Source: Editor's Introduction to A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. Vol. 1 The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin, with a Sketch of his Life and Work, ed. Philip Schaff, LL.D. (Buffalo: The Christian Literature Co., 1886).
Augustin’s Works. S. Aurelii AugustiniHipponensis episcopi Opera . . . Post Lovaniensium theologorum recensionem [which appeared at Antwerp in 1577 in 11 vols.], castigatus [referring to tomus primus, etc.] denuo ad MSS. codd. Gallicanos, etc. Opera et studio monachorum ordinis S. Benedicti e congregatione S. Mauri [Fr. Delfau, Th. Blampin, P. Coustant, and Cl. Guesnié]. Paris, 1679-1700, 11 tom. in 8 fol. vols. The same edition reprinted, with additions, at Antwerp, 1700-1703, 12 parts in 9 fol.; and at Venice, 1729-’34, in 11 tom. in 8 fol. (this edition is not to be confounded with another Venice edition of 1756-’69 in 18 vols. 4to, which is full of printing errors); also at Bassano, 1807, in 18 vols.; by Gaume fratres, Paris, 1836-’39, in 11 tom. in 22 parts (a very elegant edition); and lastly by J. P. Migne, Petit-Montrouge, 1841-’49, in 12. tom. (“Patrol Lat.” tom. xxxii.-xlvii.). Migne’s edition gives, in a supplementary volume (tom. xii.), the valuable Notitia literaria de vita, scriptis et editionibus Aug. from Schonemann’s “Bibliotheca historico-literaria Patrum Lat” vol. ii. Lips. 1794, the Vindiciæ Augustinianæ of Cardinal Noris (Norisius), and the writings of Augustin first published by Fontanini and Angelo Mai. So far the most complete and convenient edition.
But a thoroughly reliable critical edition of Augustin is still a desideratum and will be issued before long by a number of scholars under the direction of the Imperial Academy of Vienna in the “Corpus Scriptorum ecclesiasticorum Latinorum.”
On the controversies relating to the merits of the Bened. edition, which was sharply criticized by Richard Simon, and the Jesuits, but is still the best and defended by the Benedictines, see the supplementary volume of Migne, xii. p. 40 sqq., and Thuillier:Histoire de la nouvelle éd. de S. Aug. par les PP. Bénédictins, Par. 1736.
The first printed edition of Augustin appeared at Basle, 1489-’95; another, in 1509, in 11 vols.; then the edition of Erasmus published by Frobenius, Bas. 1528-’29, in 10 vols., fol.; the Editio Lovaniensis, of sixteen divines of Louvain, Antw. 1577, in 11 vols. and often reprinted at Paris, Geneva, and Cologne.
Several works of Augustin have been often separately edited, especially the Confessions and the City of God. Compare a full list of the editions down to 1794 in Schönemann’sBibliotheca, vol. ii. p. 73 sqq.; for later editions see Brunet,Manuel du libraire, Paris 1860, tom. 1. vols. 557-567. Since then William Bright (Prof. of Ecclesiast. Hist. at Oxford) has published the Latin text of Select Anti-Pelagian Treatises of St. Aug. and the Acts of the Second Council of Orange. Oxford (Clarendon Press) 1880. With a valuable Introduction of 68 pages.
English translations of select works of Augustin are found in the “Oxford Library of the Fathers,” ed. by Drs. Pusey, Keble, and Newman, viz.: The Confessions, vol. i., 1838, 4th ed., 1853; Sermons on the N. T., vol. xvi., 1844, and vol. xx. 1845; Short Treatises, vol. xxii., 1847; Exposition of the Psalms, vols. xxiv., xxv., xxx., xxxii., xxxvii., xxxix., 1847, 1849, 1850, 1853, 1854; Homilies on John, vols. xxvi. and xxix., 1848 and 1849. Another translation by Marcus Dods and others, Edinb. (T. & T. Clark), 1871-’76, 15 vols., containing the City of God, the Anti-Donatist, the Anti-Pelagian, the Anti-Manichaean writings, Letters, On the Trinity, On Christian Doctrine, the Euchiridion, On Catechising, On Faith and the Creed, Commentaries on the Sermon on the Mount, and the Harmony of the Gospels, Lectures on John, and Confessions. There are several separate translations and editions of the Confessions: the first by Sir Tobias Matthews (a Roman Catholic), 1624, said, by Dr. Pusey, to be very inaccurate and subservient to Romanism; a second by Rev. W. Watts, D. D., 1631, 1650; a third by Abr. Woodhead (only the first 9 books). Dr. Pusey, in the first vol. of the Oxford Library of the Fathers, 1838 (new ed. 1883), republished the translation of Watts, with improvements and explanatory notes, mostly borrowed from Dubois’s Latin ed. Dr. Shedd’s edition, Andover, 1860, is a reprint of Watts (as republished in Boston in 1843), preceded by a thoughtful introduction, pp. v.-xxxvi. H. de Romestin translated minor doctrinal tracts in Saint Augustin. Oxford 1885.
German translations of select writings of Aug. in the Kempten Bibliothek der Kirchenväter, 1871-79, 8 vols. There are also separate translations and editions of the Confessions (by Silbert, 5th ed., Vienna, 1861; by Kautz, Arnsberg, 1840; by Gröninger, 4th ed., Munster, 1859; by Wilden, Schaffhausen, 1865; by Rapp, 7th ed., Gotha, 1878), of the Enchiridion, the Meditations, and the City of God (Die Stadt Gottes, by Silbert, Vienna, 1827, 2 vols.).
French translations: Les Confessions, by Dubois, Paris, 1688, 1715, 1758, 1776, and by Janet, Paris, 1857; a new translation with a preface by Abbé de la Mennais, Paris, 1822, 2 vols.; another by L. Moreau, Paris, 1854. La Cité de Dieu, by Emile Saisset, Paris, 1855, with introd. and notes, 4 vols.; older translations by Raoul de Præsles, Abbeville, 1486; Savetier, Par. 1531; P. Lombert, Par. 1675, and 1701; Abbé Goujet, Par. 1736 and 1764, reprinted at Bourges 1818; L. Moreau, with the Latin text, Par. 1846, 3 vols. Les Soliloques, by Pélissier, Paris, 1853. Les Lettres, by Poujoular, Paris, 1858, 4 vols. Le Manuel, by d’Avenel, Rennes, 1861.
Possidius (Calamensis episcopus, a pupil and friend of Aug.): Vita Augustini (brief, but authentic, written 432, two years after his death, in tom. x. Append. 257-280, ed. Bened., and in nearly all other editions).
Benedictini Editores:Vita Augustini ex ejus potissimum scriptis concinnata, in 8 books (very elaborate and extensive), in tom. xi. 1-492, ed. Bened (in Migne’s reprint, tom. i. col. 66-578).
The biographies of Aug. by Tillemont (Mém. tom. xiii.); Ellies Dupin (in “Nouvelle bibliothèque des auteurs ecclésiastiques,” tom. ii. and iii.); P. Bayle (in his “Dictionnaire historique et critique,” art Augustin); Remi Ceillier (in “Histoire générale des auteurs sacrés et ecclés,” vol. xi. and xii.), Cave (in “Lives of the Fathers,” vol. ii.); Kloth (Der heil Aug., Aachen, 1840, 2 vols.); Böhringer (Kirchengeschichte in Biographien, vol. i. P. iii. p. 99 sqq., revised ed. Leipzig, 1877-’78, 2 parts); Poujoulat (Histoire de S. Aug. Par. 1843 and 1852, 2 vols.; the same in German by Fr. Hurter, Schaffh. 1847, 2 vols.); Eisenbarth (Stuttg. 1853); C. Bindemann (Der heil. Aug. Berlin, 1844, ’55, ’69, 3 vols., the best work in German); Edw. L. Cutts (St. Augustin, London, 1880); E. de Pressensé (in Smith and Wace, “Dictionary of Christ. Biogr.” I. 216-225); Ph. Schaff (St. Augustin, Berlin, 1854; English ed. New York and London, 1854, revised and enlarged in St. Augustin, Melanchthon and Neander; three biographies, New York, and London, 1886, pp. 1-106). On Monnica see Braune:Monnica und Augustin. Grimma, 1846.
(1) The Theology of Augustin. The Church Histories of Neander, Baur, Hase (his large work, 1885, vol. I. 514 sqq.), and the Doctrine Histories of Neander, Gieseler, Baur, Hagenbach, Shedd, Nitzsch, Schwane, Bach, Harnack (in preparation, first vol., 1886).
The voluminous literature on the Pelagian controversy embraces works of G. J. Voss, Garnier, Jansen (died 1638; Augustinus, 1640, 3 vols.; he read Aug. twenty times and revived his system in the R. Cath. Church, but was condemned by the Pope), Cardinal Noris (Historia Pelagiana, Florence, 1673), Walch (Ketzergeschichte, vols. IV. and V., 1768 and 1770), Wiggers (Augustinismus und Pelagianismus, 1821 and 1833), Bersot (Doctr. de St. Aug. sur la libertè et la Providence, Paris, 1843), Jacobi (Lehre des Pelagius, 1842), Jul. Müller (Lehre von der Sünde, 5th ed. 1866, Engl. transl. by Urwick, 1868), Mozley (Augustinian Doctrine of Predestination, London, 1855, very able), W. Bright (Introduction to his ed. of the Anti-Pelag. writings of Aug. Oxford 1880), and others. See Schaff, vol. III. 783-785.
Van Goens:De Aur. August. apologeta, sec. l. de Civitate Dei. Amstel. 1838.
Nirschl (Rom. Cath.). Ursprung und Wesen des Bösen nach der Lehre des heil. Augustin. 1854.
F. Ribbeck:Donatus und Augustinus, oder der erste entscheidende Kampf zwischen Separatismus und Kirche. Elberfeld, 1858, 2 vols.
Fr. Nitzsch:Augustin’s Lehre vom Wunder. Berlin, 1865.
Gangauf:Des heil. August. Lehre von Gott dem dreieinigen. Augsburg, 1866. Emil Feuerlein:Ueber die Stellung Augustin’s in der Kirchen = und Kulturgeschichte, in Sybel’s “Histor. Zeitschrift” for 1869, vol. XI. 270-313. Naville:Saint Augustin, Etude sur le développement de sa pensée. Genève, 1872. Ernst:Die Werke und Tugenden der Ungläubigen nach Augustin. Freiburg, 1872. Aug. Dorner (son of Is. ): Augustinus, sein theol. System und seine religionsphilosophische Anschauung. Berlin, 1873 (comp. his art. in Herzog’s “Encycl.” 2d ed. I. 781-795, abridged in Schaff-Herzog I. 174 sqq.). Ch. H. Collett:St. Aug., a Sketch of his Life and Writings as affecting the controversy with Rome. London, 1883. H. Reuter (Prof. of Church History in Göttingen): Augustinische Studien, in Brieger’s “Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte,” for 1880-’86 (several articles on Aug.’s doctrine of the church, of predestination, the kingdom of God, etc.,—very valuable).
(2) The Philosophy of Augustin is discussed in the larger Histories of Philosophy by Brucker, Tennemann, Rixner, H. Ritter (vol. vi. pp. 153-443), Erdmann (Grundriss der Gesch der Philos. I. 231 sqq.), Ueberweg (Hist. of Philos., transl. by Morris, New York, vol. I. 333-346); Prantl (Geschichte der Logik im Abendlande, Leipzig, 1853, I. 665-672); Huber (Philosophie der Kirchenväter, München, 1859), and in the following special works:
Theod. Gangauf:Metaphysische Psychologie des heil. Augustinus. 1ste Abtheilung, Augsburg, 1852. T. Théry:Le génie philosophique et littéraire de saint Augustin. Par. 1861. Abbé Flottes:Études sur saint Aug., son génie, son âme, sa philosophie. Montpèllier, 1861. Nourrisson:La philosophie de saint Augustin (ouvrage couronné par l’Institut de France), deuxiéme éd. Par. 1866, 2 vols. Reinkens:Geschichtsphilosophie des Aug. Schaff hausen, 1866. Ferraz:De la psychologie de S. Augustin, 2d ed. Paris, 1869. Schütz:Augustinum non esse ontologum. Monast. 1867. A. F. Hewitt:The Problems of the Age, with Studies in St. Augustin. New York, 1868. G. Loesche:De Augustino Plotinizante. Jenae, 1880 (68 pages).
(3) On Aug. as a Latin author see Bähr:Geschichte der röm Literatur, Suppl. II. Ebert:Geschichte der latein. Literatur (Leipzig, 1874, I. 203 sqq.). Villemain:Tableau de l’éloquence chrétienne au IVesiècle (Paris, 1849).
It is a venturesome and delicate undertaking to write one’s own life, even though that life be a masterpiece of nature and the grace of God, and therefore most worthy to be described. Of all autobiographies none has so happily avoided the reef of vanity and self-praise, and none has won so much esteem and love through its honesty and humility as that of St. Augustin.
The “Confessions,” which he wrote in the forty-fourth year of his life, still burning in the ardor of his first love, are full of the fire and unction of the Holy Spirit. They are a sublime composition, in which Augustin, like David in the fifty-first Psalm, confesses to God, in view of his own and of succeeding generations, without reserve the sins of his youth; and they are at the same time a hymn of praise to the grace of God, which led him out of darkness into light, and called him to service in the kingdom of Christ.1 Here we see the great church teacher of all times “prostrate in the dust, conversing with God, basking in his love; his readers hovering before him only as a shadow.” He puts away from himself all honor, all greatness, all merit, and lays them gratefully at the feet of the All-merciful. The reader feels on every hand that Christianity is no dream nor illusion, but truth and life, and he is carried along in adoration of the wonderful grace of God.
Aurelius Augustinus, born on the 13th of November, 354,2 at Tagaste, an unimportant village of the fertile province of Numidia in North Africa, not far from Hippo Regius, inherited from his heathen father, Patricius,3 a passionate sensibility, from his Christian mother, Monnica (one of the noblest women in the history of Christianity, of a highly intellectual and spiritual cast, of fervent piety, most tender affection, and all-conquering love), the deep yearning towards God so grandly expressed in his sentence: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless till it rests in Thee.”4 This yearning, and his reverence for the sweet and holy name of Jesus, though crowded into the background, attended him in his studies at the schools of Madaura and Carthage, on his journeys to Rome and Milan, and on his tedious wanderings through the labyrinth of carnal pleasures, Manichæan mock-wisdom, Academic skepticism, and Platonic idealism; till at last the prayers of his mother, the sermons of Ambrose, the biography of St. Anthony, and, above all, the Epistles of Paul, as so many instruments in the hand of the Holy Spirit, wrought in the man of three and thirty years that wonderful changing which made him an incalculable blessing to the whole Christian world, and brought even the sins and errors of his youth into the service of the truth.1
A son of so many prayers and tears could not be lost, and the faithful mother who travailed with him in spirit with greater pain than her body had in bringing him into the world,2 was permitted, for the encouragement of future mothers, to receive shortly before her death an answer to her prayers and expectations, and was able to leave this world with joy without revisiting her earthly home. For Monnica died on a homeward journey, in Ostia at the mouth of the Tiber, in her fifty-sixth year, in the arms of her son, after enjoying with him a glorious conversation that soared above the confines of space and time, and was a foretaste of the eternal Sabbath-rest of the saints. If those moments, he says, could be prolonged for ever, they would more than suffice for his happiness in heaven. She regretted not to die in a foreign land, because she was not far from God, who would raise her up at the last day. “Bury my body anywhere,” was her last request, “and trouble not yourselves for it; only this one thing I ask, that you remember me at the altar of my God, wherever you may be.”3 Augustin, in his Confessions, has erected to Monnica a noble monument that can never perish.
If ever there was a thorough and fruitful conversion, next to that of Paul on the way to Damascus, it was that of Augustin, when, in a garden of the Villa Cassiciacum, not far from Milan, in September of the year 386, amidst the most violent struggles of mind and heart—the birth-throes of the new life—he heard that divine voice of a child: “Take, read!” and he “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. xiii. 14). It is a touching lamentation of his: “I have loved Thee late, Thou Beauty, so old and so new; I have loved Thee late! And lo! Thou wast within, but I was without, and was seeking Thee there. And into Thy fair creation I plunged myself in my ugliness; for Thou wast with me, and I was not with Thee! Those things kept me away from Thee, which had not been, except they had been in Thee! Thou didst call, and didst cry aloud, and break through my deafness. Thou didst glimmer, Thou didst shine, and didst drive away my blindness. Thou didst breathe, and I drew breath, and breathed in Thee. I tasted Thee, and I hunger and thirst. Thou didst touch me, and I burn for Thy peace. If I, with all that is within me, may once live in Thee, then shall pain and trouble forsake me; entirely filled with Thee, all shall be life to me.”
He received baptism from Ambrose in Milan on Easter Sunday, 387, in company with his friend and fellow-convert Alypius, and his natural son Adeodatus (given by God). It impressed the divine seal upon the inward transformation. He broke radically with the world; abandoned the brilliant and lucrative vocation of a teacher of rhetoric, which he had followed in Rome and Milan; sold his goods for the benefit of the poor; and thenceforth devoted his rare gifts exclusively to the service of Christ, and to that service he continued faithful to his latest breath. After the death of his mother, whom he revered and loved with the most tender affection, he went a second time to Rome for several months, and wrote books in defence of true Christianity against false philosophy and against the Manichæan heresy. Returning to Africa, he spent three years, with his friends Alypius and Evodius, on an estate in his native Tagaste, in contemplative and literary retirement.
Then, in 391, he was chosen presbyter against his will, by the voice of the people, which, as in the similar cases of Cyprian and Ambrose, proved to be the voice of God, in the Numidian maritime city of Hippo Regius (now Bona); and in 395 he was elected bishop in the same city. For eight and thirty years, until his death, he labored in this place, and made it the intellectual centre of Western Christendom.1
His outward mode of life was extremely simple, and mildly ascetic. He lived with his clergy in one house in an apostolic community of goods, and made this house a seminary of theology, out of which ten bishops and many lower clergy went forth. Females, even his sister, were excluded from his house, and could see him only in the presence of others. But he founded religious societies of women; and over one of these his sister, a saintly widow, presided.2 He once said in a sermon, that he had nowhere found better men, and he had nowhere found worse, than in monasteries. Combining, as he did, the clerical life with the monastic, he became unwittingly the founder of the Augustinian order, which gave the reformer Luther to the world. He wore the black dress of the Eastern cœnobites, with a cowl and a leathern girdle. He lived almost entirely on vegetables, and seasoned the common meal with reading or free conversation, in which it was a rule that the character of an absent person should never be touched. He had this couplet engraved on the table:
He often preached five days in succession, sometimes twice a day, and set it as the object of his preaching, that all might live with him, and he with all, in Christ. Wherever he went in Africa, he was begged to preach the word of salvation.3 He faithfully administered the external affairs connected with his office, though he found his chief delight in comtemplation. He was specially devoted to the poor, and, like Ambrose, upon exigency, caused the church vessels to be melted down to redeem prisoners. But he refused legacies by which injustice was done to natural heirs, and commended the bishop Aurelius of Carthage for giving back unasked some property which a man had bequeathed to the church, when his wife unexpectedly bore him children.
Augustin’s labors extended far beyond his little diocese. He was the intellectual head of the North African and the entire Western church of his time. He took active interest in all theological and ecclesiastical questions. He was the champion of the orthodox doctrine against Manichæan, Donatist, and Pelagian. In him was concentrated the whole polemic power of the catholic church of the time against heresy and schism; and in him it won the victory over them.
In his last years he took a critical review of his literary productions, and gave them a thorough sifting in his Retractations. His latest controversial works, against the Semi-Pelagians, written in a gentle spirit, date from the same period. He bore the duties of his office alone till his seventy-second year, when his people unanimously elected his friend Heraclius to be his assistant.
The evening of his life was troubled by increasing infirmities of body and by the unspeakable wretchedness which the barbarian Vandals spread over his country in their victorious invasion, destroying cities, villages, and churches, without mercy, and even besieging the fortified city of Hippo.1 Yet he faithfully persevered in his work. The last ten days of his life he spent in close retirement, in prayers and tears and repeated reading of the penitential Psalms, which he had caused to be written on the wall over his bed, that he might have them always before his eyes. Thus with an act of penitence he closed his life. In the midst of the terrors of the siege and the despair of his people he could not suspect what abundant seed he had sown for the future.
In the third month of the siege of Hippo, on the 28th of August, 430, in the seventy-sixth year of his age, in full possession of his faculties, and in the presence of many friends and pupils, he past gently and peacefully into that eternity to which he had so long aspired. “O how wonderful,” wrote he in his Meditations,2 “how beautiful and lovely are the dwellings of Thy house, Almighty God! I burn with longing to behold Thy beauty in Thy bridal-chamber. . . . O Jerusalem, holy city of God, dear bride of Christ, my heart loves thee, my soul has already long sighed for thy beauty! . . . The King of kings Himself is in the midst of thee, and His children are within thy walls. There are the hymning choirs of angels, the fellowship of heavenly citizens. There is the wedding-feast of all who from this sad earthly pilgrimage have reached thy joys. There is the far-seeing choir of the prophets; there the company of the twelve apostles; there the triumphant army of innumerable martyrs and holy confessors. Full and perfect love there reigns, for God is all in all. They love and praise, they praise and love Him evermore. . . . Blessed, perfectly and forever blessed, shall I too be, if, when my poor body shall be dissolved, . . . I may stand before my King and God, and see Him in His glory, as He Himself hath deigned to promise: ‘Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory which I had with Thee before the world was.’ ” This aspiration after the heavenly Jerusalem found grand expression in the hymn De gloria et gaudiis Paradisi:
“Ad perennis vitæ fontem mens sativit arida.”
It is incorporated in the Meditations of Augustin, and the ideas originated in part with him, but were not brought into poetical form till long afterwards by Peter Damiani.3
He left no will, for in his voluntary poverty he had no earthly property to dispose of, except his library; this he bequeathed to the church, and it was fortunately preserved from the depredations of the Arian barbarians.4
Soon after his death Hippo was taken and destroyed by the Vandals.5 Africa was lost to the Romans. A few decades later the whole West-Roman empire fell in ruins. The culmination of the African church was the beginning of its decline. But the work of Augustin could not perish. His ideas fell like living seed into the soil of Europe, and produced abundant fruits in nations and countries of which he had never heard.6
Augustin, the man with upturned eye, with pen in the left hand, and a burning heart in the right (as he is usually represented), is a philosophical and theological genius of the first order, towering like a pyramid above his age, and looking down commandingly upon succeeding centuries. He had a mind uncommonly fertile and deep, bold and soaring; and with it, what is better, a heart full of Christian love and humility. He stands of right by the side of the greatest philosophers of antiquity and of modern times. We meet him alike on the broad highways and the narrow footpaths, on the giddy Alpine heights and in the awful depths of speculation, wherever philosophical thinkers before him or after him have trod. As a theologian he is facile princeps, at least surpassed by no church father, schoolman, or reformer. With royal munificence he scattered ideas in passing, which have set in mighty motion other lands and later times. He combined the creative power of Tertullian with the churchly spirit of Cyprian, the speculative intellect of the Greek church with the practical tact of the Latin. He was a Christian philosopher and a philosophical theologian to the full. It was his need and his delight to wrestle again and again with the hardest problems of thought, and to comprehend to the utmost the divinely revealed matter of the faith.1 He always asserted, indeed, the primacy of faith, according to his maxim: Fides præcedit intellectum; appealing, with theologians before him, to the well known passage of Isaiah vii. 9 (in the LXX.): “Nisi credideritis, non intelligetis.”2 But to him faith itself was an acting of reason, and from faith to knowledge, therefore, there was a necessary transition.3 He constantly looked below the surface to the hidden motives of actions and to the universal laws of diverse events. The Metaphysician and the Christian believer coalesced in him. His meditatio passes with the utmost ease into oratio, and his oratio into meditatio. With profundity he combined an equal clearness and sharpness of thought. He was an extremely skilful and a successful dialectician, inexhaustible in arguments and in answers to the objections of his adversaries.
He has enriched Latin literature with a greater store of beautiful, original, and pregnant proverbial sayings, than any classic author, or any other teacher of the church.4
He had a creative and decisive hand in almost every dogma of the Latin church, completing some, and advancing others. The centre of his system is the free redeeming grace of God in Christ, operating through the actual, historical church. He is evangelical or Pauline in his doctrine of sin and grace, but catholic (that is, old-catholic, not Roman Catholic) in his doctrine of the church. The Pauline element comes forward mainly in the Pelagian controversy, the catholic-churchly in the Donatist; but each is modified by the other.
Dr. Baur incorrectly makes freedom the fundamental idea of the Augustinian system. But this much better suits the Pelagian; while Augustin started (like Calvin and Schleiermacher) from the idea of the absolute dependence of man upon God. He changed his idea of freedom during the Pelagian controversy. Baur draws an ingenious and suggestive comparison between Augustin and Origen, the two greatest intellects among the church fathers. “There is no church teacher of the ancient period,” says he,1 “who, in intellect and in grandeur and consistency of view, can more justly be placed by the side of Origen than Augustin; none who, with all the difference in individuality and in mode of thought, so closely resembles him. How far both towered above their times, is most clearly manifest in the very fact that they alone, of all the theologians of the first six centuries, became the creators of distinct systems, each proceeding from a definite idea, and each completely carried out; and this fact proves also how much the one system has that is analogous to the other. The one system, like the other, is founded upon the idea of freedom; in both there is a specific act, by which the entire development of human life is determined; and in both this is an act which lies far outside of the temporal consciousness of the individual; with this difference alone, that in one system the act belongs to each separate individual himself, and only falls outside of his temporal life and consciousness; in the other, it lies within the sphere of the temporal history of man, but is only the act of one individual. If in the system of Origen nothing gives greater offence than the idea of the pre-existence and fall of souls, which seems to adopt heathen ideas into the Christian faith, there is in the system of Augustin the same overleaping of individual life and consciousness, in order to explain from an act in the past the present sinful condition of man; but the pagan Platonic point of view is exchanged for one taken from the Old Testament. . . . What therefore essentially distinguishes the system of Augustin from that of Origen, is only this: the fall of Adam is substituted for the pre-temporal fall of souls, and what in Origen still wears a heathen garb, puts on in Augustin a purely Old Testament form.”
The learning of Augustin was not equal to his genius, nor as extensive as that of Origen and Eusebius, but still considerable for his time, and superior to that of any of the Latin fathers, with the single exception of Jerome. He had received in the schools of Madaura and Carthage the usual philosophical and rhetorical preparation for the forum, which stood him in good stead also in theology. He was familiar with Latin literature, and was by no means blind to the excellencies of the classics, though he placed them far below the higher beauty of the Holy Scriptures. The Hortensius of Cicero (a lost work) inspired him during his university course with enthusiasm for philosophy and for the knowledge of truth for its own sake; the study of Platonic and Neo-Platonic works (in the Latin version of the rhetorician Victorinus) kindled in him an incredible fire;2 though in both he missed the holy name of Jesus and the cardinal virtues of love and humility, and found in them only beautiful ideals without power to conform him to them. His City of God, his book on heresies, and other writings, show an extensive knowledge of ancient philosophy, poetry, and history, sacred and secular. He refers to the most distinguished persons of Greece and Rome; he often alludes to Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Plotin, Porphyry, Cicero, Seneca, Horace, Vergil, to the earlier Greek and Latin fathers, to Eastern and Western heretics. But his knowledge of Greek literature was mostly derived from Latin translations. With the Greek language, as he himself frankly and modestly confesses, he had, in comparison with Jerome, but a superficial acquaintance.1 Hebrew he did not understand at all. Hence, with all his extraordinary familiarity with the Latin Bible, he made many mistakes in exposition. He was rather a thinker than a scholar, and depended mainly on his own resources, which were always abundant.
Notes.—We note some of the most intelligent and appreciative estimates of Augustin. Erasmus (Ep. dedicat. ad Alfons. archiep. Tolet. 1529) says, with an ingenious play upon the name Aurelius Augustinus: “Quid habet orbis christianus hoc scriptore magis aureum vel augustius? ut ipsa vocabula nequaquam fortuito, sed numinis providentia videantur indita viro. Auro sapientiæ nihil pretiosius: fulgore eloquentiæ cum sapientia conjunctæ nihil mirabilius. . . . Non arbitror alium esse doctorem, in quem opulentus ille ac benignus Spiritus dotes suas omnes largius effuderit, quam in Augustinum.” The great philosopher Leibnitz (Præfat. ad Theodic. 34) calls him “virum sane magnum et ingenii stupendi,” and “vastissimo ingenio præditum.” Dr. Baur, without sympathy with his views, speaks enthusiastically of the man and his genius. Among other things he says (Vorlesungen über Dogmengeschichte, i. 1 p. 61): “There is scarcely another theological author so fertile and withal so able as Augustin. His scholarship was not equal to his intellect; yet even that is sometimes set too low, when it is asserted that he had no acquaintance at all with the Greek language; for this is incorrect, though he had attained no great proficiency in Greek.” C. Bindemann (a Lutheran divine) begins his thorough monograph (vol. i. preface) with the well-deserved eulogium: “St. Augustin is one of the greatest personages in the church. He is second in importance to none of the teachers who have wrought most in the church since the apostolic time; and it can well be said that among the church fathers the first place is due to him, and in the time of the Reformation a Luther alone, for fulness and depth of thought and grandeur of character, may stand by his side. He is the summit of the development of the mediæval Western church; from him descended the mysticism, no less than the scholasticism, of the middle age; he was one of the strongest pillars of the Roman Catholicism, and from his works, next to the Holy Scriptures, especially the Epistles of Paul, the leaders of the Reformation drew most of that conviction by which a new age was introduced.” Staudenmaier, a Roman Catholic theologian, counts Augustin among those minds in which an hundred others dwell (Scotus Erigena, i. p. 274). The Roman Catholic philosophers A Gunther and Th. Gangauf, put him on an equality with the greatest philosophers, and discern in him a providential personage endowed by the Spirit of God for the instruction of all ages. A striking characterization is that of the Old Catholic Dr. Huber (in his instructive work: Die Philosophie der Kirchenvāter, Munich, 1859, p. 312 sq.): “Augustin is a unique phenomenon in Christian history. No one of the other fathers has left so luminous traces of his existence. Though we find among them many rich and powerful minds, yet we find in none the forces of personal character, mind, heart, and will, so largely developed and so harmoniously working. No one surpasses him in wealth of perceptions and dialectical sharpness of thoughts, in depth and fervour of religious sensibility, in greatness of aims and energy of action. He therefore also marks the culmination of the patristic age, and has been elevated by the acknowledgment of succeeding times as the first and the universal church father.—His whole character reminds us in many respects of Paul, with whom he has also in common the experience of being called from manifold errors to the service of the gospel, and like whom he could boast that he had laboured in it more abundantly than all the others. And as Paul among the Apostles pre-eminently determined the development of Christianity, and became, more than all others, the expression of the Christian mind, to which men ever afterwards return, as often as in the life of the church that mind becomes turbid, to draw from him, as the purest fountain, a fresh understanding of the gospel doctrine,—so has Augustin turned the Christian nations since his time for the most part into his paths, and become pre-eminently their trainer and teacher, in the study of whom they always gain a renewal and deepening of their Christian consciousness. Not the middle age alone, but the Reformation also, was ruled by him, and whatever to this day boasts of the Christian spirit, is connected at least in part with Augustin.” Villemain, in his able and eloquent “Tableau de l’éloquence Chrétienne au IVesiècle” (Paris, 1849, p. 373), commences his sketch of Augustin as follows: “Nous arrivons a l’homme le plus ètonnant de l’Eglise latine, à celui qui portat le plus d’imagination dans la théologie, le plus d’éloquence et même sensibilité dans la scholastique; ce fut saint Augustin. Donnez-lui un autre siècle, placez-le dans meillèure civilisation; et jamais homme n’aura paru doué d’un génie plus vaste et plus facile. Métaphysique, histoire, antiquités, science des moers, connaissance des arts, Augustin avait tout embrassé. Il écrit sur la musique comme sur le libre arbitre; il explique le phénomène intellectual la de mémoire, comme il raisonne sur la décadence de l’empire romain. Son esprit subtil et vigoureux a souvent consumé dans des problèmes mystiques une force de sagacité qui suffirait aux plus sublimes conceptions.” Frédéric Ozanam, in his “La civilisation au cinquième siècle” (translated by A. C. Glyn, 1868, Vol. I. p. 272), counts Augustin among the three or four great metaphysicians of modern times, and says that his task was “to clear the two roads open to Christian philosophy and to inaugurate its two methods of mysticism and dogmatism.” Nourrisson, whose work on Augustin is clothed with the authority of the Institute of France, assigns to him the first rank among the masters of human thought, alongside of Plato and Leibnitz, Thomas Aquinas and Bossuet. “Si une critique toujours respectueuse, mais d’une inviolable sincérité, est une des formes les plus hautes de l’admiration, j’estime, au contraire, n’avoir fait qu’exalter ce grand coeur, ce psychologue consolant et ému, ce métaphysicien subtil et sublime, en un mot, cet attachant et poétique génie, dont la place reste marquée, au premier rang, parmi les maîtres de la pensée humaine, à côté de Platon et de Descartes, d’Aristote et de saint Thomas, de Leibnitz et de Bossuet.” (La philosophie de saint Augustin, Par. 1866, tom. i. p. vii.). Pressensé (in art. Aug., in Smith & Wace, Dict. of Christ. Biography, I. 222): “Aug. still claims the honour of having brought out in all its light the fundamental doctrine of Christianity; despite the errors of his system, he has opened to the church the path of every progress and of every reform, by stating with the utmost vigour the scheme of free salvation which he had learnt in the school of St. Paul.” Among English and American writers, Dr. Shedd, in the Introduction to his edition of the Confessions (1860), has furnished a truthful and forcible description of the mind and heart of St. Augustin. I add the striking judgment of the octogenarian historian Dr. Karl Hase (Kirschengeschichte auf der Grundlage akademischer Vorlesungen, Leipzig 1885, vol. I. 522): “The full significance of Augustin as an author can be measured only from the consideration of the fact that in the middle ages both scholasticism and mysticism lived of his riches, and that afterwards Luther and Calvin drew out of his fulness. We find in him both the sharp understanding which makes salvation depend on the clearly defined dogma of the church, and the loving absorption of the heart in God which scarcely needs any more the aid of the church. His writings reflect all kinds of Christian thoughts, which lie a thousand years apart and appear to be contradictions. How were they possible in so systematic a thinker? Just as much as they were possible in Christianity, of which he was a microcosmus. From the dogmatic abyss of his hardest and most illiberal doctrines arise such liberal sentences as these: ‘Him I shall not condemn in whom I find any thing of Christ;’ ‘Let us not forget that in the very enemies are concealed the future citizens.’ ”
The numerous writings of Augustin, the composition of which extended through four and forty years, are a mine of Christian knowledge, and experience. They abound in lofty ideas, noble sentiments, devout effusions, clear statements of truth, strong arguments against error, and passages of fervid eloquence and undying beauty, but also in innumerable repetitions, fanciful opinions, and playful conjectures of his uncommonly fertile brain.1
His style is full of life and vigour and ingenious plays on words, but deficient in simplicity, purity and elegance, and by no means free from the vices of a degenerate rhetoric, wearisome prolixity, and from that vagabunda loquacitas, with which his adroit opponent, Julian of Eclanum, charged him. He would rather, as he said, be blamed by grammarians, than not understood by the people; and he bestowed little care upon his style, though he many a time rises in lofty poetic flight. He made no point of literary renown, but, impelled by love to God and to the church, he wrote from the fulness of his mind and heart.1 The writings before his conversion, a treatise on the Beautiful (De Pulchro et Apto), the orations and eulogies which he delivered as rhetorician at Carthage, Rome, and Milan, are lost. The professor of eloquence, the heathen philosopher, the Manichæan heretic, the sceptic and free thinker, are known to us only from his regrets and recantations in the Confessions and other works. His literary career for us commences in his pious retreat at Cassiciacum where he prepared himself for a public profession of his faith. He appears first, in the works composed at Cassiciacum, Rome, and near Tagaste, as a Christian philosopher, after his ordination to the priesthood as a theologian. Yet even in his theological works he everywhere manifests the metaphysical and speculative bent of his mind. He never abandoned or depreciated reason, he only subordinated it to faith and made it subservient to the defence of revealed truth. Faith is the pioneer of reason, and discovers the territory which reason explores.
The following is a classified view of his most important works.2
I. Autobiographical works. To these belong the Confessions and the Retractations: the former acknowledging his sins, the latter retracting his theoretical errors. In the one he subjects his life, in the other his writings, to close criticism; and these productions therefore furnish the best standard for judging of his entire labours.3
The Confessions are the most profitable, at least the most edifying, product of his pen; indeed, we may say, the most edifying book in all the patristic literature. They were accordingly the most read even during his lifetime,4 and they have been the most frequently published since.5 A more sincere and more earnest book was never written. The historical part, to the tenth book, is one of the devotional classics of all creeds, and second in popularity only to the “Imitation of Christ,” by Thomas a Kempis, and Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Certainly no autobiography is superior to it in true humility, spiritual depth, and universal interest. Augustin records his own experience, as a heathen sensualist, a Manichæan heretic, an anxious inquirer, a sincere penitent, and a grateful convert. He finds a response in every human soul that struggles through the temptations of nature and the labyrinth of error to the knowledge of truth and the beauty of holiness, and after many sighs and tears finds rest and peace in the arms of a merciful Saviour. The style is not free from the faults of an artificial rhetoric, involved periods and far-fetched paronomasias; but these defects are more than atoned for by passages of unfading beauty, the devout spirit and psalm-like tone of the book. It is the incense of a sacred mysticism of the heart which rises to the throne on high. The wisdom of some parts of the Confessions may be doubted.1 The world would never have known Augustin’s sins, if he had not told them; nor were they of such a nature as to destroy his respectability in the best heathen society of his age; but we must all the more admire his honesty and humility.
Rousseau’s “Confessions,” and Goethe’s “Truth and Fiction,” may be compared with Augustin’s Confessions as works of rare genius and of absorbing psychological interest, but they are written in a radically different spirit, and by attempting to exalt human nature in its unsanctified state, they tend as much to expose its vanity and weakness, as the work of the bishop of Hippo, being written with a single eye to the glory of God, raises man from the dust of repentance to a new and imperishable life of the Spirit.2
Augustin composed the Confessions about the year 397, ten years after his conversion. The first nine books contain, in the form of a continuous prayer and confession before God, a general sketch of his earlier life, of his conversion, and of his return to Africa in the thirty-fourth year of his age. The salient points in these books are the engaging history of his conversion in Milan, and the story of the last days of his noble mother in Ostia, spent as it were at the very gate of heaven and in full assurance of a blessed reunion at the throne of glory. The last three books and a part of the tenth are devoted to speculative philosophy; they treat, partly in tacit opposition to Manichæism, of the metaphysical questions of the possibility of knowing God, and the nature of time and space; and they give an interpretation of the Mosaic cosmogony in the style of the typical allegorical exegesis usual with the fathers, but foreign to our age; they are therefore of little value to the general reader, except as showing that even abstract metaphysical subjects may be devotionally treated.
The Retractations were produced in the evening of his life (427 and 428), when, mindful of the proverb: “In the multitude of words there wanteth not transgression,”3 and remembering that we must give account for every idle word,4 he judged himself, that he might not be judged.5 He revised in chronological order the numerous works he had written before and during his episcopate, and retracted or corrected whatever in them seemed to his riper knowledge false or obscure, or not fully agreed with the orthodox catholic faith. Some of his changes were reactionary and no improvements, especially those on the freedom of the will, and on religious toleration. In all essential points, nevertheless, his theological system remained the same from his conversion to this time. The Retractations give beautiful evidence of his love of truth, his conscientiousness, and his humility.6
To this same class should be added the Letters of Augustin, of which the Benedictine editors, in their second volume, give two hundred and seventy (including letters to Augustin) in chronological order from 386 to 429. These letters treat, sometimes very minutely, of all the important questions of his time, and give us an insight of his cares, his official fidelity, his large heart, and his effort to become, like Paul, all things to all men.
When the questions of friends and pupils accumulated, he answered them in special works; and in this way he produced various collections of Quæstiones and Responsiones, dogmatical, exegetical, and miscellaneous ( 390, 397, &c.).
II. Philosophical treatises, in dialogue; almost all composed in his earlier life; either during his residence on the country-seat Cassiciacum in the vicinity of Milan, where he spent half a year before his baptism in instructive and stimulating conversation, in a sort of academy or Christian Platonic banquet with Monnica, his son Adeodatus, his brother Navigius, his friend Alypius, and some cousins and pupils; or during his second residence in Rome; or soon after his return to Africa.1
To this class belong the works; Contra Academicos libri très (386), in which he combats the skepticism and probabilism of the New Academy,—the doctrine that man can never reach the truth, but can at best attain only probability; De vita beata (386), in which he makes true blessedness to consist in the perfect knowledge of God; De ordine,—on the relation of evil to the divine order of the world2 (386); Soliloquia (387), communings with his own soul concerning God, the highest good, the knowledge of truth, and immortality; De immortalitate animæ (387), a continuation of the Soliloquies; De quantitate animæ (387), discussing sundry questions of the size, the origin, the incorporeity of the soul; De musica libri vi (387-389); De magistro (389), in which, in a dialogue with his son Adeodatus, a pious and promising, but precocious youth, who died soon after his return to Africa (389), he treats on the importance and virtue of the word of God, and on Christ as the infallible Master.3 To these may be added the later work, De anima et ejus origine (419). Other philosophical works on grammar, dialectics (or ars bene disputandi), rhetoric, geometry, and arithmetic, are lost.4
These works exhibit as yet little that is specifically Christian and churchly; but they show a Platonism seized and consecrated by the spirit of Christianity, full of high thoughts, ideal views, and discriminating argument. They were designed to present the different stages of human thought by which he himself had reached the knowledge of the truth, and to serve others as steps to the sanctuary. They form an elementary introduction to his theology. He afterwards, in his Retractations, withdrew many things contained in them, like the Platonic view of the pre-existence of the soul, and the Platonic idea that the acquisition of knowledge is a recollection or excavation of the knowledge hidden in the mind.1 The philosopher in him afterwards yielded more and more to the theologian, and his views became more positive and empirical, though in some cases narrower also and more exclusive. Yet he could never cease to philosophise, and even his later works, especially De Trinitate, and De Civitate Dei, are full of profound speculations. Before his conversion he followed a particular system of philosophy, first the Manichæan, then the Platonic; after his conversion he embraced the Christian philosophy, which is based on the divine revelation of the Scriptures, and is the handmaid of theology and religion; but at the same time he prepared the way for the catholic ecclesiastical philosophy, which rests on the authority of the church, and became complete in the scholasticism of the middle age.
In the history of philosophy he deserves a place in the highest rank, and has done greater service to the science of sciences than any other father, Clement of Alexandria and Origen not excepted. He attacked and refuted the pagan philosophy as pantheistic or dualistic at heart; he shook the superstitions of astrology and magic; he expelled from philosophy the doctrine of emanation, and the idea that God is the soul of the world; he substantially advanced psychology; he solved the question of the origin and the nature of evil more nearly than any of his predecessors, and as nearly as most of his successors; he was the first to investigate thoroughly the relation of divine omnipotence and omniscience to human freedom, and to construct a theodicy; in short, he is properly the founder of a Christian philosophy, and not only divided with Aristotle the empire of the mediæval scholasticism, but furnished also living germs for new systems of philosophy, and will always be consulted in the speculative discussions of Christian doctrines.
The philosophical opinions of Augustin are ably and clearly summed up by Ueberweg as follows:2
“Against the skepticism of the Academics Augustin urges that man needs the knowledge of truth for his happiness, that it is not enough merely to inquire and to doubt, and he finds a foundation for all our knowledge, a foundation invulnerable against every doubt, in the consciousness we have of our sensations, feelings, our willing, and thinking, in short, of all our psychical processes. From the undeniable existence and possession by man of some truth, he concludes to the existence of God as the truth per se; but our conviction of the existence of the material world he regards as only an irresistible belief. Combating heathen religion and philosophy, Augustin defends the doctrines and institutions peculiar to Christianity, and maintains, in particular, against the Neo-Platoniste, whom he rates most highly among all the ancient philosophers, the Christian these that salvation is to be found in Christ alone, that divine worship is due to no other being beside the triune God, since he created all things himself, and did not commission inferior beings, gods, demons, or angels to create the material world; that the soul with its body will rise again to eternal salvation or damnation, but will not return periodically to renewed life upon the earth; that the soul does not exist before the body, and that the latter is not the prison of the former, but that the soul begins to exist at the same time with the body; that the world both had a beginning and is perishable, and that only God and the souls of angels and men are eternal.—Against the dualism of the Manichæans, who regarded good and evil as equally primitive, and represented a portion of the divine substance as having entered into the region of evil, in order to war against and conquer it, Augustin defends the monism of the good principle, or of the purely spiritual God, explaining evil as a mere negation or privation, and seeking to show from the finiteness of the things in the world, and from their differing degrees of perfection, that the evils in the world are necessary, and not in contradiction with the idea of creation; he also defends in opposition to Manichæism, and Gnosticism in general, the Catholic doctrine of the essential harmony between the Old and New Testaments. Against the Donatists, Augustin maintains the unity of the Church. In opposition to Pelagius and the Pelagians, he asserts that divine grace is not conditioned on human worthiness, and maintains the doctrine of absolute predestination, or, that from the mass of men who, through the disobedience of Adam (in whom all mankind were present potentially), have sunk into corruption and sin, some are chosen by the free election of God to be monuments of his grace, and are brought to believe and be saved, while the greater number, as monuments of his justice, are left to eternal damnation.”
III. Apologetic works against Pagans and Jews. Among these the twenty-two books, De Civitate Dei, are still well worth reading. They form the deepest and richest apologetic work of antiquity; begun in 413, after the occupation of Rome by the Gothic king Alaric, finished in 426, and often separately published. They condense his entire theory of the world and of man, and are the first attempt at a comprehensive philosophy of universal history under the dualistic view of two antagonistic currents or organized forces, a kingdom of this world which is doomed to final destruction, and a kingdom of God which will last forever.1
This work has controlled catholic historiography ever since, and received the official approval of Pope Leo XIII., who, in his famous Encyclical Immortale Dei (Nov. 1, 1885), incidentally alludes to it in these words: “Augustin, in his work, De Civitate Dei, set forth so clearly the efficacy of Christian wisdom and the way in which it is bound up with the well-being of civil society, that he seems not only to have pleaded the cause of the Christians at his own time, but to have triumphantly refuted the calumnies against Christianity for all time.”
From the Protestant point of view Augustin erred in identifying the kingdom of God with the visible Catholic Church, which is only a part of it.
IV. Religious-Theological works of a general nature (in part anti-Manichæan): De utilitate credendi, against the Gnostic exaltation of knowledge (392); De fide et symbolo, a discourse which, though only presbyter, he delivered on the Apostles’ Creed before the council at Hippo at the request of the bishops in 393; De doctrina Christiana iv libri (397; the fourth book added in 426), a compend of exegetical theology for instruction in the interpretation of the Scriptures according to the analogy of the faith; De catechizandis rudibus likewise for catechetical purposes (400); Enchiridon, or De fide, spe et caritate, a brief compend of the doctrine of faith and morals, which he wrote in 421, or later, at the request of Laurentius; hence also called Manuale ad Laurentium.2
V. Polemic-Thfological works. These are the most copious sources of the history of Christian doctrine in the patristic age. The heresies collectively are reviewed in the book De hæresibus ad Quodvultdeum, written between 428 and 430 to a friend and deacon in Carthage, and give a survey of eighty-eight heresies, from the Simonians to the Pelagians.3 In the work De vera religione (390), Augustin proposed to show that the true religion is to be found not with the heretics and schismatics, but only in the catholic church of that time.
The other controversial works are directed against the particular heresies of Manichæism, Donatism, Arianism, Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism. Augustin, with all the firmness of his convictions, was free from personal antipathy, and used the pen of controversy in the genuine Christian spirit, fortiter in re, suaviter in modo. He understood Paul’s ἀληϑεύειν ἐν ὰγάπῃ, and forms in this respect a pleasing contrast to Jerome, who had by nature no more fiery temperament than he, but was less able to control it. “Let those,” he very beautifully says to the Manichæans, “burn with hatred against you, who do not know how much pains it costs to find the truth, how hard it is to guard against error;—but I, who after so great and long wavering came to know the truth, must bear myself towards you with the same patience which my fellow-believers showed towards me while I was wandering in blind madness in your opinions.”4
1. The anti-Manichæan works date mostly from his earlier life, and in time and matter follow immediately upon his philosophical writings.1 In them he afterwards found most to retract, because he advocated the freedom of the will against the Manichæan fatalism. The most important are: De moribus ecclesiæ catholicæ, et de moribus Manichæorum, two books (written during his second residence in Rome, 388); De vera religione (390); Unde malum, et de libero arbitrio, usually simply De libero arbitrio, in three books, against the Manichæan doctrine of evil as a substance, and as having its seat in matter instead of free will (begun in 388, finished in 395); De Genesi contra Manichæos, a defence of the biblical doctrine of creation (389); De duabus animabus, against the psychological dualism of the Manichæans (392); Disputatio contra Fortunatum (a triumphant refutation of this Manichæan priest of Hippo in August, 392); Contra Epistolam Manichæi quam vocant fundamenti (397); Contra Faustum Manichæum, in thirty-three books (400-404); De natura boni (404), &c.
These works treat of the origin of evil; of free will; of the harmony of the Old and New Testaments, and of revelation and nature; of creation out of nothing, in opposition to dualism and hylozoism; of the supremacy of faith over knowledge; of the authority of the Scriptures and the Church; of the true and the false asceticism, and other disputed points; and they are the chief source of our knowledge of the Manichæan Gnosticism and of the arguments against it.
Having himself belonged for nine years to this sect, Augustin was the better fitted for the task of refuting it, as Paul was peculiarly prepared for the confutation of the Pharisaic Judaism. His doctrine of the nature of evil is particularly valuable. He has triumphantly demonstrated for all time, that evil is not a corporeal thing, nor in any way substantial, but a product of the free will of the creature, a perversion of substance in itself good, a corruption of the nature created by God.
2. Against the Priscillianists, a sect in Spain built on Manichæan principles, are directed the book Ad Paulum Orosium contra Priscillianistas et Origenistas (411);2 the book Contra mendacium, addressed to Consentius (420); and in part the 190th Epistle (alias Ep. 157), to the Bishop Optatus, on the origin of the soul (418), and two other letters, in which he refutes erroneous views on the nature of the soul, the limitation of future punishment, and the lawfulness of fraud for supposed good purposes.
3. The anti-Donatistic works, composed between the years 393 and 420, argue against separatism, and contain Augustin’s doctrine of the church and church-discipline, and of the sacraments. To these belong: Psalmus contra partem Donati ( 393), a polemic popular song without regular metre, intended to offset the songs of the Donatists; Contra epistolam Parmeniani, written in 400 against the Carthaginian bishop of the Donatists, the successor of Donatus; De baptismo contra Donastistas, in favor of the validity of heretical baptism (400); Contra literas Petiliani (about 400), against the view of Cyprian and the Donatists, that the efficacy of the sacraments depends on the personal worthiness and the ecclesiastical status of the officiating priest; Ad Catholicos Epistola contra Donatistas, or De unitate ecclesiæ (402); Contra Cresconium grammaticum Donastistam (406); Breviculus Collationis cum Donatistis, a short account of the three days’ religious conference with the Donatists (411); De correctione Donatistarum (417); Contra Gaudentium, Donat. Episcopum, the last anti-Donatistic work (420).3
These works are the chief patristic authority of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Church and against the sects. They are thoroughly Romanizing in spirit and aim, and least satisfactory to Protestant readers. Augustin defended in his later years even the principle of forcible coërcion and persecution against heretics and schismatics by a false exegesis of the words in the parable “Compel them to come in” (Luke xiv. 23). The result of persecution was that both Catholics and Donatists in North Africa were overwhelmed in ruin first by the barbarous Vandals, who were Arian heretics, and afterwards by the Mohammedan conquerors.
4. The anti-Arian works have to do with the deity of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, and with the Holy Trinity. By far the most important of these are the fifteen books De Trinitate (400-416);—the most profound and discriminating production of the ancient church on the Trinity, in no respect inferior to the kindred works of Athanasius and the two Gregories, and for centuries final to the dogma.1 This may also be counted among the positive didactic works, for it is not directly controversial. The Collatio cum Maximino Ariano, an obscure babbler, belongs to the year 428.
5. The numerous anti-Pelagian works of Augustin are his most influential and most valuable, at least for Protestants. They were written between the years 412 and 429. In them Augustin, in his intellectual and spiritual prime, develops his system of anthropology and soteriology, and most nearly approaches the position of Evangelical Protestantism: On the Guilt and the Remission of Sins, and Infant Baptism (412); On the Spirit and the Letter (413); On Nature and Grace (415); On the Acts of Pelagius (417); On the Grace of Christ, and Original Sin (418); On Marriage and Concupiscence (419); On Grace and Free Will (426); On Discipline and Grace (427); Against Julian of Eclanum (two large works, written between 421 and 429, the second unfinished, and hence called Opus imperfectum); On the Predestination of the Saints (428); On the Gift of Perseverance (429); &c.2
These anti-Pelagian writings contain what is technically called the Augustinian system of theology, which was substantially adopted by the Lutheran Church, yet without the decree of reprobation, and in a more rigorous logical form by the Calvinistic Confessions. The system gives all glory to God, does full justice to the sovereignty of divine grace, effectually humbles and yet elevates and fortifies man, and furnishes the strongest stimulus to gratitude and the firmest foundation of comfort. It makes all bright and lovely in the circle of the elect. But it is gloomy and repulsive in its negative aspect towards the non-elect. It teaches a universal damnation and only a partial redemption, and confines the offer of salvation to the minority of the elect; it ignores the general benevolence of God to all his creatures; it weakens or perverts the passages which clearly teach that “God would have all men to be saved”; it suspends their eternal fate upon one single act of disobedience; it assumes an unconscious, and yet responsible pre-existence of Adam’s posterity and their participation in his sin and guilt; it reflects upon the wisdom of God in creating countless millions of beings with the eternal foreknowledge of their everlasting misery; and it does violence to the sense of individual responsibility for accepting or rejecting the gospel-offer of salvation. And yet this Augustinian system, especially in its severest Calvinistic form, has promoted civil and religious liberty, and trained the most virtuous, independent, and heroic types of Christians, as the Huguenots, the Puritans, the Covenanters, and the Pilgrim Fathers. It is still a mighty moral power, and will not lose its hold upon earnest characters until some great theological genius produces from the inexhaustible mine of the Scriptures a more satisfactory solution of the awful problem which the universal reign of sin and death presents to the thinking mind.
In Augustin the anti-Pelagian system was checked and moderated by his churchly and sacramental views, and we cannot understand him without keeping both in view. The same apparent contradiction we find in Luther, but he broke entirely with the sacerdotal system of Rome, and made the doctrine of justification by faith the chief article of his creed, which Augustin never could have done. Calvin was more logical than either, and went back beyond justification and Adam’s fall, yea, beyond time itself, to the eternal counsel of God which preordains, directs and controls the whole history of mankind to a certain end, the triumph of his mercy and justice.
VI. Exegetical works. The best of these are: De Genesi ad literam (The Genesis word for word), in twelve books, an extended exposition of the first three chapters of Genesis, particularly the history of the creation literally interpreted, though with many mystical and allegorical interpretations also (written between 401 and 415);1Enarrationes in Psalmos (mostly sermons);2 hundred and twenty-four Homilies on the Gospel of John (416 and 417);3 ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John (417); the Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount (393); the Harmony of the Gospels (De consensu evangelistarum, 400); the Epistle to the Galatians (394); and an unfinished commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.4
Augustin deals more in lively, profound, and edifying thoughts on the Scriptures than in proper grammatical and historical exposition, for which neither he nor his readers had the necessary linguistic knowledge, disposition, or taste. He grounded his theology less upon exegesis than upon his Christian and churchly mind saturated with Scriptural truths. He excels in spiritual insight, and is suggestive even when he misses the natural meaning.
VII. Ethical and Ascetic works. Among these belong three hundred and ninety-six Sermones (mostly very short) de Scripturis (on texts of Scripture), de tempore (festival sermons), de sanctis (in memory of apostles, martyrs, and saints), and de diversis (on various occasions), some of them dictated by Augustin, some taken down by hearers.5 Also various moral treatises: De continentia (395); De mendaico (395), against deception (not to be confounded with the similar work already mentioned Contra mendacium, against the fraud-theory of the Priscillianists, written in 420); De agone Christiano (396); De opere monachorum, against monastic idleness (400); De bono conjugali adv. Jovinianum (400); De virginitate (401); De fide et operibus (413); De adulterinis conjugiis, on 1 Cor. vii. 10 sqq. (419); De bono viduitatis (418); De patientia (418); De cura pro mortuis gerenda, to Paulinus of Nola (421); De utilitate jejunii; De diligendo Deo; Meditationes;6 &c.
As we survey this enormous literary labor, augmented by many other treatises and letters now lost, and as we consider his episcopal labors, his many journeys, and his adjudications of controversies among the faithful, which often robbed him of whole days, we must be really astounded at the fidelity, exuberance, energy, and perseverance of this father of the church. Surely, such a life was worth the living.
In conclusion we must add some observations respecting the influence of Augustin on the Church and the world since his time, and his position with reference to the great antagonism of Catholicism and Protestantism. All the church fathers are, indeed, the common inheritance of both parties; but no other of them has produced so permanent effects on both, and no other stands in so high regard with both, as Augustin. Upon the Greek Church alone has he exercised little or no influence; for this Church stopped with the undeveloped synergistic anthropology of the previous age, and rejects most decidedly, as a Latin heresy, the doctrine of the double procession of the Holy Spirit (the Filioque) for which Augustin is chiefly responsible.1
1. Augustin, in the first place, contributed much to the development of the doctrinal basis which Catholicism and Protestantism hold in common against such radical heresies of antiquity as Manichæism, Arianism, and Pelagianism. In all these great intellectual conflicts he was in general the champion of the cause of Christian truth against dangerous errors. Through his influence the canon of Holy Scripture (including, indeed, the Old Testament Apocrypha) was fixed in its present form by the councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397). He conquered the Manichæan dualism, hylozoism, and fatalism, and saved the biblical idea of God and of creation, and the biblical doctrine of the nature of sin and its origin in the free will of man. He developed the Nicene dogma of the Trinity, in opposition to tritheism on the one hand, and Sabellianism on the other, but also with the doubtful addition of the Filioque, and in opposition to the Greek, gave it the form in which it has ever since prevailed in the West. In this form the dogma received classical expression from his school in the falsely so called Athanasian Creed, which is not recognized by the Greek Church, and which better deserves the name of the Augustinian Creed.
In Christology, on the contrary, he added nothing new, and he died shortly before the great Christological conflicts opened, which reached their œcumenical settlement at the council of Chalcedon, twenty years after his death. Yet he anticipated Leo in giving currency in the West to the important formula: “Two natures in one person.”2
2. Augustin is also the principal theological creator of the Latin-Catholic system as distinct from the Greek Catholicism on the one hand, and from evangelical Protestantism on the other. He ruled the entire theology of the middle age, and became the father of scholasticism in virtue of his dialectic mind, and the father of mysticism in virtue of his devout heart, without being responsible for the excesses of either system. For scholasticism thought to comprehend the divine with the understanding, and lost itself at last in empty dialectics; and mysticism endeavoured to grasp the divine with feeling, and easily strayed into misty sentimentalism; Augustin sought to apprehend the divine with the united power of mind and heart, of bold thought and humble faith.1 Anselm, Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas Aquinas, and Bonaventura, are his nearest of kin in this respect. Even now, since the Catholic Church has become a Roman Church, he enjoys greater consideration in it than Ambrose, Hilary, Jerome, or Gregory the Great. All this cannot possibly be explained without an interior affinity.2
His very conversion, in which, besides the Scriptures, the personal intercourse of the hierarchical Ambrose and the life of the ascetic Anthony had great influence, was a transition not from heathenism to Christianity (for he was already a Manichæan Christian), but from heresy to the historical, orthodox, episcopally organized church, as, for the time, the sole authorized vehicle of the apostolic Christianity in conflict with those sects and parties which more or less assailed the foundations of the Gospel. It was, indeed, a full and unconditional surrender of his mind and heart to God, but it was at the same time a submission of his private judgment to the authority of the church which led him to the faith of the gospel.3 In the same spirit he embraced the ascetic life, without which, according to the Catholic principle, no high religion is possible. He did not indeed enter a cloister, like Luther, whose conversion in Erfurt was likewise essentially catholic, but he lived in his house in the simplicity of a monk, and made and kept the vow of voluntary poverty and celibacy.4
He adopted Cyprian’s doctrine of the church, and completed it in the conflict with Donatism by transferring the predicates of unity, holiness, universality, exclusiveness, and maternity, directly to the actual church of the time, which, with a firm episcopal organization, an unbroken succession, and the Apostles’ Creed, triumphantly withstood the eighty or the hundred opposing sects in the heretical catalogue of the day, and had its visible centre in Rome. In this church he had found rescue from the shipwreck of his life, the home of true Christianity, firm ground for his thinking, satisfaction for his heart, and a commensurate field for the wide range of his powers.5 The predicate of infallibility alone he does not plainly bring forward; he assumes a progressive correction of earlier councils by later; and in the Pelagian controversy he asserts the same independence towards pope Zosimus, which Cyprian before him had shown towards pope Stephen in the controversy on heretical baptism, with the advantage of having the right on his side, so that Zosimus found himself compelled to yield to the African church. But after the condemnation of the Pelagian errors by the Roman see (418), he declared that “the case is finished, if only the error were also finished.”1
He was the first to give a clear and fixed definition of the sacrament, as a visible sign of invisible grace, resting on divine appointment; but he knows nothing of the number seven; this was a much later enactment. In the doctrine of baptism he is entirely Catholic, though in logical contradiction with his dogma of predestination; he maintained the necessity of baptism for salvation on the ground of John iii. 5 and Mark xvi. 16, and derived from it the horrible dogma of the eternal damnation of all unbaptized infants, though he reduced their condition to a mere absence of bliss, without actual suffering.2 In the doctrine of the holy communion he stands, like his predecessors, Tertullian and Cyprian, nearer to the Calvinistic than any other theory of a spiritual presence and fruition of Christ’s body and blood. He certainly can not be quoted in favor of transubstantiation. He was the chief authority of Ratramnus and Berengar in their opposition to this dogma.
He contributed to promote, at least in his later writings, the Catholic faith of miracles,3 and the worship of Mary;4 though he exempts the Virgin only from actual sin, not from original, and, with all his reverence for her, never calls her “mother of God.”5
At first an advocate of religious liberty and of purely spiritual methods of opposing error, he afterwards asserted the fatal principle of forcible coërcion, and lent the great weight of his authority to the system of civil persecution, at the bloody fruits of which in the middle age he himself would have shuddered; for he was always at heart a man of love and gentleness, and personally acted on the glorious principle: “Nothing conquers but truth, and the victory of truth is love.”6
Thus even truly great and good men have unintentionally, through mistaken zeal, become the authors of incalculable mischief.
3. But, on the other hand, Augustin is, of all the fathers, nearest to evangelical Protestantism, and may be called, in respect of his doctrine of sin and grace, the first forerunner of the Reformation. The Lutheran and Reformed churches have ever conceded to him, without scruple, the cognomen of Saint, and claimed him as one of the most enlightened witnesses of the truth and most striking examples of the marvellous power of divine grace in the transformation of a sinner. It is worthy of mark, that his Pauline doctrines, which are most nearly akin to Protestantism, are the later and more mature parts of his system, and that just these found great acceptance with the laity. The Pelagian controversy, in which he developed his anthropology, marks the culmination of his theological and ecclesiastical career, and his latest writings were directed against the Pelagian Julian and the Semi-Pelagians in Gaul, who were brought to his notice by two friendly laymen, Prosper and Hilary. These anti-Pelagian works have wrought mightily, it is most true, upon the Catholic church, and have held in check the Pelagianizing tendencies of the hierarchical and monastic system, but they have never passed into its blood and marrow. They waited for a favourable future, and nourished in silence an opposition to the prevailing system.
In the middle age the better sects, which attempted to simplify, purify, and spiritualize the reigning Christianity by return to the Holy Scriptures, and the Reformers before the Reformation, such as Wiclif, Hus, Wessel, resorted most, after the apostle Paul, to the bishop of Hippo as the representative of the doctrine of free grace.
The Reformers were led by his writings into a deeper understanding of Paul, and so prepared for their great vocation. No church teacher did so much to mould Luther and Calvin; none furnished them so powerful weapons against the dominant Pelagianism and formalism; none is so often quoted by them with esteem and love.1
All the Reformers in the outset, Melanchthon and Zwingle among them, adopted his denial of free will and his doctrine of predestination, and sometimes even went beyond him into the abyss of supralapsarianism, to cut out the last roots of human merit and boasting. In this point Augustin holds the same relation to the Catholic church, as Luther to the Lutheran; that is, he is a heretic of unimpeachable authority, who is more admired than censured even in his extravagances; yet his doctrine of predestination was indirectly condemned by the pope in Jansenism, as Luther’s view was rejected as Calvinism by the Formula of Concord.2 For Jansenism was nothing but a revival of Augustinianism in the bosom of the Roman Catholic church.3
The excess of Augustin and the Reformers in this direction is due to the earnestness and energy of their sense of sin and grace. The Pelagian looseness could never beget a reformer. It was only the unshaken conviction of man’s own inability, of unconditional dependence on God, and of the almighty power of his grace to give us strength for every good work, which could do this. He who would give others the conviction that he has a divine vocation for the church and for mankind, must himself be penetrated with the faith of an eternal, unalterable decree of God, and must cling to it in the darkest hours.
In great men, and only in great men, great opposites and apparently antagonistic truths live together. Small minds cannot hold them. The catholic, churchly, sacramental, and sacerdotal system stands in conflict with the evangelical Protestant Christianity of subjective, personal experience. The doctrine of universal baptismal regeneration, in particular, which presupposes a universal call (at least within the church), can on principles of logic hardly be united with the doctrine of an absolute predestination, which limits the decree of redemption to a portion of the baptized. Augustin supposes, on the one hand, that every baptized person, through the inward operation of the Holy Ghost, which accompanies the outward act of the sacrament, receives the forgiveness of sins, and is translated from the state of nature into the state of grace, and thus, qua baptizatus, is also a child of God and an heir of eternal life; and yet, on the other hand, he makes all these benefits dependent on the absolute will of God, who saves only a certain number out of the “mass of perdition,” and preserves these to the end. Regeneration and election, with him, do not, as with Calvin, coincide. The former may exist without the latter, but the latter cannot exist without the former. Augustin assumes that many are actually born into the kingdom of grace only to perish again; Calvin holds that in the case of the non-elect baptism is an unmeaning ceremony; the one putting the delusion in the inward effect, the other in the outward form. The sacramental, churchly system throws the main stress upon the baptismal regeneration, to the injury of the eternal election; the Calvinistic or Puritan system sacrifices the virtue of the sacrament to the election; the Lutheran and high Anglican systems seek a middle ground, without being able to give a satisfactory theological solution of the problem. The Anglican Church, however, allows the two opposite views, and sanctions the one in the baptismal service of the Book of Common Prayer, the other in her Thirty-nine Articles, and other standards, as interpreted by the low church or evangelical party in a moderately Calvinistic sense.
It was an evident ordering of God, that Augustin’s theology, like the Latin Bible of Jerome, appeared just in that transitional period of history, in which the old civilization was passing away before the flood of barbarism, and a new order of things, under the guidance of the Christian religion, was in preparation. The church, with her strong, imposing organization and her firm system of doctrine, must save Christianity amidst the chaotic turmoil of the great migration, and must become a training-school for the barbarian nations of the middle age.1
In this process of training, next to the Holy Scriptures, the scholarship of Jerome and the theology and fertile ideas of Augustin were the most important intellectual agents.
Augustin was held in so universal esteem that he could exert influence in all directions, and even in his excesses gave no offence. He was sufficiently catholic for the principle of church authority, and yet at the same time so free and evangelical that he modified its hierarchical and sacramental character, reacted against its tendencies to outward, mechanical ritualism, and kept alive a deep consciousness of sin and grace, and a spirit of fervent and truly Christian piety, until that spirit grew strong enough to break the shell of hierarchical tutelage, and enter a new stage of its development. No other father could have acted more beneficently on the Catholicism of the middle age, and more successfully provided for the evangelical Reformation than St. Augustin, the worthy successor of Paul, and the precursor of Luther and Calvin.
He had lived at the time of the Reformation, he would in all probability have taken the lead of the evangelical movement against the prevailing Pelagianism of the Roman Church, though he would not have gone so far as Luther or Calvin. For we must not forget that, notwithstanding their strong affinity, there is an important difference between Catholicism and Romanism or Popery. They sustain a similar relation to each other as the Judaism of the Old Testament dispensation, which looked to, and prepared the way for, Christianity, and the Judaism after the crucifixion and after the destruction of Jerusalem, which is antagonistic to Christianity. Catholicism covers the entire ancient and mediæval history of the church, and includes the Pauline, Augustinian, or evangelical tendencies which increased with the corruptions of the papacy and the growing sense of the necessity of a “reformatio in capite et membris.” Romanism proper dates from the council of Trent, which gave it symbolical expression and anathematized the doctrines of the Reformation. Catholicism is the strength of Romanism, Romanism is the weakness of Catholicism. Catholicism produced Jansenism, Popery condemned it. Popery never forgets and never learns anything, and can allow no change in doctrine (except by way of addition), without sacrificing its fundamental principle of infallibility, and thus committing suicide. But Catholicism may ultimately burst the chains of Popery which have so long kept it confined, and may assume new life and vigour.
Such a personage as Augustin, still holding a mediating place between the two great divisions of Christendom, revered alike by both, and of equal influence with both, is furthermore a welcome pledge of the elevating prospect of a future reconciliation of Catholicism and Protestantism in a higher unity, conserving all the truths, losing all the errors, forgiving all the sins, forgetting all the enmities of both. After all, the contradiction between authority and freedom, the objective and the subjective, the churchly and the personal, the organic and the individual, the sacramental and the experimental in religion, is not absolute, but relative and temporary, and arises not so much from the nature of things, as from the deficiencies of man’s knowledge and piety in this world. These elements admit of an ultimate harmony in the perfect state of the church, corresponding to the union of the divine and human natures, which transcends the limits of finite thought and logical comprehension, and is yet completely realized in the person of Christ. They are in fact united in the theological system of St. Paul, who had the highest view of the church, as the mystical “body of Christ,” and “the pillar and ground of the truth,” and who was at the same time the great champion of evangelical freedom, individual responsibility, and personal union of the believer with his Saviour. We believe in and hope for one holy catholic apostolic church, one communion of saints, one flock, one Shepherd. The more the different churches become truly Christian, the nearer they draw to Christ, and the more they labor for His kingdom which rises above them all, the nearer will they come to one another. For Christ is the common head and vital centre of all believers, and the divine harmony of all discordant human sects and creeds. In Christ, says Pascal, one of the greatest and noblest disciples of Augustin, In Christ all contradictions are solved.
|354.||Augustin born at Tagaste, Nov. 13; his parents, Patricius and Monnica; shortly afterwards enrolled among the Catechumens.|
|370.||Returns home from studying Rhetoric at Madaura, after an idle childhood, and from idleness falls into dissipation and sin.|
|371.||Patricius dies; Augustin supported at Carthage by his mother, and his friend Romanianus; forms an illicit connection.|
|372.||Birth of his son Adeodatus.|
|373.||Cicero’s Hortensius awakens in him a strong desire for true wisdom.|
|374.||He falls into the Manichæan heresy, and seduces several of his acquaintances into it. His mother’s earnest prayers for him; she is assured of his recovery.|
|376.||Teaches Grammar at Tagaste; but soon returns to Carthage to teach Rhetoric—gains a prize.|
|379.||Is recovered from study of Astrology—writes his books De pulchro et apto.|
|382.||Discovers the Manichæans to be in error, but falls into scepticism. Goes to Rome to teach Rhetoric.|
|385.||Removes to Milan; his errors gradually removed through the teaching of Ambrose, but he is held back by the flesh; becomes again a Catechumen.|
|386.||Studies St. Paul; converted through a voice from heaven; gives up his profession; writes against the Academics; prepares for Baptism.|
|387.||Is baptized by Bishop Ambrose, with his son Adeodatus. Death of his mother, Monnica, in her fifty-sixth year, at Ostia.|
|388.||Aug. revisits Rome, and then returns to Africa. Adeodatus, full of promise, dies.|
|389.||Aug. against his will ordained Presbyter at Hippo by Valerius, its Bishop.|
|392.||Writes against the Manichæans.|
|394.||Writes against the Donatists.|
|395.||Ordained Assistant Bishop to Valerius, toward the end of the year.|
|396.||Death of Bishop Valerius. Augustin elected his successor.|
|397.||Aug. writes the Confessions, and the De Tinitate against the Arians.|
|398.||Is present at the fourth Council of Carthage.|
|402.||Refutes the Epistle of Petilianus, a Donatist.|
|404.||Applies to Cæcilianus for protection against the savageness of the Donatists.|
|408.||Writes De urbis Romæ obsidione.|
|411.||Takes a prominent part in a conference between the Catholic Bishops and the Donatists.|
|413.||Begins the composition of his great work De Civitate Dei, completed in 426.|
|417.||Writes De gestis Palæstinæ synodi circa Pelagium.|
|420.||Writes against the Priscillianists.|
|424.||Writes against the Semipelagians.|
|426.||Appoints Heraclius his successor.|
|428.||Writes the Retractations.|
|429.||Answers the Epistles of Prosper and Hilary.|
|430.||Dies Aug. 28, in the third month of the siege of Hippo by the Vandals.|
[1 ]Augustin himself says of his Confessions: “Confessionum mearum libri tredecim et de malis et de bonis meis Deum laudant justum et bonum, atque in eum excitant humanum intellectum et affectum.” Retract l. ii. c. 6. He refers to his Confessions also in his Epistola ad Darium, Ep. CCXXXI. cap. 5; and in his De dono perseverantiæ, cap. 20 (53).
[2 ]He died, according to the Chronicle of his friend and pupil Prosper Aquitanus, the 28th of August, 430 (in the third month of the siege of Hippo by the Vandals); according to his biographer Possidius he lived seventy-six years. The day of his birth Augustin states himself, De vita beata, 6 (tom. i. 300): “Idibus Novembris mihi natalis dies erat.”
[3 ]He received baptism shortly before his death.
[4 ]Conf. i. 1: “Fecisti nos ad Te, et inquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in Te.” In all his aberrations, which we would hardly know, if it were not from his own free confession, he never sunk to anything mean, but remained, like Paul in his Jewish fanaticism, a noble intellect and an honorable character, with burning love for the true and the good.
[1 ]For particulars respecting the course of Augustin’s life, see my work above cited, and other monographs. Comp. also the fine remarks of Dr. Baur in his posthumous Lectures on Doctrine-History (1866), vol. i. Part ii. p. 26 sqq. He compares the development of Augustin with the course of Christianity from the beginning to his time, and draws a parallel between Augustin and Origen.
[2 ]Conf. ix. c. 8: “Quæ me parturivit et carne, ut in hanc temporalem, et corde, ut in æteruam lucem nascerer.” L. v. 9: “Non enim satis eloquor, quid erga me habebat animi, et quanto majore sollicitudine me parturiebat spiritu, quam carne pepererat.” In De dono persev. c. 20, he ascribes his conversion under God “to the faithful and daily tears” of his mother.
[3 ]Conf. l. ix. c. 11: “Tantum illud vos rogo ut ad Domini altare memineritis mei, ubi fueritis.” This must be explained from the already prevailing custom of offering prayers for the dead, which, however, had rather the form of thanksgiving for the mercy of God shown to them, than the later form of intercession for them.
[1 ]He is still known among the inhabitants of the place as “the great Christian” (Rumi Kebir). Gibbon (ch. xxxiii. ad ann. 430) thus describes the place which became so famous through Augustin: “The maritime colony of Hippo, about two hundred miles westward of Carthage, had formerly acquired the distinguishing epithet of Regius, from the residence of the Numidian kings; and some remains of trade and populousness still adhere to the modern city, which is known in Europe by the corrupted name of Bona.” Sallust mentions Hippo once in his history of the Jugurthine War. A part of the wealth with which Sallust built and beautified his splendid mansion and gardens in Rome, was extorted from this and other towns of North Africa while governor of Numidia. Since the French conquest of Algiers Hippo Regius was rebuilt under the name of Bona and is now one of the finest towns in North Africa, numbering over 10,000 inhabitants, French, Moors, and Jews.
[2 ]He mentions a sister, “soror mea, sancta proposita” [monasterii], without naming her, Epist. 211, n. 4 (ed. Bened.), alias Ep. 109. He also had a brother by the name of Navigius.
[3 ]Possidius says, in his Vita Aug.: “Cæterum episcopatu suscepto multo instantius ac ferventius, majore auctoritate, non in una tantum regione, sed ubicunque rogatus venisset, verbum salutis alacriter, ac suaviter pullulante atque crescente Domini ecclesia, prædicavit.”
[1 ]Possidius, c. 28, gives a vivid picture of the ravages of the Vandals, which have become proverbial. Comp. also Gibbon, ch. xxxiii.
[2 ]I freely combine several passages.
[3 ]Comp. Opera, tom. vi. p. 117 (Append.), Daniel: Thesaurus hymnol. i. 116 sqq., and iv. 203 sq., and Mone: Lat. Hymner, i. 422 sqq., Mone ascribes the poem to an unknown writer of the sixth century, but Trench (Sacred Latin Poetry, 2d ed., 315) and others attribute it to Cardinal Peter Damiani, the friend of Pope Hildebrand (d. 1072). Augustin wrote his poetry in prose.
[4 ]Possidius says, Vita, c. 31. “Testamentum nullum fecit, quia unde faceret, pauper Dei non habuit. Ecclesiæ bibliothecam omnesque codices diligenter posteris custodiendos semper jubebat.”
[5 ]The inhabitants escaped to the sea. There appears no bishop of Hippo after Augustin. In the seventh century the old city was utterly destroyed by the Arabians, but two miles from it Bona was built of its ruins. Comp. Tillemont, xiii. 945, and Gibbon, ch. xxxiii. Gibbon says, that Bona, “in the sixteenth century, contained about three hundred families of industrious, but turbulent manufacturers. The adjacent territory is renowned for a pure air, a fertile soil, and plenty of exquisite fruits.” Since the French conquest of Algiers, Bona was rebuilt in 1832, and is gradually assuming a French aspect. It is now one of the finest towns in Algeria, the key to the province of Constantine, has a public garden, several schools, considerable commerce, and a population of over ten thousand of French, Moors, and Jews, the great majority of whom are foreigners. The relics of St. Augustin have been recently transferred from Pavia to Bona. See the letters of abbé Sibour to Poujoulat sur la translation de la relique de saint Augustin de Pavie à Hippone, in Poujoulat’s Histoire de saint Augustin, tom. i. p. 413 sqq.
[6 ]Even in Africa Augustin’s spirit reappeared from time to time notwithstanding the barbarian confusion, as a light in darkness, first in Vigilius, bishop of Thapsus, who, at the close of the fifth century, ably defended the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and the person of Christ, and to whom the authorship of the so-called Athanasian Creed has sometimes been ascribed; in Fulgentius, bishop of Ruspe, one of the chief opponents of Semi-Pelagianism, and the later Arianism, who with sixty catholic bishops of Africa was banished for several years by the Arian Vandals to the island of Sardinia, and who was called the Augustin of the sixth century (died 533), and in Facundus of Hermiane (died 570), and Fulgentius Ferrandus, and Liberatus, two deacons of Carthage, who took a prominent part in the Three Chapter controversy.
[1 ]Or, as he wrote to a friend about the year 410, Epist 120, c. 1, 2 (tom. ii. p. 347, ed. Bened Venet; in older ed., Ep. 122): “Ut quod credis intelligas . . . non ut fidem respuas, sed ea quæ fidet firmitate jam tenes, etiam rationis luce conspicias.” He continues, ibid. c. 3: “Absit namque, ut hoc in nobis Deus oderit, in quo nos reliquis animalibus excellentiores creavit. Absit, inquam, ut ideo credamus, ne rationem accipiamus vel quæramus; cum etiam credere non possemus, nisi rationales animas haberemus.” In one of his earliest works, Contra Academ l. iii. c. 20, 43, he says of himself: “Ita sum affectus, ut quid sit verum non credendo solum, sed etiam intelligendo apprehendere impatienter desiderem.”
[2 ]Ἐὰν μὴ πιστεύσητε, οὐδὲ μὴ συνη̑τε. But the proper translation of the Hebrew is: “If ye will not believe [in me, בִּי for בִּי], surely ye shall not be established (or, not remain).”
[3 ]Comp. De præd. sanct. cap. 2, 5 (tom. x. p. 792): “Ipsum credere nihil aliud est quam cum assensione cogitare. Non enim omnis qui cogitat, credit, cum ideo cogitant, plerique ne credant; sed cogitat omnis qui credit, et credendo cogitat et cogitando credit. Fides si non cogitetur, nulla est.” Ep. 120, cap. 1, 3 (tom. ii. 347), and Ep. 137, c. 4, 15 (tom. ii. 408): “Intellectui fides aditum aperit, infidelitas claudit.” Augustin’s view of faith and knowledge is discussed at large by Gangauf,Metaphysische Psychologie des heil Augustinus, i. pp. 31-76, and by Nourrisson,La philosophie de saint Augustin, tom. ii. 282-290.
[4 ]Prosper Aquitanus collected in the year 450 or 451 from the works of Augustin 392 sentences (see the Appendix to the tenth vol. of the Bened. ed. p. 223 sqq., and in Migne’s ed. of Prosper Aquitanus, col. 427-496), with reference to theological purport and the Pelagian controversies. We recall some of the best which he has omitted:
“Novum Testamentum in Vetere latet, Vetus in Novo patet.”
“Distingue tempora, et concordabit Scriptura.”
“Cor nostrum inquietum est, donec requiescat in Te.”
“Da quod jubes, et jube quod vis.”
“Non vincit nisi veritas, victoria veritatis est caritas.”
“Ubi amor, ibi trinitas.”
“Fides præcedit intellectum.”
“Deo servire vera libertas est.”
“Nulla infelicitas frangit, quem felicitas nulla corrumpit.”
The famous maxim of ecclesiastical harmony: “In necessariis nultas, in dubiis (or, non necessariis) libertas, in omnibus (in utrisque) caritas,”—which is often ascribed to Augustin, dates in this form not from him, but from a much later period. Dr. Lucke (in a special treatise on the antiquity of the author, the original form, etc., of this sentance, Göttingen, 1850) traces the authorship to Rupert Meldenius, an irenical German theologian of the seventeenth century. Baxter, also, who lived during the intense conflicts of English Puritanism and Episcopacy, and grew weary of the “fury of theologians,” adopted a similar sentiment. The sentence is held by many who differ widely in the definition of what is “necessary” and what is “doubtful.” The meaning of “charity in all things” is above doubt, and a moral duty of every Christian, though practically violated by too many in all denominations.
[1 ]Vorlesungen über die christl. Dogmengeschichte, vol. I. P. II. p. 30 sq.
[2 ]Adv. Academicos, l. ii. c. 2, 5: “Etiam mihi ipsi de me incredibile incondium concitarunt.” And in several passages of the Civitas Dei (viii. 3-12; xxii. 27) he speaks very favourably of Plato, and also of Aristotle, and thus broke the way for the high authority of the Aristotelian philosophy with the scholastics of the middle age.
[1 ]It is sometimes asserted that he had no knowledge at all of the Greek. So Gibbon, for example, says (ch. xxxiii.): “The superficial learning of Augustin was confined to the Latin language.” But this is a mistake. In his youth he had a great aversion to the glorious language of Hellas because he had a bad teacher and was forced to it (Conf. i. 14). He read the writings of Plato in a Latin translation (vii. 9). But after his baptism, during his second residence in Rome, he resumed the study of Greek with greater zest, for the sake of his biblical studies. In Hippo he had, while presbyter, good opportunity to advance in it, since his bishop, Aurelius, a native Greek, understood his mother tongue much better than the Latin. In his books he occasionally makes reference to the Greek. In his work Contra Jul. i. c. 6 21 (tom. x. 510), he corrects the Pelagian Julian in a translation from Chrysostom, quoting the original. “Ego ipsa verba Græca quæ a Joanne dicta sunt ponam: διὰ του̑το καὶ τὰ παιδία βαπτιζομεν, καίτοι ἁμαρτήματα οὐκ ἔχοντα, quod est Latine: Ideo et infantes baptizamus, quamvis peccata non habentes.” Julian had freely rendered this: “cum non sint coinquinati peccato,” and had drawn the inference: “Sanctus Joannes Constantinopolitanus [John Chrysostom] negat esse in parvulis originale peccatum.” Augustin helps himself out of the pinch by arbitrarily supplying propria to ἁμαρτήματα, so that the idea of sin inherited from another is not excluded. The Greek fathers, however, did not consider hereditary corruption to be proper sin or guilt at all, but only defect, weakness, or disease. In the City of God, lib. xix. c. 23, he quotes a passage from Porphyry’s ἐκ λογίων ϕιλοσοϕια, and in book xviii. 23, he explains the Greek monogram ἰχϑύς. He gives the derivation of several Greek words, and correctly distinguishes between such synonyms as γεννάω and τίκτω, εὐχή and προσευχή, κνοή and πνευ̑μα. It is probable that he read Plotin, and the Panarion of Epiphanius or the summary of it, in Greek (while the Church History of Eusebius he knew only in the translation of Rufinus). But in his exegetical and other works he very rarely consults the Septuagint or Greek Testament, and was content with the very imperfect Itala, or the improved version of Jerome (the Vulgate). The Benedictine editors overestimate his knowledge of Greek. He himself frankly confesses that he knew very little of it. De Trinit. l. iii. Proœm. (“Graæcæ linguæ non sit nobis tantus habitus, ut talium verum libris legendis et intelligendis ullo modo reperiamur idonei”), and Contra literas Petiliani (written in 400), l. ii. c. 38 (“Et ego quidem Græcæ linguæ perparum assecutus sum, et prope nihil”). On the philosophical learning of Augustin may be compared Nourrisson,l. c. ii. p. 92 sqq.
[1 ]Ellies Dupin (Bibliothèque ecclésiastique, tom. iii. 1st partie, p. 818) and Nourrisson (l. c. tom. ii. p. 449) apply to Augustin the term magnus opinator, which Cicero used of himself. There is, however, this important difference that Augustin, along with his many opinions on speculative questions in philosophy and theology, had very positive convictions in all essential doctrines, while Cicero was a mere eclectic in philosophy.
[1 ]He was not “intoxicated with the exuberance of his own verbosity,” as a modern English statesman (Lord Beaconsfield) charged his equally distinguished rival (Mr. Gladstone) in Parliament.
[2 ]In his Retractations, he himself reviews ninety-three of his works (embracing two hundred and thirty-two books, see ii. 67), in chronological order; in the first book those which he wrote while a layman and presbyter, in the second those which he wrote when a bishop. See also the extended chronological index in Schöneman’sBiblioth, historico-literaria Patrum Latinorum, vol. ii. (Lips. 1794), p. 340 sqq. (reprinted in the supplemental volume, xii., of Migne’s ed. of the Opera, p. 24 sqq.); and other systematic and alphabetical lists in the eleventh volume of the Bened ed. (p. 494 sqq., ed. Venet.), and in Migne, tom. xi.
[3 ]For this reason the Benedictine editors have placed the Retractations and the Confessions at the headof his works.
[4 ]He himself says of them, Retract l. ii. c. 6: “Multis fratribus eos [Confessionum libros tredecim] multum placuisse et placere scio.” Comp. De denon perseverantiæ, c. 20: “Quid autem meorum opusculorum frequentius et delectabilius innotescere potuit quam libri Confessionum mearum?” Comp. Ep. 231 Dario comiti.
[5 ]Schönnemann (in the supplemental volume of Migne’s ed. of Augustin, p. 134 sqq.) cites a multitude of separate editions of the Confessions in Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, and German, from 1475 to 1776. Since that time several new editions have been added. One of the best Latin editions is that of Karl von Raumer (Stuttgart, 1856), who used to read the Confessions with his students at Erlangen once a week for many years. In his preface he draws a comparison between them and Rousseau’s Confessions and Hamann’s Gedanken über meinen Lebenslauf. English and German translations are noticed above in the Lit. Dr. Shedd (in his ed., Pref. p. xxvii) calls the Confessions the best commentary yet written upon the seventh and eighth chapters of Romans. “That quickening of the human spirit, which puts it again into vital and sensitive relations to the holy and eternal; that illumination of the mind, whereby it is enabled to perceive with clearness the real nature of truth and righteousness; that empowering of the will, to the conflict of victory—the entire process of restoring the Divine image in the soul of man—is delineated in this book, with a vividness and reality never exceeded by the uninspired mind.” . . . “It is the life of God in the soul of a strong man, rushing and rippling with the freedom of the life of nature. He who watches can almost see the growth; he who listens can hear the perpetual motion; and he who is in sympathy will be swept along.”
[1 ]We mean his sexual sins. He kept a concubine for sixteen years, the mother of his only child, Adeodatus, and after her separation he formed for a short time a similar connection in Milan; but in both cases he was faithful. Conf. IV. 2 (unam habebam . . . servans tori fidem”): VI. 15. Erasmus thought very leniently of this sin as contrasted with the conduct of the priests and abbots of his time. Augustin himself deeply repented of it, and devoted his life to celibacy.
[2 ]Nourrisson (l. c. tom. i. p. 19) calls the Confessions “cet ouvrage uniqus, souvent imité, toujours parodié, où il s’accuse, se condamne et s’humilie, prière ardente, récit entrainant, métaphysique incomparable, histoire de tout un monde qui se reflèts dans l’histoire d’une ame.” Comp. also an article on the Confessions in “The Contemporary Review” for June, 1867, pp. 133-160.
[3 ]Prov. x. 19. This verse (ex multiloquio non effugies peccatum) the Semi-Pelagian Gennadius (De viris illustr. sub Aug.) applies against Augustin in excuse for his erroneous doctrines of freedom and predestination.
[4 ]Matt. xii. 36.
[5 ]1 Cor. xi. 31. Comp. his Prologus to the two books of Retractationes.
[6 ]J. Morell Mackenzie (in W. Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. i. p. 422) happily calls the Retractations of Augustin “one of the noblest sacrifices ever laid upon the altar of truth by a majestic intellect acting in obedience to the purest conscientiousness.”
[1 ]In tom. i. of the ed. Bened., immediately after the Retractationes and Confessiones, and at the close of the volume. On these philosophical writings, see BruckerHistoria critica philosophiæ, Lips. 1766, tom. iii. pp. 485-507. H. Ritter:Geschichte der Philosophie, vol. vi. p. 153 sqq., Ueberweg,History of Philosophy, I. 333-346 (Am. ed.); Erdmann,Grundriss der Geschichts der Philosophie, I. 231-240: Bindemann,l.c. I. 282 sqq., Huber,l.c. I. 242 sqq., Gangauf,l.c. p. 25 sqq., and Nourrisson,l.c. ch. i. and ii. Nourrison makes the just remark (i. p. 53): “St la philosophie est la recherché de la verité, jamais sans doute il ne s’est rencontré une âme plus philosophe que celle de saint Augustin. Car jamais áme n’a supporté avec plus d’impatience les anxiétés du doute et n’a fait plus d’efforts pour dissiper les fantômes de l’erreur.”
[2 ]Or on the question: “Utrum omnia bona et mala divinæ providentiæ ordo contineat?” Comp. Retract. i. 3.
[3 ]Augustin, in his Confessions (l. ix. c. 6), expresses himself in this touching way about this son of his illicit love: “We took with us [on returning from the country to Milan to receive the sacrament of baptism] also the boy Adeodatus, the son of my carnal sin. Thou hadst formed him well. He was but just fifteen years old, and he was superior in mind to many grave and learned men. I acknowledge Thy gifts, O Lord, my God, who createst all, and who canst reform our deformities, for I had no part in that boy but sin. And when we brought him up in Thy nurture, Thou, only Thou, didst prompt us to it; I acknowledge Thy gifts. There is my book entitled, De magistro, he speaks with me there. Thou knowest that all things there put into his mouth were in his mind when he was sixteen years of age. That maturity of mind was a terror to me, and who but Thou is the artificer of such wonders? Soon Thou didst take his life from the earth, and I think more quietly of him now, fearing no more for his boyhood, nor his youth, nor his whole life. We took him to ourselves as one of the same age in Thy grace, to be trained in Thy nurture, and we were baptised together, and all trouble about the past fled from us.” He refers to him also in De vita beata, 6. “There was also with us, in age the youngest of all, but whose talents, if affection deceives me not, promise something great, my son Adeodatus.” In the same book ( 18), he mentions an answer of his. “He is truly chaste who waits on God, and keeps himself to Him only.”
[4 ]The books on grammar, dialectics, rhetoric, and the ten Categories of Aristotle, in the Appendix to the first volume of the Bened. ed., are spurious. For the genuine works of Augustin on these subjects were written in a different form (the dialogue) and for a higher purpose, and were lost in his own day. Comp. Retract. i. c. 6. In spite of this, Prantl (Geschichte der Logik in Abendlande, pp. 665-674, cited by Huber,l.c. p. 240) has advocated the genuineness of the Principia dialecticæ, and Huber inclines to agree. Gangauf,l.c. p. 5, and Nourrisson, i. p. 37, consider them spurious.
[1 ]Ἡ μάυησις οὐκ ἅλλο τι ἢ ἀνάμνησις. On this Plato, in the Phædo, as is well known, rests his doctrine of pre-existence. Augustin was at first in favor of the idea, Solit. ii. 20, n. 35; afterwards he rejected it, Retract. i. 4, § 4: but after all he assumes in his anthropology a sort of unconscious, yet responsible, pre-existence of the whole human race in Adam as its organic head, and hence taught a universal fall in Adam’s fall.
[2 ]History of Philosophy, vol. i. 333 sq., translated by Prof. Geo. S. Morris.
[1 ]In the Bened, ed. tom. vii. Comp. Retract. ii. 43, and Ch. Hist. III 12. The City of God and the Confessions are the only writings of Augustin which Gibbon thought worth while to read (chap. xxxiii.). Huber (l. c. p. 315) says: “Augustin’s philosophy of history, as he presents it in his Civitas Dei, has remained to this hour the standard philosophy of history for the church orthodoxy, the bounds of which this orthodoxy, unable to perceive in the motions of the modern spirit the fresh morning air of a higher day of history, is scarcely able to transcend.” Nourrisson devotes a special chapter to the consideration of the two cities of Augustin, the City of the World and the City of God (tom. ii. 43-88). Compare also the Introduction to Saisset’sTraduction de la Citè de Dieu, Par. 1855, and Reinken’s (old Cath. Bishop), Geschichtsphilosophie des heil. Aug. 1866. Engl. translation of the City of God by Dr. Marcus Dods, Edinburgh, 1872, 2 vols., and in the second vol. of this Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers.
[2 ]Separately edited by Krabinger, Tübingen, 1861.
[3 ]This work is also incorporated in the Corpus hæreseologicum of Fr. Okhler, tom. i. pp. 192-225.
[4 ]Contra Epist. Manichæi quam vocant fundamenti, l. i. 2.
[1 ]The earliest anti-Manichæan writings (De libero arbitrio; De moribus eccl. cath. et de Moribus Manich.) are in tom. i. ed. Bened; the latter in tom. viii.
[2 ]Tom. viii. p. 611 sqq.
[3 ]All these in tom. ix. Comp. Church Hist. III. 69 and 70.
[1 ]Tom. viii. ed. Bened. p. 749 sqq. Comp. Ch. Hist. III. 131. The work was stolen from him by some impatient friends before revision, and before the completion of the twelfth book, so that he became much discouraged, and could only be moved to finish it by urgent entreaties.
[2 ]Opera, tom. x., in two parts, with an Appendix. The same in Migne. W. Bright, of Oxford, has published Select Anti-Pelagian Treatises of St. Aug., in Latin, 1880. On the Pelagian controversy comp. Ch. Hist. III. 146-160.
[1 ]Tom. iii. 117-324. Not to be confounded with two other books on Genesis, in which he defends the biblical doctrine of creation against the Manichæans. In this exegetical work he aimed, as he says, Retract. ii. c. 24, to interpret Genesis “non secundum allegoricas significations, sed secundum rerum gestarum proprietatem.” The work is more original and spirited than the Hexaëmeren of Basil or of Ambrose.
[2 ]Tom. iv., the whole volume. The English translation of the Com. on the Psalms occupies six volumes of the Oxford Library of the Fathers.
[3 ]Tom. iii. 289-824. Translated in Clark’s ed. of Augustin’s works.
[4 ]All in tom. iii. Translated in part.
[5 ]Tom. v. contains beside these a multitude (317) of doubtful and spurious sermons, likewise divided into four classes. To these must be added recently discovered sermons, edited from manuscripts in Florence, Monte Cassino, etc., by M. Denis (1792), O. F. Frangipans (1820), A. L. Caillau (Paris, 1836), and Angelo Mai (in the Nova Bibliotheca Patrum).
[6 ]Most of them in tom. vi. ed. Bened. On the scripta deperdita, dubin et spuria of Augustin, see the index by Schonemanni. e. p. 50 sqq., and in the supplemental volume of Migne’s edition, pp. 34-40. The so-called Meditations of Augustin (German translation by August Kronne, Stuttgart, 1854) are a later compilation by the abbot of [Editor: illegible word] in France, at the close of the twelfth century, from the writings of Augustin, Gregory the Great, Anselm and others.
[1 ]The church fathers of the first six centuries are certainly far more Catholic than Protestant, and laid the doctrinal foundation of the orthodox Greek and Roman churches. But it betrays a contracted, slavish, and mechanical view of history, when Roman Catholic divines claim the fathers as their exclusive property; forgetting that they taught many things which are as inconsistent with the papal as with the Protestant Creed, and that they knew nothing of certain dogmas which are essential to Romanism (such as the infallibility of the pope, the seven sacraments, transubstantiation, purgatory, indulgences, auricular confession, the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, etc.). “I recollect well,” says Dr. Newman, the former intellectual leader of Oxford Tractarianism (in his Letter to Dr. Pusey on his Eirenicon, 1866, p. 5), “what an outcast I seemed to myself, when I took down from the shelves of my library the volumes of St. Athanasius or St. Basil, and set myself to study them; and how, on the contrary, when at length I was brought into Catholic communion, I kissed them with delight, with a feeling that in them I had more than all that I had lost, and, as though I were directly addressing the glorious saints, who bequeathed them to the Church, I said to the inanimate pages, ‘You are now mine, and I am yours, beyond any mistake.’ ” With the same right the Jews might lay exclusive claim to the writings of Moses and the prophets. The fathers were living men, representing the onward progress and conflicts of Christianity in their time, unfolding and defending great truths, but not unmixed with many errors and imperfections which subsequent times have corrected. Those are the true children of the fathers who, standing on the foundation of Christ and the apostles, and, kissing the New Testament rather than any human writings, follow them only as far as they followed Christ, and who carry forward their work in the onward march of evangelical catholic Christianity.
[2 ]He was summoned to the council of Ephesus, which condemned Nestorianism in 431, but died a year before it met. He prevailed upon the Gallic monk, Leporius, to retract Nestorianism. His Christology is in many points defective and obscure. Comp. Dorner’sHistory of Christology, ii. pp. 88-98 (Germ. ed.). Jerome did still less for this department of doctrine.
[1 ]Wigger’s (Pragmat, Darstellung des Augustinismus und Pelagianismus, i. p. 27) finds the most peculiar and remarkable point of Augustin’s character in his singular union of intellect and imagination, scholasticism and mysticism, in which neither can be said to predominate. So also Huber,l. c. p. 313.
[2 ]Nourrisson, the able expounder of the philosophy of Augustin, says (l. c. tom. i. p. iv): “Je ne crois pas, qu’excepté saint Paul, aucun homme ait contribué davantage, par sa parole comme par ses écrits, à organiser, à interpréter, à répandre le christianisme; et, après saint Paul, nul apparemment, non pas même le glorieux, l’invincible Athanase, n’a travaillé d’une manière aussi puissante à fonder l’unité catholique.”
[3 ]We recall his famous anti-Manichæan dictum: “Ego evangelio non crederem, nisi me catholicæ ecclesiæ commoveret auctoritas. The Protestant would reverse this maxim, and ground his faith in the church on his faith in Christ and in the gospel. So with the well-known maxim of Irenæus. “Ubi ecclesia, ibi Spiritus Dei, et ubi Spiritus Dei, ibi ecclesia.” According to the spirit of Protestantism it would be said conversely: “Where the Spirit of God is, there is the church, and where the church is, there is the Spirit of God.”
[4 ]According to genuine Christian principles it would have been far more noble, if he had married the African woman with whom he had lived in illicit intercourse for thirteen years, who was always faithful to him, as he was to her, and had borne him his beloved and highly gifted Adeodatus: instead of casting her off, and, as he for a while intended, choosing another for the partner of his life, whose excellences were more numerous. The superiority of the evangelical Protestant morality over the Catholic asceticism is here palpable. But with the prevailing spirit of his age he would hardly have enjoyed so great regard, nor accomplished so much good if he had been married. Celibacy was the bridge from the heathen degradation of marriage to the evangelical Christian exaltation and sanctification of the family life.
[5 ]On Augustin’s doctrine of the church, see Ch. Hist. III § 71, and especially the thorough account by R. Rothe:Anfänge der christl. Rirche und ihrer Verfassung, vol. i. (1837), pp. 679-711. “Augustin,” says he, “decidedly adopted Cyprian’s conception [of the church] in all essential points. And once adopting it, he penetrated it in its whole depth with his wonderfully powerful and exuberant soul, and, by means of his own clear, logical mind, gave it the perfect and rigorous system which perhaps it still lacked” (p. 679 sqq.). “Augustin’s conception of the doctrine of the church was about standard for succeeding times” (p. 685). See also an able article of Prof. Reuter, of Göttingen, on Augustin’s views concerning episcopacy, tradition, infallibility, in Brieger’s “Zeitschrift für Hist. Theol.” for 1885 (Bk. VIII. pp. 126-187).
[1 ]Hence the famous word: “Roma locuta est, eausa finita est,” which is often quoted as an argument for the modern Vatican dogma of papal infallibility. But it is not found in this form, though we may admit that it is an epigrammatic condensation of sentences of Augustin. The nearest approach to it is to his Sermo CXXXI cap. 10, 10 (Tom. VII. 645). “Iam enim de hac causa duo concilia missa sunt ad sedem apostolicam (Rome), inde etiam rescripta venerunt. Causa finita est, utinam aliquando error finiatur.” Comp. Reuter, l.c. p. 157.
[2 ]Respecting Augustin’s doctrine of baptism, see the thorough discussion in W. Wall’sHistory of Infant Baptism, vol. i. p. 173 sqq. (Oxford ed. of 1862). His view of the slight condemnation of all unbaptized children contains the germ of the scholastic fancy of the limbus infantum and the pæna damni, as distinct from the lower regions of hell and the pæna sensus.
[3 ]In his former writings he expressed a truly philosophical view concerning miracles (De vera relig. c. 25, 47; c. 50, 98; De utilit credendi, c. 16, 34. De peccat meritis et remiss. l. ii. c. 32, 52, and De civit. Dei, xxii. c. 8), but in his Retract. l. i. c. 14, 5, he corrects or modifies a former remark in his book De utilit credendi, stating that he did not mean to deny the continuance of miracles altogether, but only such great miracles as occurred at the time of Christ (“quia non tanta nec omnia, non quia nulla fiunt”). See Ch. Hist. III. 87 and 88, and the instructive monograph of the younger Nitzsch:Augustinus’ Lehre vom Wunder, Berlin, 1865 (97 pp.).
[4 ]See Ch. Hist. III. 81 and 82.
[5 ]Comp. Tract. in Evang. Joannis, viii. c. 9, where he says: “Cur ergo ait matri filius; Quid mihi et tibi est, mulier? nondum venit hora mea (John ii. 4). Dominus noster Jesus Christus et Deus erat et homo: secundum quod Deus erat, matrem non habebat; secundum quod homo erat, habebat. Mater ergo [Maria] erat carnis, mater humanitatis, mater infirmitatis quam suscepit propter nos.” This strict separation of the Godhead from the manhood of Jesus in his birth from the Virgin would have exposed Augustin in the East to the suspicion of Nestorianism. But he died a year before the council of Ephesus, at which Nestorius was condemned.
[6 ]See Ch. Hist. III. 27, p. 144 sq. He changed his view partly from his experience that the Donatists, in his own diocese, were converted to the catholic unity “timore legum imperialium,” and were afterwards perfectly good Catholics. He adduces also a misinterpretation of Luke xiv. 23, and Prov. ix. 9: “Da sapienti occasionem et sapientior erit.” Ep. 93, ad Vincentium Rogatistam, 17 (tom. ii. p. 237 sq. ed. Bened.). But he expressly discouraged the infliction of death on heretics, and adjured the proconsul Donatus Ep. 100, by Jesus Christ, not to repay the Donatists in kind. “Corrigi eos cupimus, non necari.”
[1 ]Luther pronounced upon the church fathers (with whom, however, excepting Augustin, he was but slightly acquainted) very condemnatory judgments, even upon Basil, Chrysostom, and Jerome (for Jerome he had a downright antipathy, on account of his advocacy of fasts, virginity, and monkery); he was at times dissatisfied even with Augustin, because he after all did not find in him his sola fide, his articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiæ, and says of him: “Augustin often erred; he cannot be trusted. Though he was good and holy, yet he, as well as other fathers, was wanting in the true faith.” But this cursory utterance is overborne by numerous commendations, and all such judgments of Luther must be taken cum grano salis. He calls Augustin the most pious, grave, and sincere of the fathers, and the patron of divines, who taught a pure doctrine and submitted it in Christian humility to the Holy Scriptures, etc., and he thinks, if he had lived in the sixteenth century, he would have been a Protestant (si hoc seculo viveret, nobiscum sentiret), while Jerome would have gone with Rome. Compare his singular but striking judgments on the fathers in Lutheri Colloquia, ed. H. E. Bladseil, 1863, tom. iii. 149, and many other places. Gangauf, a Roman Catholic (a pupil of the philosopher Günther), concedes (l.c. p. 28, note 13) that Luther and Calvin built their doctrinal system mainly on Augustin, but, as he correctly thinks, with only partial right. Nourrisson, likewise a Roman Catholic, derives Protestantism from a corrupted (!) Augustinianism, and very superficially makes Lutheranism and Calvinism essentially to consist in the denial of the freedom of the will, which was only one of the questions of the Reformation. “On ne saurait le méconnaitre, de l’Augustinianisme corrompu, mais enfin de l’Augustinianisme procède le Protestantisme. Car, sans parler de Wiclif et de Huss, qui, nourris de saint Augustin, soutiennent, avec le réalisme platonicien, la doctrine de la prédestination: Luther et Calvin ne font guère autre chose, dans leurs principaux ouvrages, que cultiver des semences d’Augustinianisme” (l.c. ii. p. 176). But the Reformation is far more, of course, than a repristination of an old controversy; it is a new creation, and marks the epoch of modern Christianity which is different both from the mediæval and from ancient or patristic Christianity.
[2 ]It is well known that Luther, as late as 1526, in his work, De serve arbitrio, against Erasmus, which he never retracted, proceeded upon the most rigorous notion of the divine omnipotence, wholly denied the freedom of the will, declared it a mere lie (merum mendacium), pronounced the calls of the Scriptures to repentance a divine irony, and based eternal salvation and eternal perdition upon the secret will of God; in all this he almost exceeded Calvin. See particulars in the books on doctrine-history: the inaugural dissertation of Jul. Mùller:Lutheri de prædestinatione et libero arbitrio doctrina, Gött. 1832; and a historical treatise on predestination by Carl Beck in the “Studien und Kritiken” for 1847. We add, as a curiosity, the opinion of Gibson (ch. xxxiii.), who, however, had a very limited and superficial knowledge of Augustin: “The rigid system of Christianity which he framed or restored, has been entertained with public applause, and secret reluctance, by the Latin church. The church of Rome has canonized Augustin, and reprobated Calvin. Yet as the real difference between them is invisible even to a theological microscope, the Molinists are oppressed by the authority of the saint, and the Jansenists are disgraced by their resemblance to the heretic. In the mean while the Protestant Arminians stand aloof, and derlde the mutual perplexity of the disputants. Perhaps a reasoner, still more independent, may smile in his turn when he peruses an Arminian commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.” Nourrisson (ii. 179), from his Roman stand-point, likewise makes Lutheranism to consist “essentiellement dans la question du libre arbitre.” But the principle of Lutheranism, and of Protestantism generally, is the supremacy of the Holy Scriptures as a rule of faith, and salvation by free grace through faith in Christ.
[3 ]On the mighty influence of Augustin in the seventeenth century in France, especially on the noble Jansenists, see the works on Jansenism and also Nourrisson,l.c. tom. ii. pp. 186-276.
[1 ]Guizot, the Protestant historian and statesman, very correctly says in his Histoire générale de la civilisation en Europe Deuxième lecon, p. 45 sq. ed. Bruxelles, 1850). “S’il n’eût pas été une église, je ne sais ce qui en serait avenu au milieu de la chute de l’empire romain. . . . Si le christianisme n’eût été comme dans les premiers temps, qu’une croyance, un sentiment, une conviction individuelle, on peut croire qu’il aurait succombé au milieu de la dissolution de l’empire et de l’invaston des barbares. Il a succombé plus tard, en Asie et dans tous le nord de l’Afrique, sous une invasion de même nature, sous l’invasion des barbares musulmans il a succombé alors, quoiqu’il fût à l'état d’institution, d’église constituée. A bien plus forte raison le même fait aurait pu arriver au moment de la chute de l’empire romain. Il n’y avait alors aucun des moyens par lesquels aujourd’hui les influences morales s’établissent ou résistent indèpendamment des institutions, aucun des moyens par lesquels une pure vérité, uns pure idée acquired un grand empire sur les esprits gouverne les actions, détermine des événemens. Rien de semblable n’existait au IVe siècle, pour donner aux idées, aux sentiments personels, une pareille autorité. Il est clair qu’il fallait une société fortement organisée, fortement gouvernée, pour lutter contre un pareil désastre, pour sortir victoricuse d’un tel ouragan. Je ne crois pas trop dire en affirmant qu’à la fin du IVe et au commencement du Ve siècle, c’est l’église chrétienne qui a sauvé le christianisme: c’est l’église avec ses institutions, ses magistrats, son pouvoir, qui s’est dèfendue vigoureusement contre la dissolution intérieure de l’empire, contre la barbaris qui a conquis les barbares, qui est devenue le lien, le moyen, le principe dè civilisation entre le monde romain et le monde barbare.”
Last modified April 13, 2016