world, and fleeting are all the objects to which earthly ambition aspires. Neither thrones ascended by flights of steps,1 nor canopied pulpits,2 nor processions and chantings of crowds of consecrated virgins, shall be admitted as available for the defence of those who have now these honours, when at the judgment-seat of Christ conscience shall begin to lift its accusing voice, and He who is the Judge of the consciences of men shall pronounce the final sentence. What is here esteemed an honour shall then be a burden: what uplifts men here, shall weigh heavily on them in that day. Those things which meanwhile are done for the Church’s welfare as tokens of respect to us, shall then be vindicated, it may be, by a conscience void of offence; but they will avail nothing as a screen for a guilty conscience.
4. If, then, it be indeed the case that, under the promptings of a devout and pious mind, you abstain from dispensing a second baptism, and rather accept the baptism of the Catholic Church as the act of the one true Mother, who to all nations both offers a welcome to her bosom, that they may be regenerated, and gives a mother’s nourishment to them when they are regenerated, and as the token of admission into Christ’s one possession, which reaches to the ends of the earth; if, I say, you indeed do this, why do you not break forth into a joyful and independent confession of your sentiments? Why do you hide under a bushel the lamp which might so profitably shine? Why do you not rend and cast from you the old sordid livery of your craven-hearted bondage, and go forth clad in the panoply of Christian boldness, saying, “I know but one baptism consecrated and sealed with the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost: this sacrament, wherever I find it, I am bound to acknowledge and approve; I do not destroy what I discern to be my Lord’s, I do not treat with dishonour the banner of my King”? Even the men who parted the raiment of Christ among them did not rudely rend in pieces the seamless robe;3 and they were men who had not then any faith in Christ’s resurrection; nay, they were witnessing His death. If, then, persecutors forbore from rending the vesture of Christ when He was hanging upon the cross, why should Christians destroy the sacrament of His institution now when He is sitting in heaven upon His throne? Had I been a Jew in the time of that ancient people, when there was nothing better that I could be, I would undoubtedly have received circumcision. That “seal of the righteousness which is by faith” was of so great importance in that dispensation before it was abrogated4 by the Lord’s coming, that the angel would have strangled the infant-child of Moses, had not the child’s mother, seizing a stone, circumcised the child, and by this sacrament averted impending death.5 This sacrament also arrested the waters of the Jordan, and made them flow back towards their source. This sacrament the Lord Himself received in infancy, although He abrogated it when He was crucified. For these signs of spiritual blessings were not condemned, but gave place to others which were more suitable to the later dispensation. For as circumcision was abolished by the first coming of the Lord, so baptism shall be abolished by His second coming. For as now, since the liberty of faith has come, and the yoke of bondage has been removed, no Christian receives circumcision in the flesh; so then, when the just are reigning with the Lord, and the wicked have been condemned, no one shall be baptized, but the reality which both ordinances prefigure—namely, circumcision of the heart and cleansing of the conscience—shall be eternally abiding. If, therefore, I had been a Jew in the time of the former dispensation, and there had come to me a Samaritan who was willing to become a Jew, abandoning the error which the Lord Himself condemned when He said, “Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews;”6 —if, I say, a Samaritan whom Samaritans had circumcised had expressed his willingness to become a Jew, there would have been no scope for the boldness which would have insisted on the repetition of the rite; and instead of this, we would have been compelled to approve of that which God had commanded, although it had been done by heretics. But if, in the flesh of a circumcised man, I could not find place for the repetition of the circumcision, because there is but one member which is circumcised, much less is place found in the one heart of man for the repetition of the baptism of Christ. Ye, therefore, who wish to baptize twice, must seek as subjects of such double baptism men who have double hearts.
5. Publish frankly, therefore, that you are doing what is right, if it be the case that you do not rebaptize; and write me to that effect, not only without fear, but with joy. Let no Councils of your party deter you, my brother, from this step: for if this displease them, they are not worthy to have you among them; but if it please them, we trust that there shall soon be peace between you and us, through the mercy of our Lord, who never forsakes those who fear to displease Him, and who labour to do what is acceptable in His sight; and let not our honours—a dangerous burden, of which an account must yet be given—be a hindrance, making it unhappily impossible for our people who believe in Christ, and who share with one another in daily bread at home, to sit down at the same table of Christ. Do we not grievously lament that husband and wife do in most cases, when marriage makes them one flesh, vow mutual fidelity in the name of Christ, and yet rend asunder Christ’s own body by belonging to separate communions? If, by your moderate measures and wisdom, and by your exercise of that love which we all owe to Him who shed His blood for us, this schism, which is such a grievous scandal, causing Satan to triumph and many souls to perish, be taken out of the way in these parts, who can adequately express how illustrious is the reward which the Lord prepares for you, in that from you should proceed an example which, if imitated, as it may so easily be, would bring health to all His other members, which throughout the whole of Africa are lying now miserably exhausted? How much I fear lest, since you cannot see my heart, I appear to you to speak rather in irony than in the sincerity of love! But what more can I do than present my words before your eye, and my heart before God?
6. Let us put away from between us those vain objections which are wont to be thrown at each other by the ignorant on either side. Do not on your part cast up to me the persecutions of Macarius. I, on mine, will not reproach you with the excesses of the Circumcelliones. If you are not to blame for the latter, neither am I for the former; they pertain not to us. The Lord’s floor is not yet purged—it cannot be without chaff; be it ours to pray, and to do what in us lies that we may be good grain. I could not pass over in silence the rebaptizing of our deacon; for I know how much harm my silence might do to myself. For I do not propose to spend my time in the empty enjoyment of ecclesiastical dignity; but I propose to act as mindful of this, that to the one Chief Shepherd I must give account of the sheep committed unto me. If you would rather that I should not thus write to you, you must, my brother, excuse me on the ground of my fears; for I do fear greatly, lest, if I were silent and concealed my sentiments, others might be rebaptized by you. I have resolved, therefore, with such strength and opportunity as the Lord may grant, so to manage this discussion, that by our peaceful conferences, all who belong to our communion may know how far apart from heresy and schism is the position of the Catholic Church, and with what care they should guard against the destruction which awaits the tares and the branches cut off from the Lord’s vine. If you willingly accede to such conference with me, by consenting to the public reading of the letters of both, I shall unspeakably rejoice. If this proposal is displeasing to you, what can I do, my brother, but read our letters, even without your consent, to the Catholic congregation, with a view to its instruction? But if you do not condescend to write me a reply, I am resolved at least to read my own letter, that, when your misgivings as to your procedure are known, others may be ashamed to be rebaptized.
7. I shall not, however, do this in the presence of the soldiery, lest any of you should think that I wish to act in a violent way, rather than as the interests of peace demand; but only after their departure, that all who hear me may understand, that I do not propose to compel men to embrace the communion of any party, but desire the truth to be made known to persons who, in their search for it, are free from disquieting apprehensions. On our side there shall be no appeal to men’s fear of the civil power; on your side, let there be no intimidation by a mob of Circumcelliones. Let us attend to the real matter in debate, and let our arguments appeal to reason and to the authoritative teaching of the Divine Scriptures, dispassionately and calmly, so far as we are able; let us ask, seek, and knock, that we may receive and find, and that to us the door may be opened, and thereby may be achieved, by God’s blessing on our united efforts and prayers, the first step towards the entire removal from our district of that impiety which is such a disgrace to Africa. If you do not believe that I am willing to postpone the discussion until after the soldiery have left, you may delay your answer until they have gone; and if, while they are still here, I should wish to read my own letter to the people, the production of the letter will of itself convict me of breaking my word. May the Lord in His mercy prevent me from acting in a way so contrary to morality, and to the good resolutions with which, by laying His yoke on me, He has been pleased to inspire me!
8. My bishop would perhaps have preferred to send a letter himself to your Grace, if he had been here; or my letter would have been written, if not by his order, at least with his sanction. But in his absence, seeing that the rebaptizing of this deacon is said to have occurred recently, I have not by delay allowed the feelings caused by the action to cool down, being moved by the promptings of the keenest anguish on account of what I regard as really the death of a brother. This my grief the compensating joy of reconciliation between us and you may perhaps be appointed to heal, through the help of the mercy and providence of our Lord. May the Lord our God grant thee a calm and conciliatory spirit, my dearly beloved lord and brother!
This letter, written in 394 to Alypius by Paulinus, owes its place in the collection of Augustin’s letters to the notice of the treatises written by Augustin against the Manichæans, and its connection with the following letter addressed by Paulinus to Augustin himself. It is obviously one of those which, in making a selection of letters, may be safely omitted.
to augustin, our lord and brother beloved and venerable, from paulinus and therasia, sinners.
1. The love of Christ which constrains us, and which unites us, though separated by distance, in the bond of a common faith, has itself emboldened me to dismiss my fear and address a letter to you; and it has given you a place in my inmost heart by means of your writings—so full of the stores of learning, so sweet with celestial honey, the medicine and the nourishment of my soul. These I at present have in five books, which, through the kindness of our blessed and venerable Bishop Alypius, I received, not only as a means of my own instruction, but for the use of the Church in many towns. These books I am now reading: in them I take great delight: in them I find food, not that which perisheth, but that which imparts the substance of eternal life through our faith, whereby we are in our Lord Jesus Christ made members of His body; for the writings and examples of the faithful do greatly strengthen that faith which, not looking at things seen, longs after things not seen with that love which accepts implicitly all things which are according to the truth of the omnipotent God. O true salt of the earth, by which our hearts are preserved from being corrupted by the errors of the world! O light worthy of your place on the candlestick of the Church, diffusing widely in the Catholic towns the brightness of a flame fed by the oil of the seven-branched lamp of the upper sanctuary, you also disperse even the thick mists of heresy, and rescue the light of truth from the confusion of darkness by the beams of your luminous demonstrations.
2. You see, my brother beloved, esteemed, and welcomed in Christ our Lord, with what intimacy I claim to know you, with what amazement I admire and with what love I embrace you, seeing that I enjoy daily converse with you by the medium of your writings, and am fed by the breath of your mouth. For your mouth I may justly call a pipe conveying living water, and a channel from the eternal fountain; for Christ has become in you a fountain of “living water springing up into eternal life.”1 Through desire for this my soul thirsted within me, and my parched ground longed to be flooded with the fulness of your river. Since, therefore, you have armed me completely by this your Pentateuch against the Manichæans, if you have prepared any treatises in defence of the Catholic faith against other enemies (for our enemy, with his thousand pernicious stratagems, must be defeated by weapons as various as the artifices by which he assails us), I beg you to bring these forth from your armoury for me, and not refuse to furnish me with the “armour of righteousness.” For I am oppressed even now in my work with a heavy burden, being, as a sinner, a veteran in the ranks of sinners, but an untrained recruit in the service of the King eternal. The wisdom of this world I have unhappily hitherto regarded with admiration, and, devoting myself to literature which I now see to be unprofitable, and wisdom which I now reject, I was in the sight of God foolish and dumb. When I had become old in the fellowship of my enemies, and had laboured in vain in my thoughts, I lifted mine eyes to the mountains, looking up to the precepts of the law and to the gifts of grace, whence my help came from the Lord, who, not requiting me according to mine iniquity, enlightened my blindness, loosed my bonds, humbled me who had been sinfully exalted, in order that He might exalt me when graciously humbled.
3. Therefore I follow, with halting pace indeed as yet, the great examples of the just, if I may through your prayers apprehend that for which I have been apprehended by the compassion of God. Guide, therefore, this infant creeping on the ground, and by your steps teach him to walk. For I would not have you judge of me by the age which began with my natural birth, but by that which began with my spiritual new birth. For as to the natural life, my age is that which the cripple, healed by the apostles by the power of their word at the gate Beautiful, had attained.2 But with respect to the birth of my soul, mine is as yet the age of those infants who, being sacrificed by the death-blows which were aimed at Christ, preceded with blood-worthy of such honour the offering of the Lamb, and were the harbingers of the passion of the Lord.1 Therefore, as I am but a babe in the word of God, and as to spiritual age a sucking child, satisfy my vehement desire by nourishing me with your words, the breasts of faith, and wisdom, and love. If you consider only the office which we both hold, you are my brother; but if you consider the ripeness of your understanding and other powers, you are, though my junior in years, a father to me; because the possession of a venerable wisdom has promoted you, though young, to a maturity of worth, and to the honour which belongs to those who are old. Foster and strengthen me, then, for I am, as I have said, but a child in the sacred Scriptures and in spiritual studies; and seeing that, after long contendings and frequent shipwreck, I have but little skill, and am even now with difficulty rising above the waves of this world, do you, who have already found firm footing on the shore, receive me into the safe refuge of your bosom, that, if it please you, we may together sail towards the harbour of salvation. Meanwhile, in my efforts to escape from the dangers of this life and the abyss of sin, support me by your prayers, as by a plank, that from this world I may escape as one does from a shipwreck, leaving all behind.
4. I have therefore been at pains to rid myself of all baggage and garments which might impede my progress, in order that, obedient to the command and sustained by the help of Christ, I may swim, unhindered by any clothing for the flesh or care for the morrow, across the sea of this present life, which, swelling with waves and echoing with the barking of our sins, like the dogs of Scylla, separates between us and God. I do not boast that I have accomplished this: even if I might so boast, I would glory only in the Lord, whose it is to accomplish what it is our part to desire; but my soul is in earnest that the judgments of the Lord be her chief desire. You can judge how far he is on the way to efficiently performing the will of God, who is desirous that he may desire to perform it. Nevertheless, so far as in me lies, I have loved the beauty of His sanctuary, and, if left to myself, would have chosen to occupy the lowest place in the Lord’s house. But to Him who was pleased to separate me from my mother’s womb, and to draw me away from the friendship of flesh and blood to His grace, it has seemed good to raise me from the earth and from the gulf of misery, though destitute of all merit, and to take me from the mire and from the dunghill, to set me among the princes of His people, and appoint my place in the same rank with yourself; so that, although you excel me in worth, I should be associated with you as your equal in office.
5. It is not therefore by my own presumption, but in accordance with the pleasure and appointment of the Lord, that I appropriate the honour of which I own myself unworthy, claiming for myself the bond of brotherhood with you; for I am persuaded, from the holiness of your character, that you are taught by the truth “not to mind high things, but to condescend to men of low estate.” Therefore I hope that you will readily and kindly accept the assurance of the love which in humility we bear to you, and which, I trust, you have already received through the most blessed priest Alypius, whom (with his permission) we call our father. For he doubtless has himself given you an example of loving us both while we are yet strangers, and above our desert; for he has found it possible, in the spirit of far-reaching and self-diffusing genuine love, to behold us by affection, and to come in contact with us by writing, even when we were unknown to him, and severed by a wide interval both of land and sea. He has presented us with the first proofs of his affection to us, and evidences of your love, in the above-mentioned gift of books. And as he was greatly concerned that we should be constrained to ardent love for you, when known to us, not by his testimony alone, but more fully by the eloquence and the faith seen in your own writings; so do we believe that he has taken care, with equal zeal, to bring you to imitate his example in cherishing a very warm love towards us in return. O brother in Christ, beloved, venerable, and ardently longed for, we desire that the grace of God, as it is with you, may abide for ever. We salute, with the utmost affection of cordial brotherhood, your whole household, and every one who is in the Lord a companion and imitator of your holiness. We beg you to bless, in accepting it, one loaf which we have sent to your Charity, in token of our oneness of heart with you.
to licentius2from augustin.
1. I have with difficulty found an opportunity for writing to you: who would believe it? Yet Licentius must take my word for it. I do not wish you to search curiously for the causes and reasons of this; for though they could be given, your confidence in me acquits me of obligation to furnish them. Moreover, I received your letters by messengers who were not available for the carrying back of my reply. And as to the thing which you asked me to ask, I attended to it by letter as far as it seemed to me right to bring it forward; but with what result you may have seen. If I have not yet succeeded, I will press the matter more earnestly, either when the result comes to my knowledge, or when you yourself remind me of it. Thus far I have spoken to you of the things in which we hear the sound of the chains of this life. I pass from them. Receive now in a few words the utterance of my heart’s anxieties concerning your hope for eternity, and the question how a way may be opened for you to God.
2. I fear, my dear Licentius, that you, while repeatedly rejecting and dreading the restraints of wisdom, as if these were bonds, are becoming firmly and fatally in bondage to mortal things. For wisdom, though at first it restrains men, and subdues them by some labours in the way of discipline, gives them presently true freedom, and enriches them, when free, with the possession and enjoyment of itself; and though at first it educates them by the help of temporary restraints, it folds them afterwards in its eternal embrace, the sweetest and strongest of all conceivable bonds. I admit, indeed, that these initial restraints are somewhat hard to bear; but the ultimate restraints of wisdom I cannot call grievous, because they are most sweet; nor can I call them easy, because they are most firm: in short, they possess a quality which cannot be described, but which can be the object of faith, and hope, and love. The bonds of this world, on the other hand, have a real harshness and a delusive charm, certain pain and uncertain pleasure, hard toil and troubled rest, an experience full of misery, and a hope devoid of happiness. And are you submitting neck and hands and feet to these chains, desiring to be burdened with honours of this kind, reckoning your labours to be in vain if they are not thus rewarded, and spontaneously aspiring to become fixed in that to which neither persuasion nor force ought to have induced you to go? Perhaps you answer, in the words of the slave in Terence,
“So ho, you are pouring out wise words here.”
Receive my words, then, that I may pour them out without wasting them. But if I sing, while you prefer to dance to another tune, even thus I do not regret my effort to give advice; for the exercise of singing yields pleasure even when the song fails to stir to responsive motion the person for whom it is sung with loving care. There were in your letters some verbal mistakes which attracted my attention, but I judge it trifling to discuss these when solicitude about your actions and your whole life disturbs me.
3. If your verses were marred by defective arrangement, or violated the laws of prosody, or grated on the ears of the hearer by imperfect rhythm, you would doubtless be ashamed, and you would lose no time, you would take no rest, until you arranged, corrected, remodelled, and balanced your composition, devoting any amount of earnest study and toil to the acquisition and practice of the art of versification: but when you yourself are marred by disorderly living, when you violate the laws of God, when your life accords neither with the honourable desires of friends on your behalf, nor with the light given by your own learning, do you think this is a trifle to be cast out of sight and out of mind? As if, forsooth, you thought yourself of less value than the sound of your own voice, and esteemed it a smaller matter to displease God by ill-ordered life, than to provoke the censure of grammarians by ill-ordered syllables.
4. You write thus: “Oh that the morning light of other days could with its gladdening chariot bring back to me bright hours that are gone, which we spent together in the heart of Italy and among the high mountains, when proving the generous leisure and pure privileges which belong to the good! Neither stern winter with its frozen snow, nor the rude blasts of Zephyrs and raging of Boreas, could deter me from following your footsteps with eager tread. You have only to express your wish.”1
Woe be to me if I do not express this wish, nay, if I do not compel and command, or beseech and implore you to follow me. If, however, your ear is shut against my voice, let it be open to your own voice, and give heed to your own poem: listen to yourself, O friend, most unyielding, unreasonable, and unimpressible. What care I for your tongue of gold, while your heart is of iron? How shall I, not in verses, but in lamentations, sufficiently bewail these verses of yours, in which I discover what a soul, what a mind that is which I am not permitted to seize and present as an offering to our God? You are waiting for me to express the wish that you should become good, and enjoy rest and happiness: as if any day could shine more pleasantly on me than that in which I shall enjoy in God your gifted mind, or as if you did not know how I hunger and thirst for you, or as if you did not in this poem itself confess this. Return to the mind in which you wrote these things; say to me now again, “You have only to express your wish.” Here then is my wish, if my expression of it be enough to move you to comply: Give yourself to me—give yourself to my Lord, who is the Lord of us both, and who has endowed you with your faculties: for what am I but through Him your servant, and under Him your fellow-servant?
5. Nay, has not He given expression to His will? Hear the gospel: it declares, “Jesus stood and cried.”1 “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: so shall ye find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”2 If these words are not heard, or are heard only with the ear, do you, Licentius, expect Augustin to issue his command to his fellow-servant, and not rather complain that the will of his Lord is despised, when He orders, nay invites, and as it were entreats all who labour to seek rest in Him? But to your strong and proud neck, forsooth, the yoke of the world seems easier than the yoke of Christ; yet consider, in regard to the yoke which He imposes, by whom and with what recompense it is imposed. Go to Campania, learn in the case of Paulinus, that eminent and holy servant of God, how great worldly honours he shook off, without hesitation, from neck truly noble because humble, in order that he might place it, as he has done, beneath the yoke of Christ; and now, with his mind at rest, he meekly rejoices in Him as the guide of his way. Go, learn with what wealth of mind he offers to Him the sacrifice of praise, rendering unto Him all the good which he has received from Him, lest, by failing to store all that he has in Him from whom he received it, he should lose it all.
6. Why are you so excited? why so wavering? why do you turn your ear away from us, and lend it to the imaginations of fatal pleasures? They are false, they perish, and they lead to perdition. They are false, Licentius. “May the truth,” as you desire, “be made plain to us by demonstration, may it flow more clear than Eridanus.” The truth alone declares what is true: Christ is the truth; let us come to Him that we may be released from labour. That He may heal us, let us take His yoke upon us, and learn of Him who is meek and lowly in heart, and we shall find rest unto our souls: for His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. The devil desires to wear you as an ornament. Now, if you found in the earth a golden chalice, you would give it to the Church of God. But you have received from God talents that are spiritually valuable as gold; and do you devote these to the service of your lusts, and surrender yourself to Satan? Do it not, I entreat you. May you at some time perceive with what a sad and sorrowful heart I have written these things; and I pray you, have pity on me if you have ceased to be precious in your own eyes.
to my lord, holy and venerable, and worthy of highest praise in christ, my brother paulinus, augustin sends greeting in the lord.
1. O excellent man and excellent brother, there was a time when you were unknown to my mind; and I charge my mind to bear patiently your being still unknown to my eyes, but it almost—nay, altogether—refuses to obey. Does it indeed bear this patiently? If so, why then does a longing for your presence rack my inmost soul? For if I were suffering bodily infirmities, and these did not interrupt the serenity of my mind, I might be justly said to bear them patiently; but when I cannot bear with equanimity the privation of not seeing you, it would be intolerable were I to call my state of mind patience. Nevertheless, it would perhaps be still more intolerable if I were to be found patient while absent from you, seeing that you are such an one as you are. It is well, therefore, that I am unsatisfied under a privation which is such that, if I were satisfied under it, every one would justly be dissatisfied with me. What has befallen me is strange, yet true: I grieve because I do not see you, and my grief itself comforts me; for I neither admire nor covet a fortitude easily consoled under the absence of good men such as you are. For do we not long for the heavenly Jerusalem? and the more impatiently we long for it, do we not the more patiently submit to all things for its sake? Who can so withhold himself from joy in seeing you, as to feel no pain when you are no longer seen? I at least can do neither; and seeing that if I could, it could only be by trampling on right and natural feeling, I rejoice that I cannot, and in this rejoicing I find some consolation. It is therefore not the removal, but the contemplation, of this sorrow that consoles me. Blame me not, I beseech you, with that devout seriousness of spirit which so eminently distinguishes you; say not that I do wrong to grieve because of my not yet knowing you, when you have disclosed to my sight your mind, which is the inner man. For if, when sojourning in any place, or in the city to which you belong, I had come to know you as my brother and friend, and as one so eminent as a Christian, so noble as a man, how could you think that it would be no disappointment to me if I were not permitted to know your dwelling? How, then, can I but mourn because I have not yet seen your face and form, the dwelling-place of that mind which I have come to know as if it were my own?
2. For I have read your letter, which flows with milk and honey, which exhibits the simplicity of heart wherewith, under the guidance of piety, you seek the Lord, and which brings glory and honour to Him. The brethren have read it also, and find unwearied and ineffable satisfaction in those abundant and excellent gifts with which God has endowed you. As many as have read it carry it away with them, because, while they read, it carries them away. Words cannot express how sweet is the savour of Christ which your letter breathes. How strong is the wish to be more fully acquainted with you which that letter awakens by presenting you to our sight for it at once permits us to discern and prompts us to desire you. For the more effectually that it makes us in a certain sense realize your presence, the more does it render us impatient under your absence. All love you as seen therein, and wish to be loved by you. Praise and thanksgiving are offered to God, by whose grace you are what you are. In your letter, Christ is awakened that He may be pleased to calm the winds and the waves for you, directing your steps towards His perfect stedfastness.1 In it the reader beholds a wife2 who does not bring her husband to effeminacy, but by union to him is brought herself to share the strength of his nature, and unto her in you, as completely one with you, and bound to you by spiritual ties which owe their strength to their purity, we desire to return our salutations with the respect due to your Holiness. In it, the cedars of Lebanon, levelled to the ground, and fashioned by the skilful craft of love into the form of the Ark, cleave the waves of this world, fearless of decay. In it, glory is scorned that it may be secured, and the world given up that it may be gained. In it, the little ones, yea, the mightier sons of Babylon, the sins of turbulence and pride, are dashed against the rock.
3. These and other such most delightful and hallowed spectacles are presented to the readers of your letter,—that letter which exhibits a true faith, a good hope, a pure love. How it breathes to us your thirst, your longing and fainting for the courts of the Lord! With what holy love it is inspired! How it overflows with the abundant treasure of a true heart! What thanksgivings it renders to God! What blessings it procures from Him! Is it elegance or fervour, light or life-giving power, which shines most in your letter? For how can it at once soothe us and animate us? how can it combine fertilizing rains with the brightness of a cloudless sky? How is this? I ask; or how shall I repay you, except by giving myself to be wholly yours in Him whose you wholly are? If this be little, it is at least all I have to give. But you have made me think it not little, by your deigning to honour me in that letter with such praises, that when I requite you by giving myself to you, I would be chargeable if I counted the gift a small one, with refusing to believe your testimony. I am ashamed, indeed, to believe so much good spoken of myself, but I am yet more unwilling to refuse to believe you. I have one way of escape from the dilemma: I shall not credit your estimate of my character, because I do not recognise myself in the portrait you have drawn; but I shall believe myself to be beloved by you, because I perceive and feel this beyond all doubt. Thus I shall be found neither rash in judging of myself, nor ungrateful for your esteem. Moreover, when I offer myself to you, it is not a small offering; for I offer one whom you very warmly love, and one who, though be is not what you suppose him to be, is nevertheless one for whom you are praying that he may become such. And your prayers I now beg the more earnestly, lest, thinking me to be already what I am not, you should be less solicitous for the supply of that which I lack.
4. The bearer of this letter3 to your Excellency and most eminent Charity is one of my dearest friends, and most intimately known to me from early years. His name is mentioned in the treatise De Religione, which your Holiness, as you indicate in your letter, has read with very great pleasure, doubtless because it was made more acceptable to you by the recommendation of so good a man as he who sent it to you.4 I would not wish you, however, to give credence to the statements which, perchance, one who is so intimately my friend may have made in praise of me. For I have often observed, that, without intending to say what was untrue, he was, by the bias of friendship, mistaken in his opinion concerning me, and that he thought me to be already possessed of many things, for the gift of which my heart earnestly waited on the Lord. And if he did such things in my presence, who may not conjecture that out of the fulness of his heart he may utter many things more excellent than true concerning me when absent? He will submit to your esteemed attention, and review all my treatises; for I am not aware of having written anything, either addressed to those who are beyond the pale of the Church, or to the brethren, which is not in his possession. But when you are reading these, my holy Paulinus, let not those things which Truth has spoken by my weak instrumentality, so carry you away as to prevent your carefully observing what I myself have spoken, lest, while you drink in with eagerness the things good and true which have been given to me as a servant, you should forget to pray for the pardon of my errors and mistakes. For in all that shall, if observed, justly displease you, I myself am seen; but in all which in my books is justly approved by you, through the gift of the Holy Spirit bestowed on you, He is to be loved, He is to be praised, with whom is the fountain of life, and in whose light we shall see light,1 not darkly as we do here, but face to face.2 When, in reading over my writings, I discover in them anything which is due to the working of the old leaven in me, I blame myself for it with true sorrow; but if anything which I have spoken is, by God’s gift, from the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, I rejoice therein with trembling. For what have we that we have not received? Yet it may be said, his portion is better whom God has endowed with larger and more numerous gifts, than his on whom smaller and fewer have been conferred. True; but, on the other hand, it is better to have a small gift, and to render to Him due thanks for it, than, having a large gift, to wish to claim the merit of it as our own. Pray for me, my brother, that I may make such acknowledgments sincerely, and that my heart may not be at variance with my tongue. Pray, I beseech you, that, not coveting praise to myself, but rendering praise to the Lord, I may worship Him; and I shall be safe from mine enemies.
5. There is yet another thing which may move you to love more warmly the brother who bears my letter; for he is a kinsman of the venerable and truly blessed bishop Alypius, whom you love with your whole heart, and justly: for whoever thinks highly of that man, thinks highly of the great mercy and wonderful gifts which God has bestowed on him. Accordingly, when he had read your request, desiring him to write for you a sketch of his history, and, while willing to do it because of your kindness, was yet unwilling to do it because of his humility, I, seeing him unable to decide between the respective claims of love and humility, transferred the burden from his shoulders to my own, for he enjoined me by letter to do so. I shall therefore, with God’s help, soon place in your heart Alypius just as he is: for this I chiefly feared, that he would be afraid to declare all that God has conferred on him, lest (since what he writes would be read by others besides you) he should seem to any who are less competent to discriminate to be commending not God’s goodness bestowed on men, but his own merits; and that thus you, who know what construction to put on such statements, would, through his regard for the infirmity of others, be deprived of that which to you as a brother ought to be imparted. This I would have done already, and you would already be reading my description of him, had not my brother suddenly resolved to set out earlier than we expected. For him I bespeak a welcome from your heart and from your lips as kindly as if your acquaintance with him was not beginning now, but of as long standing as my own. For if he does not shrink from laying himself open to your heart, he will be in great measure, if not completely, healed by your lips; for I desire him to be often made to hear the words of those who cherish for their friends a higher love than that which is of this world.
6. Even if Romanianus had not been going to visit your Charity, I had resolved to recommend to you by letter his son [Licentius], dear to me as my own (whose name you will find also in some of my books), in order that he may be encouraged, exhorted, and instructed, not so much by the sound of your voice, as by the example of your spiritual strength. I desire earnestly, that while his life is yet in the green blade, the tares may be turned into wheat, and he may believe those who know by experience the dangers to which he is eager to expose himself. From the poem of my young friend, and my letter to him, your most benevolent and considerate wisdom may perceive my grief, fear, and care on his account. I am not without hope that, by the Lord’s favour, I may through your means be set free from such disquietude regarding him.
As you are now about to read much that I have written, your love will be much more gratefully esteemed by me, if, moved by compassion, and judging impartially, you correct and reprove whatever displeases you. For you are not one whose oil anointing my head would make me afraid.3
The brethren, not those only who dwell with us, and those who, dwelling elsewhere, serve God in the same way as we do, but almost all who are in Christ our warm friends, send you salutations, along with the expression of their veneration and affectionate longing for you as a brother, as a saint, and as a man.4 I dare not ask; but if you have any leisure from ecclesiastical duties, you may see for what favour all Africa, with myself, is thirsting.
to jerome, his most beloved lord, and brother and fellow-presbyter, worthy of being honoured and embraced with the sincerest affectionate devotion, augustin sends greeting.1
1. Never was the face of any one more familiar to another, than the peaceful, happy, and truly noble diligence of your studies in the Lord has become to me. For although I long greatly to be acquainted with you, I feel that already my knowledge of you is deficient in respect of nothing but a very small part of you,—namely, your personal appearance; and even as to this, I cannot deny that since my most blessed brother Alypius (now invested with the office of bishop, of which he was then truly worthy) has seen you, and has on his return been seen by me, it has been almost completely imprinted on my mind by his report of you; nay, I may say that before his return, when he saw you there, I was seeing you myself with his eyes. For any one who knows us may say of him and me, that in body only, and not in mind, we are two, so great is the union of heart, so firm the intimate friendship subsisting between us; though in merit we are not alike, for his is far above mine. Seeing, therefore, that you love me, both of old through the communion of spirit by which we are knit to each other, and more recently through what you know of me from the mouth of my friend, I feel that it is not presumptuous in me (as it would be in one wholly unknown to you) to recommend to your brotherly esteem the brother Profuturus, in whom we trust that the happy omen of his name (Good-speed) may be fulfilled through our efforts furthered after this by your aid; although, perhaps, it may be presumptuous on this ground, that he is so great a man, that it would be much more fitting that I should be commended to you by him, than he by me. I ought perhaps to write no more, if I were willing to content myself with the style of a formal letter of introduction; but my mind overflows into conference with you, concerning the studies with which we are occupied in Christ Jesus our Lord, who is pleased to furnish us largely through your love with many benefits, and some helps by the way, in the path which He has pointed out to His followers.
2. We therefore, and with us all that are devoted to study in the African churches, beseech you not to refuse to devote care and labour to the translation of the books of those who have written in the Greek language most able commentaries on our Scriptures. You may thus put us also in possession of these men, and especially of that one whose name you seem to have singular pleasure in sounding forth in your writings [Origen]. But I beseech you not to devote your labour to the work of translating into Latin the sacred canonical books, unless you follow the method in which you have translated Job, viz. with the addition of notes, to let it be seen plainly what differences there are between this version of yours and that of the LXX., whose authority is worthy of highest esteem. For my own part, I cannot sufficiently express my wonder that anything should at this date be found in the Hebrew mss. which escaped so many translators perfectly acquainted with the language. I say nothing of the LXX., regarding whose harmony in mind and spirit, surpassing that which is found in even one man, I dare not in any way pronounce a decided opinion, except that in my judgment, beyond question, very high authority must in this work of translation be conceded to them. I am more perplexed by those translators who, though enjoying the advantage of labouring after the LXX. had completed their work, and although well acquainted, as it is reported, with the force of Hebrew words and phrases, and with Hebrew syntax, have not only failed to agree among themselves, but have left many things which, even after so long a time, still remain to be discovered and brought to light. Now these things were either obscure or plain: if they were obscure, it is believed that you are as likely to have been mistaken as the others; if they were plain, it is not believed that they [the LXX.] could possibly have been mistaken. Having stated the grounds of my perplexity, I appeal to your kindness to give me an answer regarding this matter.
3. I have been reading also some writings, ascribed to you, on the Epistles of the Apostle Paul. In reading your exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians, that passage came to my hand in which the Apostle Peter is called back from a course of dangerous dissimulation. To find there the defence of falsehood undertaken, whether by you, a man of such weight, or by any author (if it is the writing of another), causes me, I must confess, great sorrow, until at least those things which decide my opinion in the matter are refuted, if indeed they admit of refutation. For it seems to me that most disastrous consequences must follow upon our believing that anything false is found in the sacred books: that is to say, that the men by whom the Scripture has been given to us, and committed to writing, did put down in these books anything false. It is one question whether it may be at any time the duty of a good man to deceive; but it is another question whether it can have been the duty of a writer of Holy Scripture to deceive: nay, it is not another question—it is no question at all. For if you once admit into such a high sanctuary of authority one false statement as made in the way of duty,1 there will not be left a single sentence of those books which, if appearing to any one difficult in practice or hard to believe, may not by the same fatal rule be explained away, as a statement in which, intentionally, and under a sense of duty, the author declared what was not true.
4. For if the Apostle Paul did not speak the truth when, finding fault with the Apostle Peter, he said: “If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”—if, indeed, Peter seemed to him to be doing what was right, and if, notwithstanding, he, in order to soothe troublesome opponents, both said and wrote that Peter did what was wrong;2 —if we say thus, what then shall be our answer when perverse men such as he himself prophetically described arise, forbidding marriage,3 if they defend themselves by saying that, in all which the same apostle wrote in confirmation of the lawfulness of marriage,4 he was, on account of men who, through love for their wives, might become troublesome opponents, declaring what was false,—saying these things, forsooth, not because he believed them, but because their opposition might thus be averted? It is unnecessary to quote many parallel examples. For even things which pertain to the praises of God might be represented as piously intended falsehoods, written in order that love for Him might be enkindled in men who were slow of heart; and thus nowhere in the sacred books shall the authority of pure truth stand sure. Do we not observe the great care with which the same apostle commends the truth to us, when he says: “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain: yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ; whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.”5 If any one said to him, “Why are you so shocked by this falsehood, when the thing which you have said, even if it were false, tends very greatly to the glory of God?” would he not, abhorring the madness of such a man, with every word and sign which could express his feelings, open clearly the secret depths of his own heart, protesting that to speak well of a falsehood uttered on behalf of God, was a crime not less, perhaps even greater, than to speak ill of the truth concerning Him? We must therefore be careful to secure, in order to our knowledge of the divine Scriptures, the guidance only of such a man as is imbued with a high reverence for the sacred books, and a profound persuasion of their truth, preventing him from flattering himself in any part of them with the hypothesis of a statement being made not because it was true, but because it was expedient, and making him rather pass by what he does not understand, than set up his own feelings above that truth. For, truly, when he pronounces anything to be untrue, he demands that he be believed in preference, and endeavours to shake our confidence in the authority of the divine Scriptures.
5. For my part, I would devote all the strength which the Lord grants me, to show that every one of those texts which are wont to be quoted in defence of the expediency of falsehood ought to be otherwise understood, in order that everywhere the sure truth of these passages themselves may be consistently maintained. For as statements adduced in evidence must not be false, neither ought they to favour falsehood. This, however, I leave to your own judgment. For if you apply more thorough attention to the passage, perhaps you will see it much more readily than I have done. To this more careful study that piety will move you, by which you discern that the authority of the divine Scriptures becomes unsettled (so that every one may believe what he wishes, and reject what he does not wish) if this be once admitted, that the men by whom these things have been delivered unto us, could in their writings state some things which were not true, from considerations of duty;6 unless, perchance, you propose to furnish us with certain rules by which we may know when a falsehood might or might not become a duty. If this can be done, I beg you to set forth these rules with reasonings which may be neither equivocal nor precarious; and I beseech you by our Lord, in whom Truth was incarnate, not to consider me burdensome or presumptuous in making this request. For a mistake of mine which is in the interest of truth cannot deserve great blame, if indeed it deserves blame at all, when it is possible for you to use truth in the interest of falsehood without doing wrong.
6. Of many other things I would wish to discourse with your most ingenuous heart, and to take counsel with you concerning Christian studies; but this desire could not be satisfied within the limits of any letter. I may do this more fully by means of the brother bearing this letter, whom I rejoice in sending to share and profit by your sweet and useful conversation. Nevertheless, although I do not reckon myself superior in any respect to him, even he may take less from you than I would desire, and he will excuse my saying so, for I confess myself to have more room for receiving from you than he has. I see his mind to be already more fully stored, in which unquestionably he excels me. Therefore, when he returns, as I trust he may happily do by God’s blessing, and when I become a sharer in all with which his heart has been richly furnished by you, there will still be a consciousness of void unsatisfied in me, and a longing for personal fellowship with you. Hence of the two I shall be the poorer, and he the richer, then as now. This brother carries with him some of my writings, which if you condescend to read, I implore you to review them with candid and brotherly strictness. For the words of Scripture, “The righteous shall correct me in compassion, and reprove me; but the oil of the sinner shall not anoint my head,”1 I understand to mean that he is the truer friend who by his censure heals me, than the one who by flattery anoints my head. I find the greatest difficulty in exercising a right judgment when I read over what I have written, being either too cautious or too rash. For I sometimes see my own faults, but I prefer to hear them reproved by those who are better able to judge than I am; lest after I have, perhaps justly, charged myself with error, I begin again to flatter myself, and think that my censure has arisen from an undue mistrust of my own judgment.
a letter from the presbyter of the district of hippo to alypius the bishop of thagaste, concerning the anniversary of the birth of leontius,2formerly bishop of hippo.
1. In the absence of brother Macharius, I have not been able to write anything definite concerning a matter about which I could not feel otherwise than anxious: it is said, however, that he will soon return, and whatever can be with God’s help done in the matter shall be done. Although also our brethren, citizens of your town, who were with us, might sufficiently assure you of our solicitude on their behalf when they returned, nevertheless the thing which the Lord has granted to me is one worthy to be the subject of that epistolary intercourse which ministers so much to the comfort of us both; it is, moreover, a thing in the obtaining of which I believe that I have been greatly assisted by your own solicitude regarding it, seeing that it could not but constrain you to intercession on our behalf.
2. Therefore let me not fail to relate to your Charity what has taken place; so that, as you joined us in pouring out prayers for this mercy before it was obtained, you may now join us in rendering thanks for it after it has been received. When I was informed after your departure that some were becoming openly violent, and declaring that they could not submit to the prohibition (intimated while you were here) of that feast which they call Lætitia, vainly attempting to disguise their revels under a fair name, it happened most opportunely for me, by the hidden fore-ordination of the Almighty God, that on the fourth holy day that chapter of the Gospel fell to be expounded in ordinary course, in which the words occur: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.”3 I discoursed therefore concerning dogs and swine in such a way as to compel those who clamour with obstinate barking against the divine precepts, and who are given up to the abominations of carnal pleasures, to blush for shame; and followed it up by saying, that they might plainly see how criminal it was to do, under the name of religion, within the walls of the church, that which, if it were practised by them in their own houses, would make it necessary for them to be debarred from that which is holy, and from the privileges which are the pearls of the Church.
3. Although these words were well received, nevertheless, as few had attended the meeting, all had not been done which so great an emergency required. When, however, this discourse was, according to the ability and zeal of each, made known abroad by those who had heard it, it found many opponents. But when the morning of Quadragesima came round, and a great multitude had assembled at the hour of exposition of Scripture, that passage in the Gospel was read in which our Lord said, concerning those sellers who were driven out of the temple, and the tables of the money-changers which He had overthrown, that the house of His Father had been made a den of thieves instead of a house of prayer.4 After awakening their attention by bringing forward the subject of immoderate indulgence in wine, I myself also read this chapter, and added to it an argument to prove with how much greater anger and vehemence our Lord would cast forth drunken revels, which are everywhere disgraceful, from that temple from which He thus drove out merchandise lawful elsewhere, especially when the things sold were those required for the sacrifices appointed in that dispensation; and I asked them whether they regarded a place occupied by men selling what was necessary, or one used by men drinking to excess, as bearing the greater resemblance to a den of thieves.
4. Moreover, as passages of Scripture which I had prepared were held ready to be put into my hands, I went on to say that the Jewish nation, with all its lack of spirituality in religion, never held feasts, even temperate feasts, much less feasts disgraced by intemperance, in their temple, in which at that time the body and blood of the Lord were not yet offered, and that in history they are not found to have been excited by wine on any public occasion bearing the name of worship, except when they held a feast before the idol which they had made.1 While I said these things I took the manuscript from the attendant, and read that whole passage. Reminding them of the words of the apostle, who says, in order to distinguish Christians from the obdurate Jews, that they are his epistle written, not on tables of stone, but on the fleshly tables of the heart,2 I asked further, with the deepest sorrow, how it was that, although Moses the servant of God broke both the tables of stone because of these rulers of Israel, I could not break the hearts of those who, though men of the New Testament dispensation, were desiring in their celebration of saints’ days to repeat often the public perpetration of excesses of which the people of the Old Testament economy were guilty only once, and that in an act of idolatry.
5. Having then given back the manuscript of Exodus, I proceeded to enlarge, so far as my time permitted, on the crime of drunkenness, and took up the writings of the Apostle Paul, and showed among what sins it is classed by him, reading the text, “If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one (ye ought) not even to eat;”3 pathetically reminding them how great is our danger in eating with those who are guilty of intemperance even in their own houses. I read also what is added, a little further on, in the same epistle: “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”4 After reading these, I charged them to consider how believers could hear these words, “but ye are washed,” if they still tolerated in their own hearts—that is, in God’s inner temple—the abominations of such lusts as these against which the kingdom of heaven is shut. Then I went on to that passage: “When ye come together into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper: for in eating, every one taketh before other his own supper; and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What! have ye not houses to eat and to drink in, or despise ye the church of God?”5 After reading which, I more especially begged them to remark that not even innocent and temperate feasts were permitted in the church: for the apostle said not, “Have ye not houses of your own in which to be drunken?”—as if it was drunkenness alone which was unlawful in the church; but, “Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?”—things lawful in themselves, but not lawful in the church, inasmuch as men have their own houses in which they may be recruited by necessary food: whereas now, by the corruption of the times and the relaxation of morals, we have been brought so low, that, no longer insisting upon sobriety in the houses of men, all that we venture to demand is, that the realm of tolerated excess be restricted to their own homes.
6. I reminded them also of a passage in the Gospel which I had expounded the day before, in which it is said of the false prophets: “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”6 I also bade them remember that in that place our works are signified by the word fruits. Then I asked among what kind of fruits drunkenness was named, and read that passage in the Epistle to the Galatians: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murder, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which I tell you before, as I have told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”7 After these words, I asked how, when God has commanded that Christians be known by their fruits, we could be known as Christians by this fruit of drunkenness? I added also, that we must read what follows there: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”8 And I pled with them to consider how shameful and lamentable it would be, if, not content with living at home in the practice of these works of the flesh, they even wished by them, forsooth, to honour the church, and to fill the whole area of so large a place of worship, if they were permitted, with crowds of revellers and drunkards: and yet would not present to God those fruits of the Spirit which, by the authority of Scripture, and by my groans, they were called to yield, and by the offering of which they would most suitably celebrate the saints’ days.
7. This being finished, I returned the manuscript; and being asked to speak,1 I set before their eyes with all my might, as the danger itself constrained me, and as the Lord was pleased to give strength, the danger shared by them who were committed to my care, and by me, who must give account to the Chief Shepherd, and implored them by His humiliation, by the unparalleled insults, the buffetings and spitting on the face which He endured, by His pierced hands and crown of thorns, and by His cross and blood, to have pity on me at least, if they were displeased with themselves, and to consider the inexpressible love cherished towards me by the aged and venerable Valerius, who had not scrupled to assign to me for their sakes the perilous burden of expounding to them the word of truth, and had often told them that in my coming here his prayers were answered; not rejoicing, surely, that I had come to share or to behold the death of our hearers, but rejoicing that I had come to share his labours for their eternal life. In conclusion, I told them that I was resolved to trust in Him who cannot lie, and who has given us a promise by the mouth of the prophet, saying of our Lord Jesus Christ, “If His children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes: nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from Him.”2 I declared, therefore, that I put my trust in Him, that if they despised the weighty words which had now been read and spoken to them, He would visit them with the rod and with stripes, and not leave them to be condemned with the world. In this appeal I put forth all the power in thought and utterance which, in an emergency so great and hazardous, our Saviour and Ruler was pleased to supply. I did not move them to weep by first weeping myself; but while these things were being spoken, I own that, moved by the tears which they began to shed, I myself could not refrain from following their example. And when we had thus wept together, I concluded my sermon with full persuasion that they would be restrained by it from the abuses denounced.
8. Next morning, however, when the day dawned, which so many were accustomed to devote to excess in eating and drinking, I received notice that some, even of those who were present when I preached, had not yet desisted from complaint, and that so great was the power of detestable custom with them, that, using no other argument, they asked, “Wherefore is this now prohibited? Were they not Christians who in former times did not interfere with this practice?” On hearing this, I knew not what more powerful means for influencing them I could devise; but resolved, in the event of their judging it proper to persevere, that after reading in Ezekiel’s prophecy that the watchman has delivered his own soul if he has given warning, even though the persons warned refuse to give heed to him, I would shake my garments and depart. But then the Lord showed me that He leaves us not alone, and taught me how He encourages us to trust Him; for before the time at which I had to ascend the pulpit,3 the very persons of whose complaint against interference with long-established custom I had heard came to me. Receiving them kindly, I by a few words brought them round to a right opinion; and when it came to the time for my discourse, having laid aside the lecture which I had prepared as now unnecessary, I said a few things concerning the question mentioned above, “Wherefore now prohibit this custom?” saying that to those who might propose it the briefest and best answer would be this: “Let us now at last put down what ought to have been earlier prohibited.”
9. Lest, however, any slight should seem to be put by us on those who, before our time, either tolerated or did not dare to put down such manifest excesses of an undisciplined multitude, I explained to them the circumstances out of which this custom seems to have necessarily risen in the Church,—namely, that when, in the peace which came after such numerous and violent persecutions, crowds of heathen who wished to assume the Christian religion were kept back, because, having been accustomed to celebrate the feasts connected with their worship of idols in revelling and drunkenness, they could not easily refrain from pleasures so hurtful and so habitual, it had seemed good to our ancestors, making for the time a concession to this infirmity, to permit them to celebrate, instead of the festivals which they renounced, other feasts in honour of the holy martyrs, which were observed, not as before with a profane design, but with similar self-indulgence. I added that now upon them, as persons bound together in the name of Christ, and submissive to the yoke of His august authority, the wholesome restraints of sobriety were laid—restraints with which the honour and fear due to Him who appointed them should move them to comply—and that therefore the time had now come in which all who did not dare to cast off the Christian profession should begin to walk according to Christ’s will; and being now confirmed Christians, should reject those concessions to infirmity which were made only for a time in order to their becoming such.
10. I then exhorted them to imitate the example of the churches beyond the sea, in some of which these practices had never been tolerated, while in others they had been already put down by the people complying with the counsel of good ecclesiastical rulers; and as the examples of daily excess in the use of wine in the church of the blessed Apostle Peter were brought forward in defence of the practice, I said in the first place, that I had heard that these excesses had been often forbidden, but because the place was at a distance from the bishop’s control, and because in such a city the multitude of carnally-minded persons was great, the foreigners especially, of whom there is a constant influx, clinging to that practice with an obstinacy proportioned to their ignorance, the suppression of so great an evil had not yet been possible. If, however, I continued, we would honour the Apostle Peter, we ought to hear his words, and look much more to the epistles by which his mind is made known to us, than to the place of worship, by which it is not made known; and immediately taking the manuscript, I read his own words: “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries.”1 After this, when I saw that all were with one consent turning to a right mind, and renouncing the custom against which I had protested, I exhorted them to assemble at noon for the reading of God’s word and singing of psalms; stating that we had resolved thus to celebrate the festival in a way much more accordant with purity and piety; and that, by the number of worshippers who should assemble for this purpose, it would plainly appear who were guided by reason, and who were the slaves of appetite. With these words the discourse concluded.
11. In the afternoon a greater number assembled than in the forenoon, and there was reading and praise alternately up to the hour at which I went out in company with the bishop; and after our coming two psalms were read. Then the old man [Valerius] constrained me by his express command to say something to the people; from which I would rather have been excused, as I was longing for the close of the anxieties of the day. I delivered a short discourse in order to express our gratitude to God. And as we heard the noise of the feasting, which was going on as usual in the church of the heretics, who still prolonged their revelry while we were so differently engaged, I remarked that the beauty of day is enhanced by contrast with the night, and that when anything black is near, the purity of white is the more pleasing; and that, in like manner, our meeting for a spiritual feast might perhaps have been somewhat less sweet to us, but for the contrast of the carnal excesses in which the others indulged; and I exhorted them to desire eagerly such feasts as we then enjoyed, if they had tasted the goodness of the Lord. At the same time, I said that those may well be afraid who seek anything which shall one day be destroyed as the chief object of their desire, seeing that every one shares the portion of that which he worships; a warning expressly given by the apostle to such, when he says of them their “god is their belly,”2 inasmuch as he has elsewhere said, “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats; but God shall destroy both it and them.”3 I added that it is our duty to seek that which is imperishable, which, far removed from carnal affections, is obtained through sanctification of the spirit; and when those things which the Lord was pleased to suggest to me had been spoken on this subject as the occasion required, the daily evening exercises of worship were performed; and when with the bishop I retired from the church, the brethren said a hymn there, a considerable multitude remaining in the church, and engaging in praise4 even till daylight failed.
12. I have thus related as concisely as I could that which I am sure you longed to hear. Pray that God may be pleased to protect our efforts from giving offence or provoking odium in any way. In the tranquil prosperity which you enjoy we do with lively warmth of affection participate in no small measure, when tidings so frequently reach us of the gifts possessed by the highly spiritual church of Thagaste. The ship bringing our brethren has not yet arrived. At Hasna, where our brother Argentius is presbyter, the Circumcelliones, entering our church, demolished the altar. The case is now in process of trial; and we earnestly ask your prayers that it may be decided in a peaceful way, and as becomes the Catholic Church, so as to silence the tongues of turbulent heretics. I have sent a letter to the Asiarch.1
Brethren most blessed, may ye persevere in the Lord, and remember us. Amen.
This letter of Paulinus was written before receiving a reply to his former letter, No. 27, p. 248.
to augustin, our lord and holy and beloved brother, paulinus and therasia, sinners, send greeting.
1. My beloved brother in Christ the Lord, having through your holy and pious works come to know you without your knowledge, and to see you though absent long ago, my mind embraced you with unreserved affection, and I hastened to secure the gratification of hearing you through familiar brotherly exchange of letters. I believe also that by the Lord’s hand and favour my letter has reached you; but as the youth whom, before winter, we had sent to salute you and others equally loved in God’s name, has not returned, we could no longer either put off what we feel to be our duty, or restrain the vehemence of our desire to hear from you. If, then, my former letter has been found worthy to reach you, this is the second; if, however, it was not so fortunate as to come to your hand, accept this as the first.
2. But, my brother, judging all things as a spiritual man, do not estimate our love to you by the duty which we render, or the frequency of our letters. For the Lord, who everywhere, as one and the same, worketh His love in His own, is witness that, from the time when, by the kindness of the venerable bishops Aurelius and Alypius, we came to know you through your writings against the Manichæans, love for you has taken such a place in us, that we seemed not so much to be acquiring a new friendship as reviving an old affection. Now at length we address you in writing; and though we are novices in expressing, we are not novices in feeling love to you; and by communion of the spirit, which is the inner man, we are as it were acquainted with you. Nor is it strange that though distant we are near, though unknown we are well known to each other; for we are members of one body, having one Head, enjoying the effusion of the same grace, living by the same bread, walking in the same way, and dwelling in the same home. In short, in all that makes up our being,—in the whole faith and hope by which we stand in the present life, or labour for that which is to come,—we are both in the spirit and in the body of Christ so united, that if we fell from this union we would cease to be.
3. How small a thing, therefore, is that which our bodily separation denies to us!—for it is nothing more than one of those fruits that gratify the eyes, which are occupied only with the things of time. And yet, perhaps, we should not number this pleasure which in the body we enjoy among the blessings which are only in time the portion of spiritual men, to whose bodies the resurrection will impart immortality; as we, though in ourselves unworthy, are bold to expect, through the merit of Christ and the mercy of God the Father. Wherefore I pray that the grace of God by our Lord Jesus Christ may grant unto us this favour too, that we may yet see your face. Not only would this bring great gratification to our desires; but by it illumination would be brought to our minds, and our poverty would be enriched by your abundance. This indeed you may grant to us even while we are absent from you, especially on the present occasion, through our sons Romanus and Agilis, beloved and most dear to us in the Lord (whom as our second selves we commend to you), when they return to us in the Lord’s name, after fulfilling the labour of love in which they are engaged; in which work we beg that they may especially enjoy the goodwill of your Charity. For you know what high rewards the Most High promises to the brother who gives his brother help. If you are pleased to impart to me any gift of the grace that has been bestowed on you, you may safely do it through them; for, believe me, they are of one heart and of one mind with us in the Lord. May the grace of God always abide as it is with you, O brother beloved, venerable, most dear, and longed for in Christ the Lord! Salute on our behalf all the saints in Christ who are with you, for doubtless such attach themselves to your fellowship; commend us to them all, that they may, along with yourself, remember us in prayer.
[1 ]Hermogenianus was one of the earliest and most intimate friends of Augustin, and his associate in literary and philosophical studies.
[2 ][Academy was a grove dedicated to the Attic hero Academos, on the banks of the Kephissos near Athens, where Plato taught Hence it became the name of the Platonic school of philosophy. It had three branches,—the Older, the Middle, and the Younger Academy. The study of Platonism was a preparatory step to the conversion of Augustin in 386.—P. S.]
[3 ]We follow the reading “tegendi veri.”
[4 ][Carneades of Cyrene ( 214-129), the founder of the third Academic school, who came to Rome 155, went further in the direction of scepticism than Arcesilas, and taught that certain knowledge was impossible. See Ueberweg, History of Philosophy, i. 133, 136 (transl. of Morris).—P. S.]
[5 ]Augustin’s work, De Academicis, b. iii. c. 20.
[1 ]Zenobius was the friend to whom Augustin dedicated his books De Ordine. In book i. ch. 1 and 2, we have a delightful description of the character of Zenobius.
[2 ]Ut latiné loquar, non esse.
[3 ]The character of Nebridius, and the intimacy of friendship between him and Augustin, may be seen in the Confessions, b. ix. c. 3.
[1 ]Had Augustin been acquainted with the decimal notation, he would not have made this remark to Alypius, for in the decimal scale, when the point is inserted, fractional parts go on diminishing according to the number of cyphers between them and the point (e.g. .001), precisely as the integers increase according to the number of cyphers between them and the decimal point (e.g. 100.),—there being no limit to the descending series on the right hand of the decimal point, any more than to the ascending series on the left hand of the same point.
[2 ]Nescio quid.
[3 ]Augustin’s acquaintance with the first principles of optics, and with the properties of reflection possessed by convex, plane, and concave mirrors, was very limited.
[4 ]Wisely resolved.
[2 ]Present infinitive passive of cupere, to desire.
[3 ]Infinitive passive of verbs signifying respectively to “throw” and to “catch.”
[2 ]Quamvis non omnis phantasia cum memoria sit, omnis tamen memoria, sine phantasia esse non possit.
[1 ]Dramatis personæ in Terence.
[2 ]Referring toManichæan notions.
[1 ]Numeri actitantur occulti.
[2 ]Pro ipsius divini juris fide.
[2 ]See Letter VII.
[1 ]Text, “deificari” for “ædificari” (?).
[1 ]Aliquid præter invicem faciunt.
[1 ]An sit, quid sit, quale sit.
[2 ]We leave untranslated the words “quæ diffirmando sunt otio necessaria,” the text here being evidently corrupt.
[1 ]The phrase used by Nebridius had been “longior quam longissima,” which Augustin here quotes, and afterwards playfully alludes to in sec. 3.
[1 ]The text contains the word “sex” here, which is omitted in the translation. The reading is uncertain.
[2 ]See note on sec. 1.
[1 ]“Mene salis placidi vultum fluctusque quietos Ignorare jubes?”—Æn. v. 848, 849.
 “Inque Deûm templis jurabit Roma per umbras.” Lucan,Pharsalia, vii. 459.
[4 ]Virg. Eclog. ii. 65: “Trahit sua quemque voluptas.”
[1 ]Virg. Æneid, viii. 302: “Et nos et tua dexter adi pede sacra secundo.”
 “Trahit sua quemque voluptas.”
[3 ]We give the original of this important sentence: “Scias a Christianis catholicis (quorum in vestro oppido etiam ecclesia constituta est) nullum coli mortuorum, nihi denique ut numen adorari quod sit factum et conditum a Deo, sed unum ipsum Deum qui fecit et condidit omnia.”
[4 ]The sense here obviously requires “vestri” instead of “nestri,” which is in the text.
[1 ]Infirmiori vasi tuo.
[2 ][A most noble sentence, which contains, as in a nutshell, a whole system of pastoral theology.—P. S.]
[1 ]They thought Augustin was disappointed at being made only presbyter and not colleague of Valerius as bishop. See Possidius, Aug. Vita, c. 4.
[1 ]We adopt the conjectural reading “conciliorum.” Compare sec. 4, p. 240.
[2 ]Rom. xiii. 13, 14.
[1 ]1 Cor. v. 11.
[2 ]Manifestly the correct punctuation here is: Hæc si prima Africa tentaret auferre, a cæteris terris imitatione digna ease deberet.
[3 ]Gal. vi. 1.
[4 ]Magis monendo quam minando.
[5 ]One may see in Letter XXIX. how admirably Augustin illustrated in his own practice the directions here given.
[6 ]“De contentione et dolo” is Augustin’s translation of the words in Rom. xiii. 13.
[1 ]1 Tim. iv. 12.
[2 ]Gal. i. 10.
[3 ]Ps. lii. 6, Sept.
[1 ]Gal. v. 13.
[2 ]Ps. xlix. 12, version of the LXX.
[1 ]Absidæ gradatæ.
[2 ]Cathedræ velatæ.
[3 ]John xix. 24.
[5 ]Ex. iv. 24, 25. Augustin believes that the angel sought to slay, not Moses, but the child, for which he gives reasons in his Quæstiones in Exodum. See Rosenmuller, Scholia.
[6 ]John iv. 22.
[1 ]John iv. 14.
[2 ]Acts iii. 7 and iv. 22.
[1 ]Matt. ii. 16.
[2 ]Licentius, son of Romanianus, had been a pupil of Augustin when he was in retirement at Cassiacum. In this letter and in the next we see proofs of Augustin’s pious solicitude for his welfare.
[1 ]Extract from a long poem, by Licentius, forming § 3 of the text.
[1 ]John vii. 37.
[2 ]Matt. xi. 28-30.
[1 ]Compare end of sec. 3 in Letter XXV.p. 246.
[3 ]Romanianus. See De Religione, ch. vii. n. 12.
[1 ]Ps. xxxvi. 10.
[2 ]1 Cor. xiii. 12.
[3 ]The reference is to Ps. cxli. 5, the words of which, translated from the LXX. version, are given in full in the succeeding letter.
[4 ]This may approximate to a translation of the three titles in the original, “Germanitas, Beatitudo, Humanitas tua.”
[1 ][The letters to Jerome, and Jerome’s replies, are among the most interesting and important in this correspondence, especially those parts which relate to Jerome’s revision of the Latin version of the Bible, and his interpretation of Gal. ii. 11-14. See Letter 40, 71, 72, 73, 75, 81, 82, 172, 195, 202. Augustin was inferior to Jerome in learning, especially as a linguist, but superior in Christian temper and humility. Jerome’s false interpretation of the dispute between Paul and Peter at Antioch, which involved both apostles in hypocrisy, offended Augustin’s keener sense of veracity. He here protests against it in this letter (ch. iii.), and again in Letter 40, and thereby provokes Jerome’s irritable temper. His last letters to Augustin, however, show sincere esteem and affection.—P. S.]
[1 ]Officiosum mendacium.
[2 ]Gal. ii. 11-14.
[3 ]1 Tim. iv. 3.
[4 ]1 Cor. vii. 10-16.
[5 ]1 Cor. xv. 14, 15.
[6 ]Aliqua officiose mentiri.
[1 ]Ps. cxli. 5, translated from the Septuagint.
[2 ]Leontius was Bishop of Hippo in the latter part of the second century. He built a church which was called after him, and in which some of the sermons of Augustin were delivered.
[3 ]Matt. vii. 6.
[4 ]Matt. xxi. 12.
[1 ]Ex. xxxii. 6.
[2 ]2 Cor. iii. 3.
[3 ]1 Cor. v. 11.
[4 ]1 Cor. vi. 9-11.
[5 ]1 Cor. xi. 20-22.
[6 ]Matt. vii. 16.
[7 ]Gal. v. 19-21.
[8 ]Gal. v. 22, 23.
[1 ]Imperatâ oratione.
[2 ]Ps. lxxxix. 30-33.
[1 ]1 Pet. iv. 1-3.
[2 ]Phil. iii. 19.
[3 ]1 Cor. vi. 13.
[1 ]A magistrate who was also charged with the affairs pertaining to the protection of religion. The title belonged primarily to those who in the province of Asia had charge of the games.—Codex Theodosianus, xv. 9.