Writings of Augustine. Letters of St. Augustin

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Letters of St. Augustin

Translated by the Rev. J. G. Cunningham, M.A.

Published in 1886 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.


Letter XX.

(a.d. 390.)

To Antoninus Augustin Sends Greeting.

1. As letters are due to you by two of us, a part of our debt is repaid with very abundant usury when you see one of the two in person; and since by his voice you, as it were, hear my own, I might have refrained from writing, had I not been called to do it by the urgent request of the very person whose journey to you seemed to me to make this unnecessary. Accordingly I now hold converse with you even more satisfactorily than if I were personally with you, because you both read my letter, and you listen to the words of one in whose heart you know that I dwell. I have with great joy studied and pondered the letter sent by your Holiness, because it exhibits both your Christian spirit unsullied by the guile of an evil age, and your heart full of kindly feeling towards myself.

2. I congratulate you, and I give thanks to our God and Lord, because of the hope and faith and love which are in you; and I thank you, in Him, for thinking so well of me as to believe me to be a faithful servant of God, and for the love which with guileless heart you cherish towards that which you commend in me; although, indeed, there is occasion rather for congratulation than for thanks in acknowledging your goodwill in this thing. For it is profitable for yourself that you should love for its own sake that goodness which he of course loves who loves another because he believes him to be good, whether that other be or be not what he is supposed to be. One error only is to be carefully avoided in this matter, that we do not think otherwise than truth demands, not of the individual, but of that which is true goodness in man. But, my brother well beloved, seeing that you are not in any degree mistaken either in believing or in knowing that the great good for men is to serve God cheerfully and purely, when you love any man because you believe him to share this good, you reap the reward, even though the man be not what you suppose him to be. Wherefore it is fitting that you should on this account be congratulated; but the person whom you love is to be congratulated, not because of his being for that reason loved, but because of his being truly (if it is the case) such an one as the person who for this reason loves him esteems him to be. As to our real character, therefore, and as to the progress we may have made in the divine life, this is seen by Him whose judgment, both as to that which is good in man, and as to each man's personal character, cannot err. For your obtaining the reward of blessedness so far as this matter is concerned, it is sufficient that you embrace me with your whole heart because you believe me to be such a servant of God as I ought to be. To you, however, I also render many thanks for this, that you encourage me wonderfully to aspire after such excellence, by your praising me as if I had already attained it. Many more thanks still shall be yours, if you not only claim an interest in my prayers, but also cease not to pray for me. For intercession on behalf of a brother is more acceptable to God when it is offered as a sacrifice of love.

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3. I greet very kindly your little son, and I pray that he may grow up in the way of obedience to the salutary requirements of God's law. I desire and pray, moreover, that the one true faith and worship, which alone is catholic, may prosper and increase in your house; and if you think any labour on my part necessary for the promotion of this end, do not scruple to claim my service, relying upon Him who is our common Lord, and upon the law of love which we must obey. This especially would I recommend to your pious discretion, that by reading the word of God, and by serious conversation with your partner, [1479] you should either plant the seed or foster the growth in her heart of an intelligent fear of God. For it is scarcely possible that any one who is concerned for the soul's welfare, and is therefore without prejudice resolved to know the will of the Lord, should fail, when enjoying the guidance of a good instructor, to discern the difference which exists between every form of schism and the one Catholic Church.

Footnotes

[1479] Infirmiori vasi tuo.


Letter XXI.

(a.d. 391.)

To My Lord Bishop Valerius, Most Blessed and Venerable, My Father Most Warmly Cherished with True Love in the Sight of the Lord, Augustin, Presbyter, Sends Greeting in the Lord.

1. Before all things I ask your pious wisdom to take into consideration that, on the one hand, if the duties of the office of a bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, be discharged in a perfunctory and time-serving manner, no work can be in this life more easy, agreeable, and likely to secure the favour of men, especially in our day, but none at the same time more miserable, deplorable, and worthy of condemnation in the sight of God; and, on the other hand, that if in the office of bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, the orders of the Captain of our salvation be observed, there is no work in this life more difficult, toilsome, and hazardous, especially in our day, but none at the same time more blessed in the sight of God. [1480] But what the proper mode of discharging these duties is, I did not learn either in boyhood or in the earlier years of manhood; and at the time when I was beginning to learn it, I was constrained as a just correction for my sins (for I know not what else to think) to accept the second place at the helm, when as yet I knew not how to handle an oar.

2. But I think that it was the purpose of my Lord hereby to rebuke me, because I presumed, as if entitled by superior knowledge and excellence, to reprove the faults of many sailors before I had learned by experience the nature of their work. Therefore, after I had been sent in among them to share their labours, then I began to feel the rashness of my censures; although even before that time I judged this office to be beset with many dangers. And hence the tears which some of my brethren perceived me shedding in the city at the time of my ordination, and because of which they did their utmost with the best intentions to console me, but with words which, through their not knowing the causes of my sorrow, did not reach my case at all. [1481] But my experience has made me realize these things much more both in degree and in measure than I had done in merely thinking of them: not that I have now seen any new waves or storms of which I had not previous knowledge by observation, or report, or reading, or meditation; but because I had not known my own skill or strength for avoiding or encountering them, and had estimated it to be of some value instead of none. The Lord, however, laughed at me, and was pleased to show me by actual experience what I am.

3. But if He has done this not in judgment, but in mercy, as I confidently hope even now, when I have learned my infirmity, my duty is to study with diligence all the remedies which the Scriptures contain for such a case as mine, and to make it my business by prayer and reading to secure that my soul be endued with the health and vigour necessary for labours so responsible. This I have not yet done, because I have not had time; for I was ordained at the very time when I was thinking of having, along with others, a season of freedom from all other occupation, that we might acquaint ourselves with the divine Scriptures, and was intending to make such arrangements as would secure unbroken leisure for this great work. Moreover, it is true that I did not at any earlier period know how great was my unfitness for the arduous work which now disquiets and crushes my spirit. But if I have by experience learned what is necessary for a man who ministers to a people in the divine sacraments and word, only to find myself prevented from now obtaining what I have learned that I do not possess, do you bid me perish, father Valerius? Where is your charity? Do you indeed love me? Do you indeed love the Church to which you have appointed me, thus unqualified, to minister? I am well assured that you love both; but you think me qualified, whilst I know myself better; and yet I would not have come to know myself if I had not learned by experience.

4. Perhaps your Holiness replies: I wish to know what is lacking to fit you for your office. The things which I lack are so many, that I could more easily enumerate the things which I have than those which I desire to have. I may venture to say that I know and unreservedly believe the doctrines pertaining to our salvation. But my difficulty is in the question how I am to use this truth in ministering to the salvation of others, seeking what is profitable not for myself alone, but for many, that they may be saved. And perhaps there may be, nay, beyond all question there are, written in the sacred books, counsels by the knowledge and acceptance of which the man of God may so discharge his duties to the Church in the things of God, or at least so keep a conscience void of offence in the midst of ungodly men, whether living or dying, as to secure that that life for which alone humble and meek Christian hearts sigh is not lost. But how can this be done, except, as the Lord Himself tells us, by asking, seeking, knocking, that is, by praying, reading, and weeping? For this I have by the brethren made the request, which in this petition I now renew, that a short time, say till Easter, be granted me by your unfeigned and venerable charity.

5. For what shall I answer to the Lord my Judge? Shall I say, "I was not able to acquire the things of which I stood in need, because I was engrossed wholly with the affairs of the Church"? What if He thus reply: "Thou wicked servant, if property belonging to the Church (in the collection of the fruits of which great labour is expended) were suffering loss under some oppressor, and it was in thy power to do something in defence of her rights at the bar of an earthly judge, wouldst thou not, leaving the field which I have watered with my blood, go to plead the cause with the consent of all, and even with the urgent commands of some? And if the decision given were against the Church, wouldst thou not, in prosecuting an appeal, go across the sea; and would no complaint be heard summoning thee home from an absence of a year or more, because thy object was to prevent another from taking possession of land required not for the souls, but for the bodies of the poor, whose hunger might nevertheless be satisfied in a way much easier and more acceptable to me by my living trees, if these were cultivated with care? Wherefore, then, dost thou allege that thou hadst not time to learn how to cultivate my field?" Tell me, I beseech you, what could I reply? Are you perchance willing that I should say, "The aged Valerius is to blame; for, believing me to be instructed in all things necessary, he declined, with a determination proportioned to his love for me, to give me permission to learn what I had not acquired?"

6. Consider all these things, aged Valerius; consider them, I beseech you, by the goodness and severity of Christ, by His mercy and judgment, by Him who has inspired you with such love for me that I dare not displease you, even when the advantage of my soul is at stake. You, moreover, appeal to God and to Christ to bear witness to me concerning your innocence and charity, and the sincere love which you bear to me, just as if all these were not things about which I may myself willingly take my oath. I therefore appeal to the love and affection which you have thus avouched. Have pity on me, and grant me, for the purpose for which I have asked it, the time which I have asked; and help me with your prayers, that my desire may not be in vain, and that my absence may not be without fruit to the Church of Christ, and to the profit of my brethren and fellow-servants. I know that the Lord will not despise your love interceding for me, especially in such a cause as this; and accepting it as a sacrifice of sweet savour, He will restore me to you, perhaps, within a period shorter than I have craved, thoroughly furnished for His service by the profitable counsels of His written word.

Footnotes

[1480] [A most noble sentence, which contains, as in a nutshell, a whole system of pastoral theology.--P.S.] [1481] They thought Augustin was disappointed at being made only presbyter and not colleague of Valerius as bishop. See Possidius, Aug. Vita, c. 4.


Letter XXII.

(a.d. 392.)

To Bishop Aurelius, Augustin, Presbyter, Sends Greeting.

Chap. I.

1. When, after long hesitation, I knew not how to frame a suitable reply to the letter of your Holiness (for all attempts to express my feelings were baffled by the strength of affectionate emotions which, rising spontaneously, were by the reading of your letter much more vehemently inflamed), I cast myself at last upon God, that He might, according to my strength, so work in me that I might address to you such an answer as should be suitable to the zeal for the Lord and the care of His Church which we have in common, and in accordance with your dignity and the respect which is due to you from me. And, first of all, as to your belief that you are aided by my prayers, I not only do not decline this assurance, but I do even willingly accept it. For thus, though not through my prayers, assuredly in yours, our Lord will hear me. As to your most benignant approval of the conduct of brother Alypius in remaining in connection with us, to be an example to the brethren who desire to withdraw themselves from this world's cares, I thank you more warmly than words can declare. May the Lord recompense this to your own soul! The whole company, therefore, of brethren which has begun to grow up together beside me, is bound to you by gratitude for this great favour; in bestowing which, you, being far separated from us only by distance on the surface of the earth, have consulted our interest as one in spirit very near to us. Wherefore, to the utmost of our power we give ourselves to prayer that the Lord may be pleased to uphold along with you the flock which has been committed to you, and may never anywhere forsake you, but be present as your help in all times of need, showing in His dealings with His Church, through your discharge of priestly functions, such mercy as spiritual men with tears and groanings implore Him to manifest.

2. Know, therefore, most blessed lord, venerable for the superlative fulness of your charity, that I do not despair, but rather cherish lively hope that, by means of that authority which you wield, and which, as we trust, has been committed to your spirit, not to your flesh alone, our Lord and God may be able, through the respect due to councils [1482] and to yourself, to bring healing to the many carnal blemishes and disorders which the African Church is suffering in the conduct of many, and is bewailing in the sorrow of a few of her members. For whereas the apostle had in one passage briefly set forth as fit to be hated and avoided three classes of vices, from which there springs an innumerable crop of vicious courses, only one of these--that, namely, which he has placed second--is very strictly punished by the Church; but the other two, viz. the first and third, appear to be tolerable in the estimation of men, and so it may gradually come to pass that they shall even cease to be regarded as vices. The words of the chosen vessel are these: "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." [1483]

3. Of these three, then, chambering and wantonness are regarded as crimes so great, that any one stained with these sins is deemed unworthy not merely of holding office in the Church, but also of participation in the sacraments; and rightly so. But why restrict such censure to this form of sin alone? For rioting and drunkenness are so tolerated and allowed by public opinion, that even in services designed to honour the memory of the blessed martyrs, and this not only on the annual festivals (which itself must be regarded as deplorable by every one who looks with a spiritual eye upon these things), but every day, they are openly practised. Were this corrupt practice objectionable only because of its being disgraceful, and not on the ground of impiety, we might consider it as a scandal to be tolerated with such amount of forbearance as is within our power. And yet, even in that case, what are we to make of the fact that, when the same apostle had given a long list of vices, among which he mentioned drunkenness, he concluded with the warning that we should not even eat bread with those who are guilty of such things? [1484] But let us, if it must be so, bear with these things in the luxury and disorder of families, and of those convivial meetings which are held within the walls of private houses; and let us take the body of Christ in communion with those with whom we are forbidden to eat even the bread which sustains our bodies; but at least let this outrageous insult be kept far away from the tombs of the sainted dead, from the scenes of sacramental privilege, and from the houses of prayer. For who may venture to forbid in private life excesses which, when they are practised by crowds in holy places, are called an honouring of the martyrs?

4. If Africa were the first country in which an attempt were made to put down these things, her example would deserve to be esteemed worthy of imitation by all other countries; [1485] but when, both throughout the greater part of Italy and in all or almost all the churches beyond the sea, these practices either, as in some places, never existed, or, as in other places where they did exist, have been, whether they were recent or of long standing, rooted out and put down by the diligence and the censures of bishops who were holy men, entertaining true views concerning the life to come;--when this, I say, is the case, do we hesitate as to the possibility of removing this monstrous defect in our morals, after an example has been set before us in so many lands? Moreover, we have as our bishop a man belonging to those parts, for which we give thanks earnestly to God; although he is a man of such moderation and gentleness, in fine, of such prudence and zeal in the Lord, that even had he been a native of Africa, the persuasion would have been wrought in him by the Scriptures, that a remedy must be applied to the wound which this loose and disorderly custom has inflicted. But so wide and deep is the plague caused by this wickedness, that, in my opinion, it cannot be completely cured without interposition of a council's authority. If, however, a beginning is to be made by one church, it seems to me, that as it would be presumptuous for any other church to attempt to change what the Church of Carthage still maintained, so would it also be the height of effrontery for any other to wish to persevere in a course which the Church of Carthage had condemned. And for such a reform in Carthage, what better bishop could be desired than the prelate who, while he was a deacon, solemnly denounced these practices?

5. But that over which you then sorrowed you ought now to suppress, not harshly, but as it is written, "in the spirit of meekness." [1486] Pardon my boldness, for your letter revealing to me your true brotherly love gives me such confidence, that I am encouraged to speak as freely to you as I would to myself. These offences are taken out of the way, at least in my judgment, by other methods than harshness, severity, and an imperious mode of dealing,--namely, rather by teaching than by commanding, rather by advice than by denunciation. [1487] Thus at least we must deal with the multitude; in regard to the sins of a few, exemplary severity must be used. And if we do employ threats, let this be done sorrowfully, supporting our threatenings of coming judgment by the texts of Scripture, so that the fear which men feel through our words may be not of us in our own authority, but of God Himself. Thus an impression shall be made in the first place upon those who are spiritual, or who are nearest to that state of mind; and then by means of the most gentle, but at the same time most importunate exhortations, the opposition of the rest of the multitude shall be broken down. [1488]

6. Since, however, these drunken revels and luxurious feasts in the cemeteries are wont to be regarded by the ignorant and carnal multitude as not only an honour to the martyrs, but also a solace to the dead, it appears to me that they might be more easily dissuaded from such scandalous and unworthy practices in these places, if, besides showing that they are forbidden by Scripture, we take care, in regard to the offerings for the spirits of those who sleep, which indeed we are bound to believe to be of some use, that they be not sumptuous beyond what is becoming respect for the memory of the departed, and that they be distributed without ostentation, and cheerfully to all who ask a share of them; also that they be not sold, but that if any one desires to offer any money as a religious act, it be given on the spot to the poor. Thus the appearance of neglecting the memory of their deceased friends, which might cause them no small sorrow of heart, shall be avoided, and that which is a pious and honourable act of religious service shall be celebrated as it should be in the Church. This may suffice meanwhile in regard to rioting and drunkenness.

Chap. II.

7. As to "strife and deceit," [1489] what right have I to speak, seeing that these vices prevail more seriously among our own order than among our congregations? Let me, however, say that the source of these evils is pride, and a desire for the praises of men, which also frequently produces hypocrisy. This is successfully resisted only by him who is penetrated with love and fear of God, through the multiplied declarations of the divine books; provided, however, that such a man exhibit in himself a pattern both of patience and of humility, by assuming as his due less praise and honour than is offered to him: at the same time neither accepting all nor refusing all that is rendered to him by those who honour him; and as to the portion which he does accept, receiving it not for his own sake, seeing that he ought to live wholly in the sight of God and to despise human applause, but for the sake of those whose welfare he cannot promote if by too great self-abasement he lose his place in their esteem. For to this pertains that word, "Let no man despise thy youth;" [1490] while he who said this says also in another place, "If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." [1491]

8. It is a great matter not to exult in the honours and praises which come from men, but to reject all vain pomp; and, if some of this be necessary, to make whatever is thus retained contribute to the benefit and salvation of those who confer the honour. For it has not been said in vain, "God will break the bones of those who seek to please men." [1492] For what could be feebler, what more destitute of the firmness and strength which the bones here spoken of figuratively represent, than the man who is prostrated by the tongue of slanderers, although he knows that the things spoken against him are false? The pain arising from this thing would in no wise rend the bowels of his soul, if its bones had not been broken by the love of praise. I take for granted your strength of mind: therefore it is to myself that I say those things which I am now stating to you. Nevertheless you are willing, I believe, to consider along with me how important and how difficult these things are. For the man who has not declared war against this enemy has no idea of its power; for if it be comparatively easy to dispense with praise so long as it is denied to him, it is difficult to forbear from being captivated with praise when it is offered. And yet the hanging of our minds upon God ought to be so great, that we would at once correct those with whom we may take that liberty, when we are by them undeservedly praised, so as to prevent them from either thinking us to possess what is not in us, or regarding that as ours which belongs to God, or commending us for things which, though we have them, and perhaps have them in abundance, are nevertheless in their nature not worthy of commendation, such as are all those good things which we have in common with the lower animals or with wicked men. If, however, we are deservedly praised on account of what God has given us, let us congratulate those to whom what is really good yields pleasure; but let us not congratulate ourselves on the fact of our pleasing men, but on the fact of our being (if it is the case) such in the sight of God as we are in their esteem, and because praise is given not to us, but to God, who is the giver of all things which are truly and justly praised. These things are daily repeated to me by myself, or rather by Him from whom proceed all profitable instructions, whether they are found in the reading of the divine word or are suggested from within to the mind; and yet, although strenuously contending with my adversary, I often receive wounds from him when I am unable to put away from myself the fascinating power of the praise which is offered to me.

9. These things I have written, in order that, if they are not now necessary for your Holiness (your own thoughts suggesting to you other and more useful considerations of this kind, or your Holiness being above the need of such remedies), my disorders at least may be known to you, and you may know that which may move you to deign to plead with God for me as my infirmity demands: and I beseech you, by the humanity of Him who hath commanded us to bear each other's burdens, that you offer such intercession most importunately on my behalf. There are many things in regard to my life and conversation, of which I will not write, which I would confess with tears if we were so situated that nothing was required but my mouth and your ears as the means of communication between my heart and your heart. If, however, the aged Saturninus, venerated by us and beloved by all here with unreserved and unfeigned affection, whose brotherly love and devotion to you I observed when I was with you,--if he, I say, is pleased to visit us so soon as he finds it convenient, whatever converse we may be able to enjoy with that holy and spiritually-minded man shall be esteemed by us very little, if at all, different from personal conference with your Excellency. With entreaties too earnest for words to express their urgency, I beg you to condescend to join us in asking and obtaining from him this favour. For the people of Hippo fear much, and far more than they ought, to let me go to so great a distance from them, and will on no account trust me by myself so far as to permit me to see the field given by your care and generosity to the brethren, of which, before your letter came, we had heard through our brother and fellow-servant Parthenius, from whom we have also learned many other things which we longed to know. The Lord will accomplish the fulfilment of all the other things which we still desiderate.

Footnotes

[1482] We adopt the conjectural reading "conciliorum." Compare sec. 4, p. 240. [1483] Rom. xiii. 13, 14. [1484] 1 Cor. v. 11. [1485] Manifestly the correct punctuation here is: Hæc si prima Africa tentaret auferre, a cæteris terris imitatione digna esse deberet. [1486] Gal. vi. 1. [1487] Magis monendo quam minando. [1488] One may see in Letter XXIX. how admirably Augustin illustrated in his own practice the directions here given. [1489] "De contentione et dolo" is Augustin's translation of the words in Rom. xiii. 13. [1490] 1 Tim. iv. 12. [1491] Gal. i. 10. [1492] Ps. lii. 6, Sept.


Letter XXIII.

(a.d. 392.)

To Maximin, My Well-Beloved Lord and Brother, Worthy of Honour, Augustin, Presbyter of the Catholic Church, Sends Greeting in the Lord.

1. Before entering on the subject on which I have resolved to write to your Grace, I shall briefly state my reasons for the terms used in the title of this letter, lest these should surprise either yourself or any other person. I have written "to my lord," because it is written: "Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another." [1493] Seeing, therefore, that in this duty of writing to you I am actually by love serving you, I do only what is reasonable in calling you "my lord," for the sake of that one true Lord who gave us this command. Again, as to my having written "well-beloved," God knoweth that I not only love you, but love you as I love myself; for I am well aware that I desire for you the very blessings which I am fain to make my own. As to my adding the words "worthy of honour," I did not mean, by adding this, to say that I honour your episcopal office, for to me you are not a bishop; and this I trust you will take as spoken with no intention to give offence, but from the conviction that in our mouth Yea should be Yea, and Nay, Nay: for neither you nor any one who knows us can fail to know that you are not my bishop, and, I am not your presbyter. "Worthy of honour" I therefore willingly call you on this ground, that I know you to be a man; and I know that man was made in the image and likeness of God, and is placed in honour by the very order and law of nature, if by understanding the things which he ought to understand he retain his honour. For it is written, "Man being placed in honour did not understand: he is compared to the brutes devoid of reason, and is made like unto them." [1494] Why then may I not address you as worthy of honour, inasmuch as you are a man, especially since I dare not despair of your repentance and salvation so long as you are in this life? Moreover, as to my calling you "brother," you are well acquainted with the precept divinely given to us, according to which we are to say, "Ye are our brethren," even to those who deny that they are our brethren; and this has much to do with the reason which has made me resolve to write to you, my brother. Now that the reason for my making such an introduction to my letter has been given, I bespeak your calm attention to what follows.

2. When I was in your district, and was with all my power expressing my abhorrence of the sad and deplorable custom followed by men who, though they boast of the name of Christians, do not hesitate to rebaptize Christians, there were not wanting some who said in praise of you, that you do not conform to this custom. I confess that at first I did not believe them; but afterwards, considering that it was possible for the fear of God to take possession of a human soul exercised in meditation upon the life to come, in such a way as to restrain a man from most manifest wickedness, I believed their statement, rejoicing that by holding such a resolution you showed yourself averse to complete alienation from the Catholic Church. I was even on the outlook for an opportunity of conversing with you, in order that, if it were possible, the small difference which still remained between us might be taken away, when, behold, a few days ago it was reported to me that you had rebaptized a deacon of ours belonging to Mutugenna! I was deeply grieved both for his melancholy fall and for your sin, my brother, which surprised and disappointed me. For I know what the Catholic Church is. The nations are Christ's inheritance, and the ends of the earth are His possession. You also know what the Catholic Church is; or if you do not know it, apply your attention to discern it, for it may be very easily known by those who are willing to be taught. Therefore, to rebaptize even a heretic who has received in baptism the seal of holiness which the practice [1495] of the Christian Church has transmitted to us, is unquestionably a sin; but to rebaptize a Catholic is one of the worst of crimes. As I did not, however, believe the report, because I still retained my favourable impression of you, I went in person to Mutugenna. The miserable man himself I did not succeed in finding, but I learned from his parents that he had been made one of your deacons. Nevertheless I still think so favourably of you, that I will not believe that he has been rebaptized.

3. Wherefore, my beloved brother, I beseech you, by the divine and human natures of our Lord Jesus Christ, have the kindness to reply to this letter, telling me what has been done, and so to write as knowing that I intend to read your letter aloud to our brethren in the church. This I have written, lest, by afterwards doing that which you did not expect me to do, I should give offence to your Charity, and give you occasion for making a just complaint against me to our common friends. What can reasonably prevent you from answering this letter I do not see. For if you do rebaptize, you have nothing to apprehend from your colleagues when you write that you are doing that which they would command you to do even if you were unwilling; and if you, moreover, defend this by the best arguments known to you, as a thing which ought to be done, your colleagues, so far from being displeased on this account, will praise you. But if you do not rebaptize, hold fast your Christian liberty, my brother Maximin; hold it fast, I implore you: fixing your eye on Christ, fear not the censure, tremble not before the power of any man. Fleeting is the honour of this world, and fleeting are all the objects to which earthly ambition aspires. Neither thrones ascended by flights of steps, [1496] nor canopied pulpits, [1497] nor processions and chantings of crowds of consecrated virgins, shall be admitted as available for the defence of those who have now these honours, when at the judgment-seat of Christ conscience shall begin to lift its accusing voice, and He who is the Judge of the consciences of men shall pronounce the final sentence. What is here esteemed an honour shall then be a burden: what uplifts men here, shall weigh heavily on them in that day. Those things which meanwhile are done for the Church's welfare as tokens of respect to us, shall then be vindicated, it may be, by a conscience void of offence; but they will avail nothing as a screen for a guilty conscience.

4. If, then, it be indeed the case that, under the promptings of a devout and pious mind, you abstain from dispensing a second baptism, and rather accept the baptism of the Catholic Church as the act of the one true Mother, who to all nations both offers a welcome to her bosom, that they may be regenerated, and gives a mother's nourishment to them when they are regenerated, and as the token of admission into Christ's one possession, which reaches to the ends of the earth; if, I say, you indeed do this, why do you not break forth into a joyful and independent confession of your sentiments? Why do you hide under a bushel the lamp which might so profitably shine? Why do you not rend and cast from you the old sordid livery of your craven-hearted bondage, and go forth clad in the panoply of Christian boldness, saying, "I know but one baptism consecrated and sealed with the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost: this sacrament, wherever I find it, I am bound to acknowledge and approve; I do not destroy what I discern to be my Lord's; I do not treat with dishonour the banner of my King"? Even the men who parted the raiment of Christ among them did not rudely rend in pieces the seamless robe; [1498] and they were men who had not then any faith in Christ's resurrection; nay, they were witnessing His death. If, then, persecutors forbore from rending the vesture of Christ when He was hanging upon the cross, why should Christians destroy the sacrament of His institution now when He is sitting in heaven upon His throne? Had I been a Jew in the time of that ancient people, when there was nothing better that I could be, I would undoubtedly have received circumcision. That "seal of the righteousness which is by faith" was of so great importance in that dispensation before it was abrogated [1499] by the Lord's coming, that the angel would have strangled the infant-child of Moses, had not the child's mother, seizing a stone, circumcised the child, and by this sacrament averted impending death. [1500] This sacrament also arrested the waters of the Jordan, and made them flow back towards their source. This sacrament the Lord Himself received in infancy, although He abrogated it when He was crucified. For these signs of spiritual blessings were not condemned, but gave place to others which were more suitable to the later dispensation. For as circumcision was abolished by the first coming of the Lord, so baptism shall be abolished by His second coming. For as now, since the liberty of faith has come, and the yoke of bondage has been removed, no Christian receives circumcision in the flesh; so then, when the just are reigning with the Lord, and the wicked have been condemned, no one shall be baptized, but the reality which both ordinances prefigure--namely, circumcision of the heart and cleansing of the conscience--shall be eternally abiding. If, therefore, I had been a Jew in the time of the former dispensation, and there had come to me a Samaritan who was willing to become a Jew, abandoning the error which the Lord Himself condemned when He said, "Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews;" [1501] --if, I say, a Samaritan whom Samaritans had circumcised had expressed his willingness to become a Jew, there would have been no scope for the boldness which would have insisted on the repetition of the rite; and instead of this, we would have been compelled to approve of that which God had commanded, although it had been done by heretics. But if, in the flesh of a circumcised man, I could not find place for the repetition of the circumcision, because there is but one member which is circumcised, much less is place found in the one heart of man for the repetition of the baptism of Christ. Ye, therefore, who wish to baptize twice, must seek as subjects of such double baptism men who have double hearts.

5. Publish frankly, therefore, that you are doing what is right, if it be the case that you do not rebaptize; and write me to that effect, not only without fear, but with joy. Let no Councils of your party deter you, my brother, from this step: for if this displease them, they are not worthy to have you among them; but if it please them, we trust that there shall soon be peace between you and us, through the mercy of our Lord, who never forsakes those who fear to displease Him, and who labour to do what is acceptable in His sight; and let not our honours--a dangerous burden, of which an account must yet be given--be a hindrance, making it unhappily impossible for our people who believe in Christ, and who share with one another in daily bread at home, to sit down at the same table of Christ. Do we not grievously lament that husband and wife do in most cases, when marriage makes them one flesh, vow mutual fidelity in the name of Christ, and yet rend asunder Christ's own body by belonging to separate communions? If, by your moderate measures and wisdom, and by your exercise of that love which we all owe to Him who shed His blood for us, this schism, which is such a grievous scandal, causing Satan to triumph and many souls to perish, be taken out of the way in these parts, who can adequately express how illustrious is the reward which the Lord prepares for you, in that from you should proceed an example which, if imitated, as it may so easily be, would bring health to all His other members, which throughout the whole of Africa are lying now miserably exhausted? How much I fear lest, since you cannot see my heart, I appear to you to speak rather in irony than in the sincerity of love! But what more can I do than present my words before your eye, and my heart before God?

6. Let us put away from between us those vain objections which are wont to be thrown at each other by the ignorant on either side. Do not on your part cast up to me the persecutions of Macarius. I, on mine, will not reproach you with the excesses of the Circumcelliones. If you are not to blame for the latter, neither am I for the former; they pertain not to us. The Lord's floor is not yet purged--it cannot be without chaff; be it ours to pray, and to do what in us lies that we may be good grain. I could not pass over in silence the rebaptizing of our deacon; for I know how much harm my silence might do to myself. For I do not propose to spend my time in the empty enjoyment of ecclesiastical dignity; but I propose to act as mindful of this, that to the one Chief Shepherd I must give account of the sheep committed unto me. If you would rather that I should not thus write to you, you must, my brother, excuse me on the ground of my fears; for I do fear greatly, lest, if I were silent and concealed my sentiments, others might be rebaptized by you. I have resolved, therefore, with such strength and opportunity as the Lord may grant, so to manage this discussion, that by our peaceful conferences, all who belong to our communion may know how far apart from heresy and schism is the position of the Catholic Church, and with what care they should guard against the destruction which awaits the tares and the branches cut off from the Lord's vine. If you willingly accede to such conference with me, by consenting to the public reading of the letters of both, I shall unspeakably rejoice. If this proposal is displeasing to you, what can I do, my brother, but read our letters, even without your consent, to the Catholic congregation, with a view to its instruction? But if you do not condescend to write me a reply, I am resolved at least to read my own letter, that, when your misgivings as to your procedure are known, others may be ashamed to be rebaptized.

7. I shall not, however, do this in the presence of the soldiery, lest any of you should think that I wish to act in a violent way, rather than as the interests of peace demand; but only after their departure, that all who hear me may understand, that I do not propose to compel men to embrace the communion of any party, but desire the truth to be made known to persons who, in their search for it, are free from disquieting apprehensions. On our side there shall be no appeal to men's fear of the civil power; on your side, let there be no intimidation by a mob of Circumcelliones. Let us attend to the real matter in debate, and let our arguments appeal to reason and to the authoritative teaching of the Divine Scriptures, dispassionately and calmly, so far as we are able; let us ask, seek, and knock, that we may receive and find, and that to us the door may be opened, and thereby may be achieved, by God's blessing on our united efforts and prayers, the first towards the entire removal from our district of that impiety which is such a disgrace to Africa. If you do not believe that I am willing to postpone the discussion until after the soldiery have left, you may delay your answer until they have gone; and if, while they are still here, I should wish to read my own letter to the people, the production of the letter will of itself convict me of breaking my word. May the Lord in His mercy prevent me from acting in a way so contrary to morality, and to the good resolutions with which, by laying His yoke on me, He has been pleased to inspire me!

8. My bishop would perhaps have preferred to send a letter himself to your Grace, if he had been here; or my letter would have been written, if not by his order, at least with his sanction. But in his absence, seeing that the rebaptizing of this deacon is said to have occurred recently, I have not by delay allowed the feelings caused by the action to cool down, being moved by the promptings of the keenest anguish on account of what I regard as really the death of a brother. This my grief the compensating joy of reconciliation between us and you may perhaps be appointed to heal, through the help of the mercy and providence of our Lord. May the Lord our God grant thee a calm and conciliatory spirit, my dearly beloved lord and brother!

Footnotes

[1493] Gal. v. 13. [1494] Ps. xlix. 12, version of the LXX. [1495] Disciplina. [1496] Absidæ gradatæ. [1497] Cathedræ velatæ. [1498] John xix. 24. [1499] Evacuaretur. [1500] Ex. iv. 24, 25. Augustin believes that the angel sought to slay, not Moses, but the child, for which he gives reasons in his Quæstiones in Exodum. See Rosenmüller, Scholia. [1501] John iv. 22.


Letter XXIV.

This letter, written in 394 to Alypius by Paulinus, owes its place in the collection of Augustin's letters to the notice of the treatises written by Augustin against the Manichæans, and its connection with the following letter addressed by Paulinus to Augustin himself. It is obviously one of those which, in making a selection of letters, may be safely omitted.


Letter XXV.

(a.d. 394.)

To Augustin, Our Lord and Brother Beloved and Venerable, from Paulinus and Therasia, Sinners.

1. The love of Christ which constrains us, and which unites us, though separated by distance, in the bond of a common faith, has itself emboldened me to dismiss my fear and address a letter to you; and it has given you a place in my inmost heart by means of your writings--so full of the stores of learning, so sweet with celestial honey, the medicine and the nourishment of my soul. These I at present have in five books, which, through the kindness of our blessed and venerable Bishop Alypius, I received, not only as a means of my own instruction, but for the use of the Church in many towns. These books I am now reading: in them I take great delight: in them I find food, not that which perisheth, but that which imparts the substance of eternal life through our faith, whereby we are in our Lord Jesus Christ made members of His body; for the writings and examples of the faithful do greatly strengthen that faith which, not looking at things seen, longs after things not seen with that love which accepts implicitly all things which are according to the truth of the omnipotent God. O true salt of the earth, by which our hearts are preserved from being corrupted by the errors of the world! O light worthy of your place on the candlestick of the Church, diffusing widely in the Catholic towns the brightness of a flame fed by the oil of the seven-branched lamp of the upper sanctuary, you also disperse even the thick mists of heresy, and rescue the light of truth from the confusion of darkness by the beams of your luminous demonstrations.

2. You see, my brother beloved, esteemed, and welcomed in Christ our Lord, with what intimacy I claim to know you, with what amazement I admire and with what love I embrace you, seeing that I enjoy daily converse with you by the medium of your writings, and am fed by the breath of your mouth. For your mouth I may justly call a pipe conveying living water, and a channel from the eternal fountain; for Christ has become in you a fountain of "living water springing up into eternal life." [1502] Through desire for this my soul thirsted within me, and my parched ground longed to be flooded with the fulness of your river. Since, therefore, you have armed me completely by this your Pentateuch against the Manichæans, if you have prepared any treatises in defence of the Catholic faith against other enemies (for our enemy, with his thousand pernicious stratagems, must be defeated by weapons as various as the artifices by which he assails us), I beg you to bring these forth from your armoury for me, and not refuse to furnish me with the "armour of righteousness." For I am oppressed even now in my work with a heavy burden, being, as a sinner, a veteran in the ranks of sinners, but an untrained recruit in the service of the King eternal. The wisdom of this world I have unhappily hitherto regarded with admiration, and, devoting myself to literature which I now see to be unprofitable, and wisdom which I now reject, I was in the sight of God foolish and dumb. When I had become old in the fellowship of my enemies, and had laboured in vain in my thoughts, I lifted mine eyes to the mountains, looking up to the precepts of the law and to the gifts of grace, whence my help came from the Lord, who, not requiting me according to mine iniquity, enlightened my blindness, loosed my bonds, humbled me who had been sinfully exalted, in order that He might exalt me when graciously humbled.

3. Therefore I follow, with halting pace indeed as yet, the great examples of the just, if I may through your prayers apprehend that for which I have been apprehended by the compassion of God. Guide, therefore, this infant creeping on the ground, and by your steps teach him to walk. For I would not have you judge of me by the age which began with my natural birth, but by that which began with my spiritual new birth. For as to the natural life, my age is that which the cripple, healed by the apostles by the power of their word at the gate Beautiful, had attained. [1503] But with respect to the birth of my soul, mine is as yet the age of those infants who, being sacrificed by the death-blows which were aimed at Christ, preceded with blood worthy of such honour the offering of the Lamb, and were the harbingers of the passion of the Lord. [1504] Therefore, as I am but a babe in the word of God, and as to spiritual age a sucking child, satisfy my vehement desire by nourishing me with your words, the breasts of faith, and wisdom, and love. If you consider only the office which we both hold, you are my brother; but if you consider the ripeness of your understanding and other powers, you are, though my junior in years, a father to me; because the possession of a venerable wisdom has promoted you, though young, to a maturity of worth, and to the honour which belongs to those who are old. Foster and strengthen me, then, for I am, as I have said, but a child in the sacred Scriptures and in spiritual studies; and seeing that, after long contendings and frequent shipwreck, I have but little skill, and am even now with difficulty rising above the waves of this world, do you, who have already found firm footing on the shore, receive me into the safe refuge of your bosom, that, if it please you, we may together sail towards the harbour of salvation. Meanwhile, in my efforts to escape from the dangers of this life and the abyss of sin, support me by your prayers, as by a plank, that from this world I may escape as one does from a shipwreck, leaving all behind.

4. I have therefore been at pains to rid myself of all baggage and garments which might impede my progress, in order that, obedient to the command and sustained by the help of Christ, I may swim, unhindered by any clothing for the flesh or care for the morrow, across the sea of this present life, which, swelling with waves and echoing with the barking of our sins, like the dogs of Scylla, separates between us and God. I do not boast that I have accomplished this: even if I might so boast, I would glory only in the Lord, whose it is to accomplish what it is our part to desire; but my soul is in earnest that the judgments of the Lord be her chief desire. You can judge how far he is on the way to efficiently performing the will of God, who is desirous that he may desire to perform it. Nevertheless, so far as in me lies, I have loved the beauty of His sanctuary, and, if left to myself, would have chosen to occupy the lowest place in the Lord's house. But to Him who was pleased to separate me from my mother's womb, and to draw me away from the friendship of flesh and blood to His grace, it has seemed good to raise me from the earth and from the gulf of misery, though destitute of all merit, and to take me from the mire and from the dunghill, to set me among the princes of His people, and appoint my place in the same rank with yourself; so that, although you excel me in worth, I should be associated with you as your equal in office.

5. It is not therefore by my own presumption, but in accordance with the pleasure and appointment of the Lord, that I appropriate the honour of which I own myself unworthy, claiming for myself the bond of brotherhood with you; for I am persuaded, from the holiness of your character, that you are taught by the truth "not to mind high things, but to condescend to men of low estate." Therefore I hope that you will readily and kindly accept the assurance of the love which in humility we bear to you, and which, I trust, you have already received through the most blessed priest Alypius, whom (with his permission) we call our father. For he doubtless has himself given you an example of loving us both while we are yet strangers, and above our desert; for he has found it possible, in the spirit of far-reaching and self-diffusing genuine love, to behold us by affection, and to come in contact with us by writing, even when we were unknown to him, and severed by a wide interval both of land and sea. He has presented us with the first proofs of his affection to us, and evidences of your love, in the above-mentioned gift of books. And as he was greatly concerned that we should be constrained to ardent love for you, when known to us, not by his testimony alone, but more fully by the eloquence and the faith seen in your own writings; so do we believe that he has taken care, with equal zeal, to bring you to imitate his example in cherishing a very warm love towards us in return. O brother in Christ, beloved, venerable, and ardently longed for, we desire that the grace of God, as it is with you, may abide for ever. We salute, with the utmost affection of cordial brotherhood, your whole household, and every one who is in the Lord a companion and imitator of your holiness. We beg you to bless, in accepting it, one loaf which we have sent to your Charity, in token of our oneness of heart with you.

Footnotes

[1502] John iv. 14. [1503] Acts iii. 7 and iv. 22. [1504] Matt. ii. 16.


Letter XXVI.

(a.d. 395.)

To Licentius [1505] from Augustin.

1. I have with difficulty found an opportunity for writing to you: who would believe it? Yet Licentius must take my word for it. I do not wish you to search curiously for the causes and reasons of this; for though they could be given, your confidence in me acquits me of obligation to furnish them. Moreover, I received your letters by messengers who were not available for the carrying back of my reply. And as to the thing which you asked me to ask, I attended to it by letter as far as it seemed to me right to bring it forward; but with what result you may have seen. If I have not yet succeeded, I will press the matter more earnestly, either when the result comes to my knowledge, or when you yourself remind me of it. Thus far I have spoken to you of the things in which we hear the sound of the chains of this life. I pass from them. Receive now in a few words the utterance of my heart's anxieties concerning your hope for eternity, and the question how a way may be opened for you to God.

2. I fear, my dear Licentius, that you, while repeatedly rejecting and dreading the restraints of wisdom, as if these were bonds, are becoming firmly and fatally in bondage to mortal things. For wisdom, though at first it restrains men, and subdues them by some labours in the way of discipline, gives them presently true freedom, and enriches them, when free, with the possession and enjoyment of itself; and though at first it educates them by the help of temporary restraints, it folds them afterwards in its eternal embrace, the sweetest and strongest of all conceivable bonds. I admit, indeed, that these initial restraints are somewhat hard to bear; but the ultimate restraints of wisdom I cannot call grievous, because they are most sweet; nor can I call them easy, because they are most firm: in short, they possess a quality which cannot be described, but which can be the object of faith, and hope, and love. The bonds of this world, on the other hand, have a real harshness and a delusive charm, certain pain and uncertain pleasure, hard toil and troubled rest, an experience full of misery, and a hope devoid of happiness. And are you submitting neck and hands and feet to these chains, desiring to be burdened with honours of this kind, reckoning your labours to be in vain if they are not thus rewarded, and spontaneously aspiring to become fixed in that to which neither persuasion nor force ought to have induced you to go? Perhaps you answer, in the words of the slave in Terence,

"So ho, you are pouring out wise words here."

Receive my words, then, that I may pour them out without wasting them. But if I sing, while you prefer to dance to another tune, even thus I do not regret my effort to give advice; for the exercise of singing yields pleasure even when the song fails to stir to responsive motion the person for whom it is sung with loving care. There were in your letters some verbal mistakes which attracted my attention, but I judge it trifling to discuss these when solicitude about your actions and your whole life disturbs me.

3. If your verses were marred by defective arrangement, or violated the laws of prosody, or grated on the ears of the hearer by imperfect rhythm, you would doubtless be ashamed, and you would lose no time, you would take no rest, until you arranged, corrected, remodelled, and balanced your composition, devoting any amount of earnest study and toil to the acquisition and practice of the art of versification: but when you yourself are marred by disorderly living, when you violate the laws of God, when your life accords neither with the honourable desires of friends on your behalf, nor with the light given by your own learning, do you think this is a trifle to be cast out of sight and out of mind? As if, forsooth, you thought yourself of less value than the sound of your own voice, and esteemed it a smaller matter to displease God by ill-ordered life, than to provoke the censure of grammarians by ill-ordered syllables.

4. You write thus: "Oh that the morning light of other days could with its gladdening chariot bring back to me bright hours that are gone, which we spent together in the heart of Italy and among the high mountains, when proving the generous leisure and pure privileges which belong to the good! Neither stern winter with its frozen snow, nor the rude blasts of Zephyrs and raging of Boreas, could deter me from following your footsteps with eager tread. You have only to express your wish." [1506]

Woe be to me if I do not express this wish, nay, if I do not compel and command, or beseech and implore you to follow me. If, however, your ear is shut against my voice, let it be open to your own voice, and give heed to your own poem: listen to yourself, O friend, most unyielding, unreasonable, and unimpressible. What care I for your tongue of gold, while your heart is of iron? How shall I, not in verses, but in lamentations, sufficiently bewail these verses of yours, in which I discover what a soul, what a mind that is which I am not permitted to seize and present as an offering to our God? You are waiting for me to express the wish that you should become good, and enjoy rest and happiness: as if any day could shine more pleasantly on me than that in which I shall enjoy in God your gifted mind, or as if you did not know how I hunger and thirst for you, or as if you did not in this poem itself confess this. Return to the mind in which you wrote these things; say to me now again, "You have only to express your wish." Here then is my wish, if my expression of it be enough to move you to comply: Give yourself to me--give yourself to my Lord, who is the Lord of us both and who has endowed you with your faculties: for what am I but through Him your servant, and under Him your fellow-servant?

5. Nay, has not He given expression to His will? Hear the gospel: it declares, "Jesus stood and cried." [1507] "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: so shall ye find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." [1508] If these words are not heard, or are heard only with the ear, do you, Licentius, expect Augustin to issue his command to his fellow-servant, and not rather complain that the will of his Lord is despised, when He orders, nay invites, and as it were entreats all who labour to seek rest in Him? But to your strong and proud neck, forsooth, the yoke of the world seems easier than the yoke of Christ; yet consider, in regard to the yoke which He imposes, by whom and with what recompense it is imposed. Go to Campania, learn in the case of Paulinus, that eminent and holy servant of God, how great worldly honours he shook off, without hesitation, from neck truly noble because humble, in order that he might place it, as he has done, beneath the yoke of Christ; and now, with his mind at rest, he meekly rejoices in Him as the guide of his way. Go, learn with what wealth of mind he offers to Him the sacrifice of praise, rendering unto Him all the good which he has received from Him, lest, by failing to store all that he has in Him from whom he received it, he should lose it all.

6. Why are you so excited? why so wavering? why do you turn your ear away from us, and lend it to the imaginations of fatal pleasures? They are false, they perish, and they lead to perdition. They are false, Licentius. "May the truth," as you desire, "be made plain to us by demonstration, may it flow more clear than Eridanus." The truth alone declares what is true: Christ is the truth; let us come to Him that we may be released from labour. That He may heal us, let us take His yoke upon us, and learn of Him who is meek and lowly in heart, and we shall find rest unto our souls: for His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. The devil desires to wear you as an ornament. Now, if you found in the earth a golden chalice, you would give it to the Church of God. But you have received from God talents that are spiritually valuable as gold; and do you devote these to the service of your lusts, and surrender yourself to Satan? Do it not, I entreat you. May you at some time perceive with what a sad and sorrowful heart I have written these things; and I pray you, have pity on me if you have ceased to be precious in your own eyes.

Footnotes

[1505] Licentius, son of Romanianus, had been a pupil of Augustin when he was in retirement at Cassiacum. In this letter and in the next we see proofs of Augustin's pious solicitude for his welfare. [1506] Extract from a long poem, by Licentius, forming § 3 of the text. [1507] John vii. 37. [1508] Matt. xi. 28-30.


Letter XXVII.

(a.d. 395.)

To My Lord, Holy and Venerable, and Worthy of Highest Praise in Christ, My Brother Paulinus, Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

1. O excellent man and excellent brother, there was a time when you were unknown to my mind; and I charge my mind to bear patiently your being still unknown to my eyes, but it almost--nay, altogether--refuses to obey. Does it indeed bear this patiently? If so, why then does a longing for your presence rack my inmost soul? For if I were suffering bodily infirmities, and these did not interrupt the serenity of my mind, I might be justly said to bear them patiently; but when I cannot bear with equanimity the privation of not seeing you, it would be intolerable were I to call my state of mind patience. Nevertheless, it would perhaps be still more intolerable if I were to be found patient while absent from you, seeing that you are such an one as you are. It is well, therefore, that I am unsatisfied under a privation which is such that, if I were satisfied under it, every one would justly be dissatisfied with me. What has befallen me is strange, yet true: I grieve because I do not see you, and my grief itself comforts me; for I neither admire nor covet a fortitude easily consoled under the absence of good men such as you are. For do we not long for the heavenly Jerusalem? and the more impatiently we long for it, do we not the more patiently submit to all things for its sake? Who can so withhold himself from joy in seeing you, as to feel no pain when you are no longer seen? I at least can do neither; and seeing that if I could, it could only be by trampling on right and natural feeling, I rejoice that I cannot, and in this rejoicing I find some consolation. It is therefore not the removal, but the contemplation, of this sorrow that consoles me. Blame me not, I beseech you, with that devout seriousness of spirit which so eminently distinguishes you; say not that I do wrong to grieve because of my not yet knowing you, when you have disclosed to my sight your mind, which is the inner man. For if, when sojourning in any place, or in the city to which you belong, I had come to know you as my brother and friend, and as one so eminent as a Christian, so noble as a man, how could you think that it would be no disappointment to me if I were not permitted to know your dwelling? How, then, can I but mourn because I have not yet seen your face and form, the dwelling-place of that mind which I have come to know as if it were my own?

2. For I have read your letter, which flows with milk and honey, which exhibits the simplicity of heart wherewith, under the guidance of piety, you seek the Lord, and which brings glory and honour to Him. The brethren have read it also, and find unwearied and ineffable satisfaction in those abundant and excellent gifts with which God has endowed you. As many as have read it carry it away with them, because, while they read, it carries them away. Words cannot express how sweet is the savour of Christ which your letter breathes. How strong is the wish to be more fully acquainted with you which that letter awakens by presenting you to our sight! for it at once permits us to discern and prompts us to desire you. For the more effectually that it makes us in a certain sense realize your presence, the more does it render us impatient under your absence. All love you as seen therein, and wish to be loved by you. Praise and thanksgiving are offered to God, by whose grace you are what you are. In your letter, Christ is awakened that He may be pleased to calm the winds and the waves for you, directing your steps towards His perfect stedfastness. [1509] In it the reader beholds a wife [1510] who does not bring her husband to effeminacy, but by union to him is brought herself to share the strength of his nature; and unto her in you, as completely one with you, and bound to you by spiritual ties which owe their strength to their purity, we desire to return our salutations with the respect due to your Holiness. In it, the cedars of Lebanon, levelled to the ground, and fashioned by the skilful craft of love into the form of the Ark, cleave the waves of this world, fearless of decay. In it, glory is scorned that it may be secured, and the world given up that it may be gained. In it, the little ones, yea, the mightier sons of Babylon, the sins of turbulence and pride, are dashed against the rock.

3. These and other such most delightful and hallowed spectacles are presented to the readers of your letter,--that letter which exhibits a true faith, a good hope, a pure love. How it breathes to us your thirst, your longing and fainting for the courts of the Lord! With what holy love it is inspired! How it overflows with the abundant treasure of a true heart! What thanksgivings it renders to God! What blessings it procures from Him! Is it elegance or fervour, light or life-giving power, which shines most in your letter? For how can it at once soothe us and animate us? how can it combine fertilizing rains with the brightness of a cloudless sky? How is this? I ask; or how shall I repay you, except by giving myself to be wholly yours in Him whose you wholly are? If this be little, it is at least all I have to give. But you have made me think it not little, by your deigning to honour me in that letter with such praises, that when I requite you by giving myself to you, I would be chargeable if I counted the gift a small one, with refusing to believe your testimony. I am ashamed, indeed, to believe so much good spoken of myself, but I am yet more unwilling to refuse to believe you. I have one way of escape from the dilemma: I shall not credit your estimate of my character, because I do not recognise myself in the portrait you have drawn; but I shall believe myself to be beloved by you, because I perceive and feel this beyond all doubt. Thus I shall be found neither rash in judging of myself, nor ungrateful for your esteem. Moreover, when I offer myself to you, it is not a small offering; for I offer one whom you very warmly love, and one who, though he is not what you suppose him to be, is nevertheless one for whom you are praying that he may become such. And your prayers I now beg the more earnestly, lest, thinking me to be already what I am not, you should be less solicitous for the supply of that which I lack.

4. The bearer of this letter [1511] to your Excellency and most eminent Charity is one of my dearest friends, and most intimately known to me from early years. His name is mentioned in the treatise De Religione, which your Holiness, as you indicate in your letter, has read with very great pleasure, doubtless because it was made more acceptable to you by the recommendation of so good a man as he who sent it to you. [1512] I would not wish you, however, to give credence to the statements which, perchance, one who is so intimately my friend may have made in praise of me. For I have often observed, that, without intending to say what was untrue, he was, by the bias of friendship, mistaken in his opinion concerning me, and that he thought me to be already possessed of many things, for the gift of which my heart earnestly waited on the Lord. And if he did such things in my presence, who may not conjecture that out of the fulness of his heart he may utter many things more excellent than true concerning me when absent? He will submit to your esteemed attention, and review all my treatises; for I am not aware of having written anything, either addressed to those who are beyond the pale of the Church, or to the brethren, which is not in his possession. But when you are reading these, my holy Paulinus, let not those things which Truth has spoken by my weak instrumentality, so carry you away as to prevent your carefully observing what I myself have spoken, lest, while you drink in with eagerness the things good and true which have been given to me as a servant, you should forget to pray for the pardon of my errors and mistakes. For in all that shall, if observed, justly displease you, I myself am seen; but in all which in my books is justly approved by you, through the gift of the Holy Spirit bestowed on you, He is to be loved, He is to be praised, with whom is the fountain of life, and in whose light we shall see light, [1513] not darkly as we do here, but face to face. [1514] When, in reading over my writings, I discover in them anything which is due to the working of the old leaven in me, I blame myself for it with true sorrow; but if anything which I have spoken is, by God's gift, from the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, I rejoice therein with trembling. For what have we that we have not received? Yet it may be said, his portion is better whom God has endowed with larger and more numerous gifts, than his on whom smaller and fewer have been conferred. True; but, on the other hand, it is better to have a small gift, and to render to Him due thanks for it, than, having a large gift, to wish to claim the merit of it as our own. Pray for me, my brother, that I may make such acknowledgments sincerely, and that my heart may not be at variance with my tongue. Pray, I beseech you, that, not coveting praise to myself, but rendering praise to the Lord, I may worship Him; and I shall be safe from mine enemies.

5. There is yet another thing which may move you to love more warmly the brother who bears my letter; for he is a kinsman of the venerable and truly blessed bishop Alypius, whom you love with your whole heart, and justly: for whoever thinks highly of that man, thinks highly of the great mercy and wonderful gifts which God has bestowed on him. Accordingly, when he had read your request, desiring him to write for you a sketch of his history, and, while willing to do it because of your kindness, was yet unwilling to do it because of his humility, I, seeing him unable to decide between the respective claims of love and humility, transferred the burden from his shoulders to my own, for he enjoined me by letter to do so. I shall therefore, with God's help, soon place in your heart Alypius just as he is: for this I chiefly feared, that he would be afraid to declare all that God has conferred on him, lest (since what he writes would be read by others besides you) he should seem to any who are less competent to discriminate to be commending not God's goodness bestowed on men, but his own merits; and that thus you, who know what construction to put on such statements, would, through his regard for the infirmity of others, be deprived of that which to you as a brother ought to be imparted. This I would have done already, and you would already be reading my description of him, had not my brother suddenly resolved to set out earlier than we expected. For him I bespeak a welcome from your heart and from your lips as kindly as if your acquaintance with him was not beginning now, but of as long standing as my own. For if he does not shrink from laying himself open to your heart, he will be in great measure, if not completely, healed by your lips; for I desire him to be often made to hear the words of those who cherish for their friends a higher love than that which is of this world.

6. Even if Romanianus had not been going to visit your Charity, I had resolved to recommend to you by letter his son [Licentius], dear to me as my own (whose name you will find also in some of my books), in order that he may be encouraged, exhorted, and instructed, not so much by the sound of your voice, as by the example of your spiritual strength. I desire earnestly, that while his life is yet in the green blade, the tares may be turned into wheat, and he may believe those who know by experience the dangers to which he is eager to expose himself. From the poem of my young friend, and my letter to him, your most benevolent and considerate wisdom may perceive my grief, fear, and care on his account. I am not without hope that, by the Lord's favour, I may through your means be set free from such disquietude regarding him.

As you are now about to read much that I have written, your love will be much more gratefully esteemed by me, if, moved by compassion, and judging impartially, you correct and reprove whatever displeases you. For you are not one whose oil anointing my head would make me afraid. [1515]

The brethren, not those only who dwell with us, and those who, dwelling elsewhere, serve God in the same way as we do, but almost all who are in Christ our warm friends, send you salutations, along with the expression of their veneration and affectionate longing for you as a brother, as a saint, and as a man. [1516] I dare not ask; but if you have any leisure from ecclesiastical duties, you may see for what favour all Africa, with myself, is thirsting.

Footnotes

[1509] Compare end of sec. 3 in Letter XXV. p. 246. [1510] Therasia. [1511] Romanianus. See De Religione, ch. vii. n. 12. [1512] Alypius. [1513] Ps. xxxvi. 10. [1514] 1 Cor. xiii. 12. [1515] The reference is to Ps. cxli. 5, the words of which translated from the LXX. version, are given in full in the succeeding letter. [1516] This may approximate to a translation of the three titles in the original, "Germanitas, Beatitudo, Humanitas tua."


Letter XXVIII.

(a.d. 394 OR 395.)

To Jerome, His Most Beloved Lord, and Brother and Fellow-Presbyter, Worthy of Being Honoured and Embraced with the Sincerest Affectionate Devotion, Augustin Sends Greeting. [1517]

Chap. I.

1. Never was the face of any one more familiar to another, than the peaceful, happy, and truly noble diligence of your studies in the Lord has become to me. For although I long greatly to be acquainted with you, I feel that already my knowledge of you is deficient in respect of nothing but a very small part of you,--namely, your personal appearance; and even as to this, I cannot deny that since my most blessed brother Alypius (now invested with the office of bishop, of which he was then truly worthy) has seen you, and has on his return been seen by me, it has been almost completely imprinted on my mind by his report of you; nay, I may say that before his return, when he saw you there, I was seeing you myself with his eyes. For any one who knows us may say of him and me, that in body only, and not in mind, we are two, so great is the union of heart, so firm the intimate friendship subsisting between us; though in merit we are not alike, for his is far above mine. Seeing, therefore, that you love me, both of old through the communion of spirit by which we are knit to each other, and more recently through what you know of me from the mouth of my friend, I feel that it is not presumptuous in me (as it would be in one wholly unknown to you) to recommend to your brotherly esteem the brother Profuturus, in whom we trust that the happy omen of his name (Good-speed) may be fulfilled through our efforts furthered after this by your aid; although, perhaps, it may be presumptuous on this ground, that he is so great a man, that it would be much more fitting that I should be commended to you by him, than he by me. I ought perhaps to write no more, if I were willing to content myself with the style of a formal letter of introduction; but my mind overflows into conference with you, concerning the studies with which we are occupied in Christ Jesus our Lord, who is pleased to furnish us largely through your love with many benefits, and some helps by the way, in the path which He has pointed out to His followers.

Chap. II.

2. We therefore, and with us all that are devoted to study in the African churches, beseech you not to refuse to devote care and labour to the translation of the books of those who have written in the Greek language most able commentaries on our Scriptures. You may thus put us also in possession of these men, and especially of that one whose name you seem to have singular pleasure in sounding forth in your writings [Origen]. But I beseech you not to devote your labour to the work of translating into Latin the sacred canonical books, unless you follow the method in which you have translated Job, viz. with the addition of notes, to let it be seen plainly what differences there are between this version of yours and that of the LXX., whose authority is worthy of highest esteem. For my own part, I cannot sufficiently express my wonder that anything should at this date be found in the Hebrew Mss. which escaped so many translators perfectly acquainted with the language. I say nothing of the LXX., regarding whose harmony in mind and spirit, surpassing that which is found in even one man, I dare not in any way pronounce a decided opinion, except that in my judgment, beyond question, very high authority must in this work of translation be conceded to them. I am more perplexed by those translators who, though enjoying the advantage of labouring after the LXX. had completed their work, and although well acquainted, as it is reported, with the force of Hebrew words and phrases, and with Hebrew syntax, have not only failed to agree among themselves, but have left many things which, even after so long a time, still remain to be discovered and brought to light. Now these things were either obscure or plain: if they were obscure, it is believed that you are as likely to have been mistaken as the others; if they were plain, it is not believed that they [the LXX.] could possibly have been mistaken. Having stated the grounds of my perplexity, I appeal to your kindness to give me an answer regarding this matter.

Chap. III.

3. I have been reading also some writings, ascribed to you, on the Epistles of the Apostle Paul. In reading your exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians, that passage came to my hand in which the Apostle Peter is called back from a course of dangerous dissimulation. To find there the defence of falsehood undertaken, whether by you, a man of such weight, or by any author (if it is the writing of another), causes me, I must confess, great sorrow, until at least those things which decide my opinion in the matter are refuted, if indeed they admit of refutation. For it seems to me that most disastrous consequences must follow upon our believing that anything false is found in the sacred books: that is to say, that the men by whom the Scripture has been given to us, and committed to writing, did put down in these books anything false. It is one question whether it may be at any time the duty of a good man to deceive; but it is another question whether it can have been the duty of a writer of Holy Scripture to deceive: nay, it is not another question--it is no question at all. For if you once admit into such a high sanctuary of authority one false statement as made in the way of duty, [1518] there will not be left a single sentence of those books which, if appearing to any one difficult in practice or hard to believe, may not by the same fatal rule be explained away, as a statement in which, intentionally, and under a sense of duty, the author declared what was not true.

4. For if the Apostle Paul did not speak the truth when, finding fault with the Apostle Peter, he said: "If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?"--if, indeed, Peter seemed to him to be doing what was right, and if, notwithstanding, he, in order to soothe troublesome opponents, both said and wrote that Peter did what was wrong; [1519] --if we say thus, what then shall be our answer when perverse men such as he himself prophetically described arise, forbidding marriage, [1520] if they defend themselves by saying that, in all which the same apostle wrote in confirmation of the lawfulness of marriage, [1521] he was, on account of men who, through love for their wives, might become troublesome opponents, declaring what was false,--saying these things, forsooth, not because he believed them, but because their opposition might thus be averted? It is unnecessary to quote many parallel examples. For even things which pertain to the praises of God might be represented as piously intended falsehoods, written in order that love for Him might be enkindled in men who were slow of heart; and thus nowhere in the sacred books shall the authority of pure truth stand sure. Do we not observe the great care with which the same apostle commends the truth to us, when he says: "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain: yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ; whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not." [1522] If any one said to him, "Why are you so shocked by this falsehood, when the thing which you have said, even if it were false, tends very greatly to the glory of God?" would he not, abhorring the madness of such a man, with every word and sign which could express his feelings, open clearly the secret depths of his own heart, protesting that to speak well of a falsehood uttered on behalf of God, was a crime not less, perhaps even greater, than to speak ill of the truth concerning Him? We must therefore be careful to secure, in order to our knowledge of the divine Scriptures, the guidance only of such a man as is imbued with a high reverence for the sacred books, and a profound persuasion of their truth, preventing him from flattering himself in any part of them with the hypothesis of a statement being made not because it was true, but because it was expedient, and making him rather pass by what he does not understand, than set up his own feelings above that truth. For, truly, when he pronounces anything to be untrue, he demands that he be believed in preference, and endeavours to shake our confidence in the authority of the divine Scriptures.

5. For my part, I would devote all the strength which the Lord grants me, to show that every one of those texts which are wont to be quoted in defence of the expediency of falsehood ought to be otherwise understood, in order that everywhere the sure truth of these passages themselves may be consistently maintained. For as statements adduced in evidence must not be false, neither ought they to favour falsehood. This, however, I leave to your own judgment. For if you apply more thorough attention to the passage, perhaps you will see it much more readily than I have done. To this more careful study that piety will move you, by which you discern that the authority of the divine Scriptures becomes unsettled (so that every one may believe what he wishes, and reject what he does not wish) if this be once admitted, that the men by whom these things have been delivered unto us, could in their writings state some things which were not true, from considerations of duty; [1523] unless, perchance, you propose to furnish us with certain rules by which we may know when a falsehood might or might not become a duty. If this can be done, I beg you to set forth these rules with reasonings which may be neither equivocal nor precarious; and I beseech you by our Lord, in whom Truth was incarnate, not to consider me burdensome or presumptuous in making this request. For a mistake of mine which is in the interest of truth cannot deserve great blame, if indeed it deserves blame at all, when it is possible for you to use truth in the interest of falsehood without doing wrong.

Chap. IV.

6. Of many other things I would wish to discourse with your most ingenuous heart, and to take counsel with you concerning Christian studies; but this desire could not be satisfied within the limits of any letter. I may do this more fully by means of the brother bearing this letter, whom I rejoice in sending to share and profit by your sweet and useful conversation. Nevertheless, although I do not reckon myself superior in any respect to him, even he may take less from you than I would desire; and he will excuse my saying so, for I confess myself to have more room for receiving from you than he has. I see his mind to be already more fully stored, in which unquestionably he excels me. Therefore, when he returns, as I trust he may happily do by God's blessing, and when I become a sharer in all with which his heart has been richly furnished by you, there will still be a consciousness of void unsatisfied in me, and a longing for personal fellowship with you. Hence of the two I shall be the poorer, and he the richer, then as now. This brother carries with him some of my writings, which if you condescend to read, I implore you to review them with candid and brotherly strictness. For the words of Scripture, "The righteous shall correct me in compassion, and reprove me; but the oil of the sinner shall not anoint my head," [1524] I understand to mean that he is the truer friend who by his censure heals me, than the one who by flattery anoints my head. I find the greatest difficulty in exercising a right judgment when I read over what I have written, being either too cautious or too rash. For I sometimes see my own faults, but I prefer to hear them reproved by those who are better able to judge than I am; lest after I have, perhaps justly, charged myself with error, I begin again to flatter myself, and think that my censure has arisen from an undue mistrust of my own judgment.

Footnotes

[1517] [The letters to Jerome, and Jerome's replies, are among the most interesting and important in this correspondence, especially those parts which relate to Jerome's revision of the Latin version of the Bible, and his interpretation of Gal. ii. 11-14. See Letters 40, 71, 72, 73, 75, 81, 82, 172, 195, 202. Augustin was inferior to Jerome in learning, especially as a linguist, but superior in Christian temper and humility. Jerome's false interpretation of the dispute between Paul and Peter at Antioch, which involved both apostles in hypocrisy, offended Augustin's keener sense of veracity. He here protests against it in this letter (ch. iii. ), and again in Letter 40, and thereby provokes Jerome's irritable temper. His last letters to Augustin, however, show sincere esteem and affection.--P. S.] [1518] Officiosum mendacium. [1519] Gal. ii. 11-14. [1520] 1 Tim. iv. 3. [1521] 1 Cor. vii. 10-16. [1522] 1 Cor. xv. 14, 15. [1523] Aliqua officiose mentiri. [1524] Ps. cxli. 5, translated from the Septuagint.


Letter XXIX.

(a.d. 395.)

A Letter from the Presbyter of the District of Hippo to Alypius the Bishop of Thagaste, Concerning the Anniversary of the Birth of Leontius, [1525] Formerly Bishop of Hippo.

1. In the absence of brother Macharius, I have not been able to write anything definite concerning a matter about which I could not feel otherwise than anxious: it is said, however, that he will soon return, and whatever can be with God's help done in the matter shall be done. Although also our brethren, citizens of your town, who were with us, might sufficiently assure you of our solicitude on their behalf when they returned, nevertheless the thing which the Lord has granted to me is one worthy to be the subject of that epistolary intercourse which ministers so much to the comfort of us both; it is, moreover, a thing in the obtaining of which I believe that I have been greatly assisted by your own solicitude regarding it, seeing that it could not but constrain you to intercession on our behalf.

2. Therefore let me not fail to relate to your Charity what has taken place; so that, as you joined us in pouring out prayers for this mercy before it was obtained, you may now join us in rendering thanks for it after it has been received. When I was informed after your departure that some were becoming openly violent, and declaring that they could not submit to the prohibition (intimated while you were here) of that feast which they call Lætitia, vainly attempting to disguise their revels under a fair name, it happened most opportunely for me, by the hidden fore-ordination of the Almighty God, that on the fourth holy day that Chapter of the Gospel fell to be expounded in ordinary course, in which the words occur: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine." [1526] I discoursed therefore concerning dogs and swine in such a way as to compel those who clamour with obstinate barking against the divine precepts, and who are given up to the abominations of carnal pleasures, to blush for shame; and followed it up by saying, that they might plainly see how criminal it was to do, under the name of religion, within the walls of the church, that which, if it were practised by them in their own houses, would make it necessary for them to be debarred from that which is holy, and from the privileges which are the pearls of the Church.

3. Although these words were well received, nevertheless, as few had attended the meeting, all had not been done which so great an emergency required. When, however, this discourse was, according to the ability and zeal of each, made known abroad by those who had heard it, it found many opponents. But when the morning of Quadragesima came round, and a great multitude had assembled at the hour of exposition of Scripture, that passage in the Gospel was read in which our Lord said, concerning those sellers who were driven out of the temple, and the tables of the money-changers which He had overthrown, that the house of His Father had been made a den of thieves instead of a house of prayer. [1527] After awakening their attention by bringing forward the subject of immoderate indulgence in wine, I myself also read this chapter, and added to it an argument to prove with how much greater anger and vehemence our Lord would cast forth drunken revels, which are everywhere disgraceful, from that temple from which He thus drove out merchandise lawful elsewhere, especially when the things sold were those required for the sacrifices appointed in that dispensation; and I asked them whether they regarded a place occupied by men selling what was necessary, or one used by men drinking to excess, as bearing the greater resemblance to a den of thieves.

4. Moreover, as passages of Scripture which I had prepared were held ready to be put into my hands, I went on to say that the Jewish nation, with all its lack of spirituality in religion, never held feasts, even temperate feasts, much less feasts disgraced by intemperance, in their temple, in which at that time the body and blood of the Lord were not yet offered, and that in history they are not found to have been excited by wine on any public occasion bearing the name of worship, except when they held a feast before the idol which they had made. [1528] While I said these things I took the manuscript from the attendant, and read that whole passage. Reminding them of the words of the apostle, who says, in order to distinguish Christians from the obdurate Jews, that they are his epistle written, not on tables of stone, but on the fleshly tables of the heart, [1529] I asked further, with the deepest sorrow, how it was that, although Moses the servant of God broke both the tables of stone because of these rulers of Israel, I could not break the hearts of those who, though men of the New Testament dispensation, were desiring in their celebration of saints' days to repeat often the public perpetration of excesses of which the people of the Old Testament economy were guilty only once, and that in an act of idolatry.

5. Having then given back the manuscript of Exodus, I proceeded to enlarge, so far as my time permitted, on the crime of drunkenness, and took up the writings of the Apostle Paul, and showed among what sins it is classed by him, reading the text, "If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one (ye ought) not even to eat;" [1530] pathetically reminding them how great is our danger in eating with those who are guilty of intemperance even in their own houses. I read also what is added, a little further on, in the same epistle: "Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." [1531] After reading these, I charged them to consider how believers could hear these words, "but ye are washed," if they still tolerated in their own hearts--that is, in God's inner temple--the abominations of such lusts as these against which the kingdom of heaven is shut. Then I went on to that passage: "When ye come together into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper: for in eating, every one taketh before other his own supper; and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What! have ye not houses to eat and to drink in, or despise ye the church of God?" [1532] After reading which, I more especially begged them to remark that not even innocent and temperate feasts were permitted in the church: for the apostle said not, "Have ye not houses of your own in which to be drunken?"--as if it was drunkenness alone which was unlawful in the church; but, "Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?"--things lawful in themselves, but not lawful in the church, inasmuch as men have their own houses in which they may be recruited by necessary food: whereas now, by the corruption of the times and the relaxation of morals, we have been brought so low, that, no longer insisting upon sobriety in the houses of men, all that we venture to demand is, that the realm of tolerated excess be restricted to their own homes.

6. I reminded them also of a passage in the Gospel which I had expounded the day before, in which it is said of the false prophets: "Ye shall know them by their fruits." [1533] I also bade them remember that in that place our works are signified by the word fruits. Then I asked among what kind of fruits drunkenness was named, and read that passage in the Epistle to the Galatians: "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murder, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which I tell you before, as I have told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." [1534] After these words, I asked how, when God has commanded that Christians be known by their fruits, we could be known as Christians by this fruit of drunkenness? I added also, that we must read what follows there: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." [1535] And I pled with them to consider how shameful and lamentable it would be, if, not content with living at home in the practice of these works of the flesh, they even wished by them, forsooth, to honour the church, and to fill the whole area of so large a place of worship, if they were permitted, with crowds of revellers and drunkards: and yet would not present to God those fruits of the Spirit which, by the authority of Scripture, and by my groans, they were called to yield, and by the offering of which they would most suitably celebrate the saints' days.

7. This being finished, I returned the manuscript; and being asked to speak, [1536] I set before their eyes with all my might, as the danger itself constrained me, and as the Lord was pleased to give strength, the danger shared by them who were committed to my care, and by me, who must give account to the Chief Shepherd, and implored them by His humiliation, by the unparalleled insults, the buffetings and spitting on the face which He endured, by His pierced hands and crown of thorns, and by His cross and blood, to have pity on me at least, if they were displeased with themselves, and to consider the inexpressible love cherished towards me by the aged and venerable Valerius, who had not scrupled to assign to me for their sakes the perilous burden of expounding to them the word of truth, and had often told them that in my coming here his prayers were answered; not rejoicing, surely, that I had come to share or to behold the death of our hearers, but rejoicing that I had come to share his labours for the eternal life. In conclusion, I told them that I was resolved to trust in Him who cannot lie, and who has given us a promise by the mouth of the prophet, saying of our Lord Jesus Christ, "If His children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes: nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from Him." [1537] I declared, therefore, that I put my trust in Him, that if they despised the weighty words which had now been read and spoken to them, He would visit them with the rod and with stripes, and not leave them to be condemned with the world. In this appeal I put forth all the power in thought and utterance which, in an emergency so great and hazardous, our Saviour and Ruler was pleased to supply. I did not move them to weep by first weeping myself; but while these things were being spoken, I own that, moved by the tears which they began to shed, I myself could not refrain from following their example. And when we had thus wept together, I concluded my sermon with full persuasion that they would be restrained by it from the abuses denounced.

8. Next morning, however, when the day dawned, which so many were accustomed to devote to excess in eating and drinking, I received notice that some, even of those who were present when I preached, had not yet desisted from complaint, and that so great was the power of detestable custom with them, that, using no other argument, they asked, "Wherefore is this now prohibited? Were they not Christians who in former times did not interfere with this practice?" On hearing this, I knew not what more powerful means for influencing them I could devise; but resolved, in the event of their judging it proper to persevere, that after reading in Ezekiel's prophecy that the watchman has delivered his own soul if he has given warning, even though the persons warned refuse to give heed to him, I would shake my garments and depart. But then the Lord showed me that He leaves us not alone, and taught me how He encourages us to trust Him; for before the time at which I had to ascend the pulpit, [1538] the very persons of whose complaint against interference with long-established custom I had heard came to me. Receiving them kindly, I by a few words brought them round to a right opinion; and when it came to the time for my discourse, having laid aside the lecture which I had prepared as now unnecessary, I said a few things concerning the question mentioned above, "Wherefore now prohibit this custom?" saying that to those who might propose it the briefest and best answer would be this: "Let us now at last put down what ought to have been earlier prohibited."

9. Lest, however, any slight should seem to be put by us on those who, before our time, either tolerated or did not dare to put down such manifest excesses of an undisciplined multitude, I explained to them the circumstances out of which this custom seems to have necessarily risen in the Church,--namely, that when, in the peace which came after such numerous and violent persecutions, crowds of heathen who wished to assume the Christian religion were kept back, because, having been accustomed to celebrate the feasts connected with their worship of idols in revelling and drunkenness, they could not easily refrain from pleasures so hurtful and so habitual, it had seemed good to our ancestors, making for the time a concession to this infirmity, to permit them to celebrate, instead of the festivals which they renounced, other feasts in honour of the holy martyrs, which were observed, not as before with a profane design, but with similar self-indulgence. I added that now upon them, as persons bound together in the name of Christ, and submissive to the yoke of His august authority, the wholesome restraints of sobriety were laid--restraints with which the honour and fear due to Him who appointed them should move them to comply--and that therefore the time had now come in which all who did not dare to cast off the Christian profession should begin to walk according to Christ's will; and being now confirmed Christians, should reject those concessions to infirmity which were made only for a time in order to their becoming such.

10. I then exhorted them to imitate the example of the churches beyond the sea, in some of which these practices had never been tolerated, while in others they had been already put down by the people complying with the counsel of good ecclesiastical rulers; and as the examples of daily excess in the use of wine in the church of the blessed Apostle Peter were brought forward in defence of the practice, I said in the first place, that I had heard that these excesses had been often forbidden, but because the place was at a distance from the bishop's control, and because in such a city the multitude of carnally-minded persons was great, the foreigners especially, of whom there is a constant influx, clinging to that practice with an obstinacy proportioned to their ignorance, the suppression of so great an evil had not yet been possible. If, however, I continued, we would honour the Apostle Peter, we ought to hear his words, and look much more to the epistles by which his mind is made known to us, than to the place of worship, by which it is not made known; and immediately taking the manuscript, I read his own words: "Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh arm yourselves likewise with the same mind for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries." [1539] After this, when I saw that all were with one consent turning to a right mind, and renouncing the custom against which I had protested, I exhorted them to assemble at noon for the reading of God's word and singing of psalms; stating that we had resolved thus to celebrate the festival in a way much more accordant with purity and piety; and that, by the number of worshippers who should assemble for this purpose, it would plainly appear who were guided by reason, and who were the slaves of appetite. With these words the discourse concluded.

11. In the afternoon a greater number assembled than in the forenoon, and there was reading and praise alternately up to the hour at which I went out in company with the bishop; and after our coming two psalms were read. Then the old man [Valerius] constrained me by his express command to say something to the people; from which I would rather have been excused, as I was longing for the close of the anxieties of the day. I delivered a short discourse in order to express our gratitude to God. And as we heard the noise of the feasting, which was going on as usual in the church of the heretics, who still prolonged their revelry while we were so differently engaged, I remarked that the beauty of day is enhanced by contrast with the night, and that when anything black is near, the purity of white is the more pleasing; and that, in like manner, our meeting for a spiritual feast might perhaps have been somewhat less sweet to us, but for the contrast of the carnal excesses in which the others indulged; and I exhorted them to desire eagerly such feasts as we then enjoyed, if they had tasted the goodness of the Lord. At the same time, I said that those may well be afraid who seek anything which shall one day be destroyed as the chief object of their desire, seeing that every one shares the portion of that which he worships; a warning expressly given by the apostle to such, when he says of them their "god is their belly," [1540] inasmuch as he has elsewhere said, "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats; but God shall destroy both it and them." [1541] I added that it is our duty to seek that which is imperishable, which, far removed from carnal affections, is obtained through sanctification of the spirit; and when those things which the Lord was pleased to suggest to me had been spoken on this subject as the occasion required, the daily evening exercises of worship were performed; and when with the bishop I retired from the church, the brethren said a hymn there, a considerable multitude remaining in the church, and engaging in praise [1542] even till daylight failed.

12. I have thus related as concisely as I could that which I am sure you longed to hear. Pray that God may be pleased to protect our efforts from giving offence or provoking odium in any way. In the tranquil prosperity which you enjoy we do with lively warmth of affection participate in no small measure, when tidings so frequently reach us of the gifts possessed by the highly spiritual church of Thagaste. The ship bringing our brethren has not yet arrived. At Hasna, where our brother Argentius is presbyter, the Circumcelliones, entering our church, demolished the altar. The case is now in process of trial; and we earnestly ask your prayers that it may be decided in a peaceful way and as becomes the Catholic Church, so as to silence the tongues of turbulent heretics. I have sent a letter to the Asiarch. [1543]

Brethren most blessed, may ye persevere in the Lord, and remember us. Amen.

Footnotes

[1525] Leontius was Bishop of Hippo in the latter part of the second century. He built a church which was called after him, and in which some of the sermons of Augustin were delivered. [1526] Matt. vii. 6. [1527] Matt. xxi. 12. [1528] Ex. xxxii. 6. [1529] 2 Cor. iii. 3. [1530] 1 Cor. v. 11. [1531] 1 Cor. vi. 9-11. [1532] 1 Cor. xi. 20-22. [1533] Matt. vii. 16. [1534] Gal. v. 19-21. [1535] Gal. v. 22, 23. [1536] Imperatâ oratione. [1537] Ps. lxxxix. 30-33. [1538] Exhedra. [1539] 1 Pet. iv. 1-3. [1540] Phil. iii. 19. [1541] 1 Cor. vi. 13. [1542] Psallente. [1543] A magistrate who was also charged with the affairs pertaining to the protection of religion. The title belonged primarily to those who in the province of Asia had charge of the games.--Codex Theodosianus, xv. 9.


Letter XXX.

(a.d. 396.)

This letter of Paulinus was written before receiving a reply to his former letter, No. 27, p. 248.

To Augustin, Our Lord and Holy and Beloved Brother, Paulinus and Therasia, Sinners, Send Greeting.

1. My beloved brother in Christ the Lord, having through your holy and pious works come to know you without your knowledge, and to see you though absent long ago, my mind embraced you with unreserved affection, and I hastened to secure the gratification of hearing you through familiar brotherly exchange of letters. I believe also that by the Lord's hand and favour my letter has reached you; but as the youth whom, before winter, we had sent to salute you and others equally loved in God's name, has not returned, we could no longer either put off what we feel to be our duty, or restrain the vehemence of our desire to hear from you. If, then, my former letter has been found worthy to reach you, this is the second; if, however, it was not so fortunate as to come to your hand, accept this as the first.

2. But, my brother, judging all things as a spiritual man, do not estimate our love to you by the duty which we render, or the frequency of our letters. For the Lord, who everywhere, as one and the same, worketh His love in His own, is witness that, from the time when, by the kindness of the venerable bishops Aurelius and Alypius, we came to know you through your writings against the Manichæans, love for you has taken such a place in us, that we seemed not so much to be acquiring a new friendship as reviving an old affection. Now at length we address you in writing; and though we are novices in expressing, we are not novices in feeling love to you; and by communion of the spirit, which is the inner man, we are as it were acquainted with you. Nor is it strange that though distant we are near, though unknown we are well known to each other; for we are members of one body, having one Head, enjoying the effusion of the same grace, living by the same bread, walking in the same way, and dwelling in the same home. In short, in all that makes up our being,--in the whole faith and hope by which we stand in the present life, or labour for that which is to come,--we are both in the spirit and in the body of Christ so united, that if we fell from this union we would cease to be.

3. How small a thing, therefore, is that which our bodily separation denies to us!--for it is nothing more than one of those fruits that gratify the eyes, which are occupied only with the things of time. And yet, perhaps, we should not number this pleasure which in the body we enjoy among the blessings which are only in time the portion of spiritual men, to whose bodies the resurrection will impart immortality; as we, though in ourselves unworthy, are bold to expect, through the merit of Christ and the mercy of God the Father. Wherefore I pray that the grace of God by our Lord Jesus Christ may grant unto us this favour too, that we may yet see your face. Not only would this bring great gratification to our desires; but by it illumination would be brought to our minds, and our poverty would be enriched by your abundance. This indeed you may grant to us even while we are absent from you, especially on the present occasion, through our sons Romanus and Agilis, beloved and most dear to us in the Lord (whom as our second selves we commend to you), when they return to us in the Lord's name, after fulfilling the labour of love in which they are engaged; in which work we beg that they may especially enjoy the goodwill of your Charity. For you know what high rewards the Most High promises to the brother who gives his brother help. If you are pleased to impart to me any gift of the grace that has been bestowed on you, you may safely do it through them; for, believe me, they are of one heart and of one mind with us in the Lord. May the grace of God always abide as it is with you, O brother beloved, venerable, most dear, and longed for in Christ the Lord! Salute on our behalf all the saints in Christ who are with you, for doubtless such attach themselves to your fellowship; commend us to them all, that they may, along with yourself, remember us in prayer.

Second Division.

Letters Which Were Written by Augustin After His Becoming Bishop of Hippo, and Before the Conference Held with the Donatists at Carthage, and the Discovery of the Heresy of Pelagius in Africa (a.d. 396-410).


Letter XXXI.

(a.d. 396.)

To Brother Paulinus and to Sister Therasia, Most Beloved and Sincere, Truly Most Blessed and Most Eminent for the Very Abundant Grace of God Bestowed on Them Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

1. Although in my longing to be without delay near you in one sense, while still remote in another, I wished much that what I wrote in answer to your former letter (if, indeed, any letter of mine deserves to be called an answer to yours) should go with all possible expedition to your Grace, [1544] my delay has brought me the advantage of a second letter from you. The Lord is good, who often withholds what we desire, that He may add to it what we would prefer. For it is one pleasure to me that you will write me on receiving my letter, and it is another that, through not receiving it at once, you have written now. The joy which I have felt in reading this letter would have been lost to me if my letter to your Holiness had been quickly conveyed to you, as I intended and earnestly desired. But now, to have this letter, and to expect a reply to my own, multiplies my satisfaction. The blame of the delay cannot be laid to my charge; and the Lord, in His more abundant kindness, has done that which He judged to be more conducive to my happiness.

2. We welcomed with great gladness in the Lord the holy brothers Romanus and Agilis, who were, so to speak, an additional letter from you, capable of hearing and answering our voices, whereby most agreeably your presence was in part enjoyed by us, although only to make us long the more eagerly to see you. It would be at all times and in every way impossible for you to give, and unreasonable for us to ask, as much information from you concerning yourself by letter as we received from them by word of mouth. There was manifest also in them (what no paper could convey) such delight in telling us of you, that by their very countenance and eyes while they spoke, we could with unspeakable joy read you written on their hearts. Moreover, a sheet of paper, of whatever kind it be, and however excellent the things written upon it may be, enjoys no benefit itself from what it contains, though it may be unfolded with great benefit to others; but, in reading this letter of yours--namely, the minds of these brethren--when conversing with them, we found that the blessedness of those upon whom you had written was manifestly proportioned to the fulness with which they had been written upon by you. In order, therefore, to attain to the same blessedness, we transcribed in our own hearts what was written in theirs, by most eager questioning as to everything concerning you.

3. Notwithstanding all this, it is with deep regret that we consent to their so soon leaving us, even to return to you. For observe, I beseech you, the conflicting emotions by which we are agitated. Our obligation to let them go without delay was increased according to the vehemence of their desire to obey you; but the greater the vehemence of this desire in them, the more completely did they set you forth as almost present with us, because they let us see how tender your affections are. Therefore our reluctance to let them go increased with our sense of the reasonableness of their urgency to be permitted to go. Oh insupportable trial, were it not that by such partings we are not, after all, separated from each other,--were it not that we are "members of one body, having one Head, enjoying the effusion of the same grace, living by the same bread, walking in the same way, and dwelling in the same home!" [1545] You recognise these words, I suppose, as quoted from your own letter; and why should not I also use them? Why should they be yours any more than mine, seeing that, inasmuch as they are true, they proceed from communion with the same head? And in so far as they contain something that has been specially given to you, I have so loved them the more on that account, that they have taken possession of the way leading through my breast, and would suffer no words to pass from my heart to my tongue until they went first, with the priority which is due to them as yours. My brother and sister, holy and beloved in God, members of the same body with us, who could doubt that we are animated by one spirit, except those who are strangers to that affection by which we are bound to each other?

4. Yet I am curious to know whether you bear with more patience and ease than I do this bodily separation. If it be so, I do not, I confess, take any pleasure in your fortitude in this respect, unless perhaps because of its reasonableness, seeing that I confess myself much less worthy of your affectionate longing than you are of mine. At all events, if I found in myself a power of bearing your absence patiently, this would displease me, because it would make me relax my efforts to see you; and what could be more absurd than to be made indolent by power of endurance? But I beg to acquaint your Charity with the ecclesiastical duties by which I am kept at home, inasmuch as the blessed father Valerius (who with me salutes you, and thirsts for you with a vehemence of which you will hear from our brethren), not content with having me as his presbyter, has insisted upon adding the greater burden of sharing the episcopate with him. This office I was afraid to decline, being persuaded, through the love of Valerius and the importunity of the people, that it was the Lord's will, and being precluded from excusing myself on other grounds by some precedents of similar appointments. The yoke of Christ, it is true, is in itself easy, and His burden light; [1546] yet, through my perversity and infirmity, I may find the yoke vexatious and the burden heavy in some degree; and I cannot tell how much more easy and light my yoke and burden would become if I were comforted by a visit from you, who live, as I am informed, more disengaged and free from such cares. [1547] I therefore feel warranted in asking, nay, demanding and imploring you to condescend to come over into Africa, which is more oppressed with thirst for men such as you are than even by the well-known aridity of her soil. [1548]

5. God knoweth that I long for your visiting this country, not merely to gratify my own desire, nor merely on account of those who through me, or by public report, have heard of your pious resolution; [1549] I long for it for the sake of others also who either have not heard, or, hearing, have not believed the fame of your piety, but who might be constrained to love excellence of which they could then be no longer in ignorance or doubt. For although the perseverance and purity of your compassionate benevolence is good, more is required of you; namely, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may behold your good works, and may glorify your Father which is in heaven." [1550] The fishermen of Galilee found pleasure not only in leaving their ships and their nets at the Lord's command, but also in declaring that they had left all and followed Him. [1551] And truly he despises all who despises not only all that he was able, but also all that he was desirous to possess. What may have been desired is seen only by the eyes of God; what was actually possessed is seen also by the eyes of men. Moreover, when things trivial and earthly are loved by us, we are somehow more firmly wedded to what we have than to what we desire to have. For whence was it that he who sought from the Lord counsel as to the way of eternal life, went away sorrowful upon hearing that, if he would be perfect, he must sell all, and distribute to the poor, and have treasure in heaven, unless because, as the Gospel tells us, he had great possessions? [1552] For it is one thing to forbear from appropriating what is wanting to us; it is another thing to rend away that which has become a part of ourselves: the former action is like declining food, the latter is like cutting off a limb. How great and how full of wonder is the joy with which Christian charity beholds in our day a sacrifice cheerfully made in obedience to the Gospel of Christ, which that rich man grieved and refused to make at the bidding of Christ Himself!

6. Although language fails to express that which my heart has conceived and labours to utter, nevertheless, since you perceive with your discernment and piety that the glory of this is not yours, that is to say, not of man, but the glory of the Lord in you (for you yourselves are most carefully on your guard against your Adversary, and most devoutly strive to be found as learners of Christ, meek and lowly in heart; and, indeed, it were better with humility to retain than with pride to renounce this world's wealth);--since, I say, you are aware that the glory here is not yours, but the Lord's, you see how weak and inadequate are the things which I have spoken. For I have been speaking of the praises of Christ, a theme transcending the tongue of angels. We long to see this glory of Christ brought near to the eyes of our people; that in you, united in the bonds of wedlock, there may be given to both sexes an example of the way in which pride must be trodden under foot, and perfection hopefully pursued. I know not any way in which you could give greater proof of your benevolence, than in resolving to be not less willing to permit your worth to be seen, than you are zealous to acquire and retain it.

7. I recommend to your kindness and charity this boy Vetustinus, whose case might draw forth the sympathy even of those who are not religious: the causes of his affliction and of his leaving his country you will hear from his own lips. As to his pious resolution--his promise, namely, to devote himself to the service of God--it will be more decisively known after some time has elapsed, when his strength has been confirmed, and his present fear is removed. Perceiving the warmth of your love for me, and encouraged thereby to believe that you will not grudge the labour of reading what I have written, I send to your Holiness and Charity three books: would that the size of the volumes were an index of the completeness of the discussion of so great a subject; for the question of free-will is handled in them! I know that these books, or at least some of them, are not in the possession of our brother Romanianus; but almost everything which I have been able for the benefit of any readers to write is, as I have intimated, accessible to your perusal through him, because of your love to me, although I did not charge him to carry them to you. For he already had them all, and was carrying them with him: moreover, it was by him that my answer to your first letter was sent. I suppose that your Holiness has already discovered, by that spiritual sagacity which the Lord has given you, how much that man bears in his soul of what is good, and how far he still comes short through infirmity. In the letter sent through him you have, as I trust, read with what anxiety I commended himself and his son to your sympathy and love, as well as how close is the bond by which they are united to me. May the Lord build them up by your means! This must be asked from Him rather than from you, for I know how much it is already your desire.

8. I have heard from the brethren that you are writing a treatise against the Pagans: if we have any claim on your heart, send it at once to us to read. For your heart is such an oracle of divine truth, that we expect from it answers which shall satisfactorily and clearly decide the most prolix debates. I understand that your Holiness has the books of the most blessed father [1553] Ambrose, of which I long greatly to see those which, with much care and at great length, he has written against some most ignorant and pretentious men, who affirm that our Lord was instructed by the writings of Plato. [1554]

9. Our most blessed brother Severus, formerly of our community, now president [1555] of the church in Milevis, and well known by the brethren in that city, joins me in respectful salutation to your Holiness. The brethren also who are with me serving the Lord salute you as warmly as they long to see you: they long for you as much as they love you; and they love you as your eminent goodness merits. The loaf which we send you will become more rich as a blessing through the love with which your kindness receives it. May the Lord keep you for ever from this generation, [1556] my brother and sister most beloved and sincere, truly benevolent, and most eminently endowed with abundant grace from the Lord.

Footnotes

[1544] Charitas. [1545] Letter XXX. p. 257. [1546] Matt. xi. 30. [1547] Paulinus was then at Nola, having gone thither from Barcelona in A.D. 393 or 394. He became Bishop of Nola in 409. [1548] Nobilitate siccitatis. [1549] This refers to the voluntary poverty which Paulinus and Therasia, though of high rank and great wealth, embraced, selling all that they had in order to give to the poor. [1550] Matt. v. 16. [1551] Matt. xix. 27. [1552] Luke xviii. 22, 23. [1553] Beatissimi papæ. [1554] These books of Ambrose are lost. [1555] Antistes. [1556] See Ps. xii. 7.


Letter XXXII.

This letter from Paulinus to Romanianus and Licentius expresses the satisfaction with which he heard of the promotion of Augustin to the episcopate, and conveys both in prose and in verse excellent counsels to Licentius: it is one which in this selection may without loss be omitted.


Letter XXXIII.

(a.d. 396.)

To Proculeianus, My Lord, Honourable and Most Beloved, Augustin Sends Greeting.

1. The titles prefixed to this letter I need not defend or explain at any length to you, though they may give offence to the vain prejudices of ignorant men. For I rightly address you as lord, seeing that we are both seeking to deliver each other from error, although to some it may seem uncertain which of us is in error before the matter has been fully debated; and therefore we are mutually serving one another, if we sincerely labour that we may both be delivered from the perversity of discord. That I labour to do this with a sincere heart, and with the fear and trembling of Christian humility, is not perhaps to most men manifest, but is seen by Him to whom all hearts are open. What I without hesitation esteem honourable in you, you readily perceive. For I do not esteem worthy of any honour the error of schism, from which I desire to have all men delivered, so far as is within my power; but yourself I do not for a moment hesitate to regard as worthy of honour, chiefly because you are knit to me in the bonds of a common humanity, and because there are conspicuous in you some indications of a more gentle disposition, by which I am encouraged to hope that you may readily embrace the truth when it has been demonstrated to you. As for my love to you, I owe not less than He commanded who so loved us as to bear the shame of the cross for our sakes.

2. Be not, however, surprised that I have so long forborne from addressing your Benevolence; for I did not think that your views were such as were with great joy declared to me by brother Evodius, whose testimony I cannot but believe. For he tells me that, when you met accidentally at the same house, and conversation began between you concerning our hope, that is to say, the inheritance of Christ, you were kindly pleased to say that you were willing to have a conference with me in the presence of good men. I am truly glad that you have condescended to make this proposal: and I can in no wise forego so important an opportunity, given by your kindness, of using whatever strength the Lord may be pleased to give me in considering and debating with you what has been the cause, or source, or reason of a division so lamentable and deplorable in that Church of Christ to which He said: "Peace I give you, my peace I leave unto you. [1557]

3. I heard from the brother aforesaid that you had complained of his having said something in answer to you in an insulting manner; but, I pray you, do not regard it as an insult, for I am sure it did not proceed from an overbearing spirit, as I know my brother well. But if, in disputing in defence of his own faith and the Church's love, he spoke perchance with a degree of warmth something which you regarded as wounding your dignity, that deserves to be called, not contumacy, but boldness. For he desired to debate and discuss the question, not to be merely submitting to you and flattering you. For such flattery is the oil of the sinner, with which the prophet does not desire to have his head anointed; for he saith: "The righteous shall correct me in compassion, and rebuke me; but the oil of the sinner shall not anoint my head." [1558] For he prefers to be corrected by the stern compassion of the righteous, rather than to be commended with the soothing oil of flattery. Hence also the saying of the prophet: "They who pronounce you happy cause you to err." [1559] Therefore also it is commonly and justly said of a man whom false compliments have made proud, "his head has grown;" [1560] for it has been increased by the oil of the sinner, that is, not of one correcting with stern truth, but of one commending with smooth flattery. Do not, however, suppose me to mean by this, that I wish it to be understood that you have been corrected by brother Evodius, as by a righteous man; for I fear lest you should think that anything is spoken by me also in an insulting manner, against which I desire to the utmost of my power to be on guard. But He is righteous who hath said, "I am the truth. [1561] When, therefore, any true word has been uttered, though it may be somewhat rudely, by the mouth of any man, we are corrected not by the speaker, who may perhaps be not less a sinner than ourselves, but by the truth itself, that is to say, by Christ who is righteous, lest the unction of smooth but pernicious flattery, which is the oil of the sinner, should anoint our head. Although, therefore, brother Evodius, through undue excitement in defending the communion to which he belongs, may have said something too vehemently through strong feeling, you ought to excuse him on the ground of his age, and of the importance of the matter in his estimation.

4. I beseech you, however, to remember what you have been pleased to promise; namely, to investigate amicably with me a matter of so great importance, and so closely pertaining to the common salvation, in the presence of such spectators as you may choose (provided only that our words are not uttered so as to be lost, but are taken down with the pen; so that we may conduct the discussion in a more calm and orderly manner, and anything spoken by us which escapes the memory may be recalled by reading the notes taken). Or, if you prefer it, we may discuss the matter without the interference of any third party, by means of letters or conference and reading, wherever you please, lest perchance some hearers, unwisely zealous, should be more concerned with the expectation of a conflict between us, than the thought of our mutual profit by the discussion. Let the people, however, be afterwards informed through us of the debate, when it is concluded; or, if you prefer to have the matter discussed by letters exchanged, let these letters be read to the two congregations, in order that they may yet come to be no longer divided, but one. In fact, I willingly accede to whatever terms you wish, or prescribe, or prefer. And as to the sentiments of my most blessed and venerable father Valerius, who is at present from home, I undertake with fullest confidence that he will hear of this with great joy; for I know how much he loves peace, and how free he is from being influenced by any paltry regard for vain parade of dignity.

5. I ask you, what have we to do with the dissensions of a past generation? Let it suffice that the wounds which the bitterness of proud men inflicted on our members have remained until now; for we have, through the lapse of time, ceased to feel the pain to remove which the physician's help is usually sought. You see how great and miserable is the calamity by which the peace of Christian homes and families is broken. Husbands and wives, agreeing together at the family hearth, are divided at the altar of Christ. By Him they pledge themselves to be at peace between themselves, yet in Him they cannot be at peace. Children have the same home, but not the same house of God, with their own parents. They desire to be secure of the earthly inheritance of those with whom they wrangle concerning the inheritance of Christ. Servants and masters divide their common Lord, who took on Him the form of a servant that He might deliver all from bondage. Your party honours us, and our party honours you. Your members appeal to us by our episcopal insignia, [1562] and our members show the same respect to you. We receive the words of all, we desire to give offence to none. Why then, finding cause of offence in none besides, do we find it in Christ, whose members we rend asunder? When we may be serviceable to men that are desirous of terminating through our help disputes concerning secular affairs, they address us as saints and servants of God, in order that they may have their questions as to property disposed of by us: let us at length, unsolicited, take up a matter which concerns both our own salvation and theirs. It is not about gold or silver, or land, or cattle, matters concerning which we are daily saluted with lowly respect, in order that we may bring disputes to a peaceful termination,--but it is concerning our Head Himself that this dissension, so unworthy and pernicious, exists between us. However low they bow their heads who salute us in the hope that we may make them agree together in regard to the things of this world, our Head stooped from heaven even to the cross, and yet we do not agree together in Him.

6. I beg and beseech you, if there be in you that brotherly feeling for which some give you credit, let your goodness be approved sincere, and not feigned with a view to passing honours, by this, that your bowels of compassion be moved, so that you consent to have this matter discussed; joining with me in persevering prayer, and in peaceful discussion of every point. Let not the respect paid by the unhappy people to our dignities be found, in the judgment of God, aggravating our condemnation; rather let them be recalled along with us, through our unfeigned love, from errors and dissensions, and guided into the ways of truth and peace.

My lord, honourable and most beloved, I pray that you may be blessed in the sight of God.

Footnotes

[1557] John xiv. 27. [1558] Ps. cxli. 5. [1559] Isa. iii. 12, according to the LXX. version. [1560] Crevit caput. [1561] John xiv. 6. [1562] Corona.


Letter XXXIV.

(a.d. 396.)

To Eusebius, My Excellent Lord and Brother, Worthy of Affection and Esteem, Augustin Sends Greeting.

1. God, to whom the secrets of the heart of man are open, knoweth that it is because of my love for Christian peace that I am so deeply moved by the profane deeds of those who basely and impiously persevere in dissenting from it. He knoweth also that this feeling of mine is one tending towards peace, and that my desire is, not that any one should against his will be coerced into the Catholic communion, but that to all who are in error the truth may be openly declared, and being by God's help clearly exhibited through my ministry, may so commend itself as to make them embrace and follow it.

2. Passing many other things unnoticed, what could be more worthy of detestation than what has just happened? A young man is reproved by his bishop for frequently beating his mother like a madman, and not restraining his impious hands from wounding her who bore him, even on those days on which the sternness of law shows mercy to the most guilty criminals. [1563] He then threatens his mother that he would pass to the party of the Donatists, and that he would kill her whom he is accustomed to beat with incredible ferocity. He utters these threats, then passes over to the Donatists, and is rebaptized while filled with wicked rage, and is arrayed in white vestments while he is burning to shed his mother's blood. He is placed in a prominent and conspicuous position within the railing in the church; and to the eyes of sorrowful and indignant beholders, he who is purposing matricide is exhibited as a regenerate man.

3. I appeal to you, as a man of most mature judgment, can these things find favour in your eyes? I do not believe this of you: I know your wisdom. A mother is wounded by her son in the members of that body which bore and nursed the ungrateful wretch; and when the Church, his spiritual mother, interferes, she too is wounded in those sacraments by which, to the same ungrateful son, she ministered life and nourishment. Do you not seem to hear the young man gnashing his teeth in rage for a parent's blood, and saying, "What shall I do to the Church which forbids my wounding my mother? I have found out what to do: let the Church herself be wounded by such blows as she can suffer; let that be done in me which may cause her members pain. Let me go to those who know how to despise the grace with which she gave me spiritual birth, and to mar the form which in her womb I received. Let me vex both my natural and my spiritual mother with cruel tortures: let the one who was the second to give me birth be the first to give me burial; for her sorrow let me seek spiritual death, and for the other's death let me prolong my natural life." Oh, Eusebius! I appeal to you as an honourable man, what else may we expect than that now he shall feel himself, as a Donatist, so armed as to have no fear in assailing that unhappy woman, decrepit with age and helpless in her widowhood, from wounding whom he was restrained while he remained a Catholic? For what else had he purposed in his passionate heart when he said to his mother, "I will pass over to the party of Donatus, and I will drink your blood?" Behold, arrayed in white vestments, but with conscience crimson with blood, he has fulfilled his threat in part; the other part remains, viz. that he drink his mother's blood. If, therefore, these things find favour in your eyes, let him be urged by those who are now his clergy and his sanctifiers to fulfil within eight days the remaining portion of his vow.

4. The Lord's right hand indeed is strong, so that He may keep back this man's rage from that unhappy and desolate widow, and, by means known unto His own wisdom, may deter him from his impious design; but could I do otherwise than utter my feelings when my heart was pierced with such grief? Shall they do such things, and am I to be commanded to hold my peace? When He commands me by the mouth of the apostle saying that those who teach what they ought not must be rebuked by the bishop, [1564] shall I be silent through dread of their displeasure? The Lord deliver me from such folly! As to my desire for having such an impious crime recorded in our public registers, it was desired by me chiefly for this end, that no one who may hear me bewailing these proceedings, especially in other towns where it may be expedient for me to do so, may think that I am inventing a falsehood, and the rather, because in Hippo itself it is already affirmed that Proculeianus did not issue the order which was in the official report ascribed to him.

5. In what more temperate way could we dispose of this important matter than through the mediation of such a man as you, invested with most illustrious rank, and possessing calmness as well as great prudence and goodwill? I beg, therefore, as I have already done by our brethren, good and honourable men, whom I sent to your Excellency, that you will condescend to inquire whether it is the case that the presbyter Victor did not receive from his bishop the order which the public official records reported; or whether, since Victor himself has said otherwise, they have in their records laid a thing falsely to his charge, though they belong to the same communion with him. Or, if he consents to our calmly discussing the whole question of our differences, in order that the error which is already manifest may become yet more so, I willingly embrace the opportunity. For I have heard that he proposed that without popular tumult, in the presence only of ten esteemed and honourable men from each party, we should investigate what is the truth in this matter according to the Scriptures. As to another proposal which some have reported to me as made by him, that I should rather go to Constantina, [1565] because in that town his party was more numerous; or that I should go to Milevis, because there, as they say, they are soon to hold a council;--these things are absurd, for my special charge does not extend beyond the Church of Hippo. The whole importance of this question to me, in the first place, is as it affects Proculeianus and myself; and if, perchance, he thinks himself not a match for me, let him implore the aid of any one whom he pleases as his colleague in the debate. For in other towns we interfere with the affairs of the Church only so far as is permitted or enjoined by our brethren bearing the same priestly office with us, the bishops of these towns.

6. And yet I cannot comprehend what there is in me, a novice, that should make him, who calls himself a bishop of so many years' standing, unwilling and afraid to enter into discussion with me. If it be my acquaintance with liberal studies, which perhaps he did not pursue at all, or at least not so much as I have done, what has this to do with the question in debate, which is to be decided by the Holy Scriptures or by ecclesiastical or public documents, with which he has for so many years been conversant, that he ought to be more skilled in them than I am? Once more, I have here my brother and colleague Samsucius, bishop of the Church of Turris, [1566] who has not learned any of those branches of culture of which he is said to be afraid: let him attend in my place, and let the debate be between them. I will ask him, and, as I trust in the name of Christ, he will readily consent to take my place in this matter; and the Lord will, I trust, give aid to him when contending for the truth: for although unpolished in language, he is well instructed in the true faith. There is therefore no reason for his referring me to others whom I do not know, instead of letting us settle between ourselves that which concerns ourselves. However, as I have said, I will not decline meeting them if he himself asks their assistance.

Footnotes

[1563] During Lent and the Easter holidays. [1564] Tit. i. 9-13. [1565] Constantina, a chief city of Numidia. [1566] Turris, a town in Numidia.


Letter XXXV.

(a.d. 396.)

(Another letter to Eusebius on the same subject.)

To Eusebius, My Excellent Lord and Brother, Worthy of Affection and Esteem, Augustin Sends Greeting.

1. I did not impose upon you, by importunate exhortation or entreaty in spite of your reluctance, the duty, as you call it, of arbitrating between bishops. Even if I had desired to move you to this, I might perhaps have easily shown how competent you are to judge between us in a cause so clear and simple; nay, I might show how you are already doing this, inasmuch as you, who are afraid of the office of judge, do not hesitate to pronounce sentence in favour of one of the parties before you have heard both. But of this, as I have said, I do not meanwhile say anything. For I had asked nothing else from your honourable good-nature,--and I beseech you to be pleased to remark it in this letter, if you did not in the former,--than that you should ask Proculeianus whether he himself said to his presbyter Victor that which the public registers have by official report ascribed to him, or whether those who were sent have written in the public registers not what they heard from Victor, but a falsehood; and further, what his opinion is as to our discussing the whole question between us. I think that he is not constituted judge between parties, who is only requested by the one to put a question to the other, and condescend to write what reply he has received. This also I now again ask you not to refuse to do, because, as I know by experiment, he does not wish to receive a letter from me, otherwise I would not employ your Excellency's mediation. Since, therefore, he does not wish this, what could I do less likely to give offence, than to apply through you, so good a man and such a friend of his, for an answer concerning a matter about which the burden of my responsibility forbids me to hold my peace? Moreover, you say (because the son's beating of his mother is disapproved by your sound judgment), "If Proculeianus had known this, he would have debarred that man from communion with his party." I answer in a sentence, "He knows it now, let him now debar him."

2. Let me mention another thing. A man who was formerly a subdeacon of the church at Spana, Primus by name, when, having been forbidden such intercourse with nuns as contravened the laws of the Church, [1567] he treated with contempt the established and wise regulations, was deprived of his clerical office,--this man also, being provoked by the divinely warranted discipline, went over to the other party, and was by them rebaptized. Two nuns also, who were settled in the same lands of the Catholic Church with him, either taken by him to the other party, or following him, were likewise rebaptized: and now, among bands of Circumcelliones and troops of homeless women, who have declined matrimony that they may avoid restraint, he proudly boasts himself in excesses of detestable revelry, rejoicing that he now has without hindrance the utmost freedom in that misconduct from which in the Catholic Church he was restrained. Perhaps Proculeianus knows nothing about this case either. Let it therefore through you, as a man of grave and dispassionate spirit, be made known to him; and let him order that man to be dismissed from his communion, who has chosen it for no other reason than that he had, on account of insubordination and dissolute habits, forfeited his clerical office in the Catholic Church.

3. For my own part, if it please the Lord, I purpose to adhere to this rule, that whoever, after being deposed among them by a sentence of discipline, shall express a desire to pass over into the Catholic Church, must be received on condition of submitting to give the same proofs of penitence as those which, perhaps, they would have constrained him to give if he had remained among them. But consider, I beseech you, how worthy of abhorrence is their procedure in regard to those whom we check by ecclesiastical censures for unholy living, persuading them first to come to a second baptism, in order to their being qualified for which they declare themselves to be pagans (and how much blood of martyrs has been poured out rather than that such a declaration should proceed from the mouth of a Christian!); and thereafter, as if renewed and sanctified, but in truth more hardened in sin, to defy with the impiety of new madness, under the guise of new grace, that discipline to which they could not submit. If, however, I am wrong in attempting to obtain the correction of these abuses through your benevolent interposition, let no one find fault with my causing them to be made known to Proculeianus by the public registers,--a means of notification which in this Roman city cannot, I believe, be refused to me. For, since the Lord commands us to speak and proclaim the truth, and in teaching to rebuke what is wrong, and to labour in season and out of season, as I can prove by the words of the Lord and of the apostles, [1568] let no man think that I am to be persuaded to be silent concerning these things. If they meditate any bold measures of violence or outrage, the Lord, who has subdued under His yoke all earthly kingdoms in the bosom of His Church spread abroad through the whole world, will not fail to defend her from wrong.

4. The daughter of one of the cultivators of the property of the Church here, who had been one of our catechumens, had been, against the will of her parents, drawn away by the other party, and after being baptized among them, had assumed the profession of a nun. Now her father wished to compel her by severe treatment to return to the Catholic Church; but I was unwilling that this woman, whose mind was so perverted, should be received by us unless with her own will, and choosing, in the free exercise of judgment, that which is better: and when the countryman began to attempt to compel his daughter by blows to submit to his authority, I immediately forbade his using any such means. Notwithstanding, after all, when I was passing through the Spanian district, a presbyter of Proculeianus, standing in a field belonging to an excellent Catholic woman, shouted after me with a most insolent voice that I was a Traditor and a persecutor; and he hurled the same reproach against that woman, belonging to our communion, on whose property he was standing. But when I heard his words, I not only refrained from pursuing the quarrel, but also held back the numerous company which surrounded me. Yet if I say, Let us inquire and ascertain who are or have been indeed Traditors and persecutors, they reply, "We will not debate, but we will rebaptize. Leave us to prey upon your flocks with crafty cruelty, like wolves; and if you are good shepherds, bear it in silence." For what else has Proculeianus commanded but this, if indeed the order is justly ascribed to him: "If thou art a Christian," said he, "leave this to the judgment of God; whatever we do, hold thou thy peace." The same presbyter, moreover, dared to utter a threat against a countryman who is overseer of one of the farms belonging to the Church.

5. I pray you to inform Proculeianus of all these things. Let him repress the madness of his clergy, which, honoured Eusebius, I have felt constrained to report to you. Be pleased to write to me, not your own opinion concerning them all, lest you should think that the responsibility of a judge is laid upon you by me, but the answer which they give to my questions. May the mercy of God preserve you from harm, my excellent lord and brother, most worthy of affection and esteem.

Footnotes

[1567] Accessus indisciplinatus sanctimonialium. [1568] 2 Tim. iv. 2 and Tit. i. 9-11.


Letter XXXVI.

(a.d. 396.)

To My Brother and Fellow-Presbyter Casulanus, Most Beloved and Longed For, Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

Chap. I.

1. I know not how it was that I did not reply to your first letter; but I know that my neglect was not owing to want of esteem for you. For I take pleasure in your studies, and even in the words in which you express your thoughts; and it is my desire as well as advice that you make great attainments in your early years in the word of God, for the edification of the Church. Having now received a second letter from you, in which you plead for an answer on the most just and amiable ground of that brotherly love in which we are one, I have resolved no longer to postpone the gratification of the desire expressed by your love; and although in the midst of most engrossing business, I address myself to discharge the debt due to you.

2. As to the question on which you wish my opinion, "whether it is lawful to fast on the seventh day of the week," [1569] I answer, that if it were wholly unlawful, neither Moses nor Elijah, nor our Lord Himself, would have fasted for forty successive days. But by the same argument it is proved that even on the Lord's day fasting is not unlawful. And yet, if any one were to think that the Lord's day should be appointed a day of fasting, in the same way as the seventh day is observed by some, such a man would be regarded, and not unjustly, as bringing a great cause of offence into the Church. For in those things concerning which the divine Scriptures have laid down no definite rule, the custom of the people of God, or the practices instituted by their fathers, are to be held as the law of the Church. [1570] If we choose to fall into a debate about these things, and to denounce one party merely because their custom differs from that of others, the consequence must be an endless contention, in which the utmost care is necessary lest the storm of conflict overcast with clouds the calmness of brotherly love, while strength is spent in mere controversy which cannot adduce on either side any decisive testimonies of truth. This danger the author has not been careful to avoid, whose prolix dissertation you deemed worth sending to me with your former letter, that I might answer his arguments.

Chap. II.

3. I have not at my disposal sufficient leisure to enter on the refutation of his opinions one by one: my time is demanded by other and more important work. But if you devote a little more carefully to this treatise of an anonymous Roman author, [1571] the talents which by your letters you prove yourself to possess, and which I greatly love in you as God's gift, you will see that he has not hesitated to wound by his most injurious language almost the whole Church of Christ, from the rising of the sun to its going down. Nay, I may say not almost, but absolutely, the whole Church. For he is found to have not even spared the Roman Christians, whose custom he seems to himself to defend; but he is not aware how the force of his invectives recoils upon them, for it has escaped his observation. For when arguments to prove the obligation to fast on the seventh day of the week fail him, he enters on a vehement blustering protest against the excesses of banquets and drunken revelries, and the worst licence of intoxication, as if there were no medium between fasting and rioting. Now if this be admitted, what good can fasting on Saturday do to the Romans? since on the other days on which they do not fast they must be presumed, according to his reasoning, to be gluttonous, and given to excess in wine. If, therefore, there is any difference between loading the heart with surfeiting and drunkenness, which is always sinful, and relaxing the strictness of fasting, with due regard to self-restraint and temperance on the other, which is done on the Lord's day without censure from any Christian,--if, I say, there is a difference between these two things, let him first mark the distinction between the repasts of saints and the excessive eating and drinking of those whose god is their belly, lest he charge the Romans themselves with belonging to the latter class on the days on which they do not fast; and then let him inquire, not whether it is lawful to indulge in drunkenness on the seventh day of the week, which is not lawful on the Lord's day, but whether it is incumbent on us to fast on the seventh day of the week, which we are not wont to do on the Lord's day.

4. This question I would wish to see him investigate, and resolve in such a manner as would not involve him in the guilt of openly speaking against the whole Church diffused throughout the world, with the exception of the Roman Christians, and hitherto a few of the Western communities. Is it, I ask, to be endured among the entire Eastern Christian communities, and many of those in the West, that this man should say of so many and so eminent servants of Christ, who on the seventh day of the week refresh themselves soberly and moderately with food, that they "are in the flesh, and cannot please God;" and that of them it is written, "Let the wicked depart from me, I will not know their way;" and that they make their belly their god, that they prefer Jewish rites to those of the Church, and are sons of the bondwoman; that they are governed not by the righteous law of God, but by their own good pleasure, consulting their own appetites instead of submitting to salutary restraint; also that they are carnal, and savour of death, and other such charges, which if he had uttered against even one servant of God, who would listen to him, who would not be bound to turn away from him? But now, when he assails with such reproachful and abusive language the Church bearing fruit and increasing throughout the whole world, and in almost all places observing no fast on the seventh day of the week, I warn him, whoever he is, to beware. For in wishing to conceal from me his name, you plainly showed your unwillingness that I should judge him.

Chap. III.

5. "The Son of man," he says, "is Lord of the Sabbath, and in that day it is by all means lawful to do good rather than do evil." [1572] If, therefore, we do evil when we break our fast, there is no Lord's day upon which we live as we should. As to his admission that the apostles did eat upon the seventh day of the week, and his remark upon this, that the time for their fasting had not then come, because of the Lord's own words, "The days will come when the Bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall the children of the Bridegroom fast;" [1573] since there is "a time to rejoice, and a time to mourn," [1574] he ought first to have observed, that our Lord was speaking there of fasting in general, but not of fasting upon the seventh day. Again, when he says that by fasting grief is signified, and that by food joy is represented, why does he not reflect what it was which God designed to signify by that which is written, "that He rested on the seventh day from all His works,"--namely, that joy, and not sorrow, was set forth in that rest? Unless, perchance, he intends to affirm that in God's resting and hallowing of the Sabbath, joy was signified to the Jews, but grief to the Christians. But God did not lay down a rule concerning fasting or eating on the seventh day of the week, either at the time of His hallowing that day because in it He rested from His works, or afterwards, when He gave precepts to the Hebrew nation concerning the observance of that day. The only thing enjoined on man there is, that he abstain from doing work himself, or requiring it from his servants. And the people of the former dispensation, accepting this rest as a shadow of things to come, obeyed the command by such abstinence from work as we now see practised by the Jews; not, as some suppose, through their being carnal, and misunderstanding what the Christians rightly understand. Nor do we understand this law better than the prophets, who, at the time when this was still binding, observed such rest on the Sabbath as the Jews believe ought to be observed to this day. Hence also it was that God commanded them to stone to death a man who had gathered sticks on the Sabbath; [1575] but we nowhere read of any one being stoned, or deemed worthy of any punishment whatever, for either fasting or eating on the Sabbath. Which of the two is more in keeping with rest, and which with toil, let our author himself decide, who has regarded joy as the portion of those who eat, and sorrow as the portion of those who fast, or at least has understood that these things were so regarded by the Lord, when, giving answer concerning fasting, He said: "Can the children of the bride-chamber mourn as long as the Bridegroom is with them?" [1576]

6. Moreover, as to his assertion, that the reason of the apostles eating on the seventh day (a thing forbidden by the tradition of the elders) was, that the time for their fasting on that day had not come; I ask, if the time had not then come for the abolition of the Jewish rest from work on that day? Did not the tradition of the elders prohibit fasting on the one hand, and enjoin rest on the other? and.yet the disciples of Christ, of whom we read that they did eat on the Sabbath, did on the same day pluck the ears of corn, which was not then lawful, because forbidden by the tradition of the elders. Let him therefore consider whether it might not with more reason be said in reply to him, that the Lord desired to have these two things, the plucking of the ears of corn and the taking of food, done in the same day by His disciples, for this reason, that the former action might confute those who would prohibit all work on the seventh day, and the latter action confute those who would enjoin fasting on the seventh day; since by the former action He taught that the rest from labour was now, through the change in the dispensation, an act of superstition; and by the latter He intimated His will, that under both dispensations the matter of fasting or not was left to every man's choice. I do not say this by way of argument in support of my view, but only to show how, in answer to him, things much more forcible than what he has spoken might be advanced.

Chap. IV.

7. "How shall we," says our author, "escape sharing the condemnation of the Pharisee, if we fast twice in the week?" [1577] As if the Pharisee had been condemned for fasting twice in the week, and not for proudly vaunting himself above the publican. He might as well say that those also are condemned with that Pharisee, who give a tenth of all their possessions to the poor, for he boasted of this among his other works; whereas I would that it were done by many Christians, instead of a very small number, as we find. Or let him say, that whosoever is not an unjust man, or adulterer, or extortioner, must be condemned with that Pharisee, because he boasted that he was none of these; but the man who could think thus is, beyond question, beside himself. Moreover, if these things which the Pharisee mentioned as found in him, being admitted by all to be good in themselves, are not to be retained with the haughty boastfulness which was manifest in him, but are to be retained with the lowly piety which was not in him; by the same rule, to fast twice in the week is in a man such as the Pharisee unprofitable, but is in one who has humility and faith a religious service. Moreover, after all, the Scripture does not say that the Pharisee was condemned, but only that the publican was "justified rather than the other."

8. Again, when our author insists upon interpreting, in connection with this matter, the words of the Lord, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven," [1578] and thinks that we cannot fulfil this precept unless we fast oftener than twice in the week, let him mark well that there are seven days in the week. If, then, from these any one subtract two, not fasting on the seventh day nor on the Lord's day, there remain five days in which he may surpass the Pharisee, who fasts but twice in the week. For I think that if any man fast three times in the week, he already surpasses the Pharisee who fasted but twice. And if a fast is observed four times, or even so often as five times, passing over only the seventh day and the Lord's day without fasting,--a practice observed by many through their whole lifetime, especially by those who are settled in monasteries,--by this not the Pharisee alone is surpassed in the labour of fasting, but that Christian also whose custom is to fast on the fourth, and sixth, and seventh days, as the Roman community does to a large extent. And yet your nameless metropolitan disputant calls such an one carnal, even though for five successive days of the week, excepting the seventh and the Lord's day, he so fast as to withhold all refection from the body; as if, forsooth, food and drink on other days had nothing to do with the flesh, and condemns him as making a god of his belly, as if it was only the seventh day's repast which entered into the belly.

We have no compunction in passing over about eight columns here of this letter, in which Augustin exposes, with a tedious minuteness and with a waste of rhetoric, other feeble and irrelevant puerilities of the Roman author whose work Casulanus had submitted to his review. Instead of accompanying him into the shallow places into which he was drawn while pursuing such an insignificant foe, let us resume the translation at the point at which Augustin gives his own opinion regarding the question whether it is binding on Christians to fast on Saturday.

Chap. XI.

25. As to the succeeding paragraphs with which he concludes his treatise, they are, like some other things in it which I have not thought worthy of notice, even more irrelevant to a discussion of the question whether we should fast or eat on the seventh day of the week. But I leave it to yourself, especially if you have found any help from what I have already said, to observe and dispose of these. Having now to the best of my ability, and as I think sufficiently, replied to the reasonings of this author, if I be asked what is my own opinion in this matter, I answer, after carefully pondering the question, that in the Gospels and Epistles, and the entire collection of books for our instruction called the New Testament, I see that fasting is enjoined. But I do not discover any rule definitely laid down by the Lord or by the apostles as to days on which we ought or ought not to fast. And by this I am persuaded that exemption from fasting on the seventh day is more suitable, not indeed to obtain, but to foreshadow, that eternal rest in which the true Sabbath is realized, and which is obtained only by faith, and by that righteousness whereby the daughter of the King is all glorious within.

26. In this question, however, of fasting or not fasting on the seventh day, nothing appears to me more safe and conducive to peace than the apostle's rule: "Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not, and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth:" [1579] "for neither if we eat are we the better, neither if we eat not are we the worse;" [1580] our fellowship with those among whom we live, and along with whom we live in God, being preserved undisturbed by these things. For as it is true that, in the words of the apostles, "it is evil for that man who eateth with offence," [1581] it is equally true that it is evil for that man who fasteth with offence. Let us not therefore be like those who, seeing John the Baptist neither eating nor drinking, said, "He hath a devil;" but let us equally avoid imitating those who said, when they saw Christ eating and drinking, "Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." [1582] After mentioning these sayings, the Lord subjoined a most important truth in the words, "But Wisdom is justified of her children;" and if you ask who these are, read what is written, "The sons of Wisdom are the congregation of the righteous:" [1583] they are they who, when they eat, do not despise others who do not eat; and when they eat not, do not judge those who eat, but who do despise and judge those who, with offence, either eat or abstain from eating.

Chap. XII.

27. As to the seventh day of the week there is less difficulty in acting on the rule above quoted, because both the Roman Church and some other churches, though few, near to it or remote from it, observe a fast on that day; but to fast on the Lord's day is a great offence, especially since the rise of that detestable heresy of the Manichæans, so manifestly and grievously contradicting the Catholic faith and the divine Scriptures: for the Manichæans have prescribed to their followers the obligation of fasting upon that day; whence it has resulted that the fast upon the Lord's day is regarded with the greater abhorrence. Unless, perchance, some one be able to continue an unbroken fast for more than a week, so as to approach as nearly as may be to the fast of forty days, as we have known some do; and we have even been assured by brethren most worthy of credit, that one person did attain to the full period of forty days. For as, in the time of the Old Testament fathers, Moses and Elijah did not do anything against liberty of eating on the seventh day of the week, when they fasted forty days; so the man who has been able to go beyond seven days in fasting has not chosen the Lord's day as a day of fasting, but has only come upon it in course among the days for which, so far as he might be able, he had vowed to prolong his fast. If, however, a continuous fast is to be concluded within a week, there is no day upon which it may more suitably be concluded than the Lord's day; but if the body is not refreshed until more than a week has elapsed, the Lord's day is not in that case selected as a day of fasting, but is found occurring within the number of days for which it had seemed good to the person to make a vow.

28. Be not moved by that which the Priscillianists [1584] (a sect very like the Manichæans) are wont to quote as an argument from the Acts of the Apostles, concerning what was done by the Apostle Paul in Troas. The passage is as follows: "Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight." [1585] Afterwards, when he had come down from the supper chamber where they had been gathered together, that he might restore the young man who, overpowered with sleep, had fallen from the window and was taken up dead, the Scripture states further concerning the apostle: "When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed." [1586] Far be it from us to accept this as affirming that the apostles were accustomed to fast habitually on the Lord's day. For the day now known as the Lord's day was then called the first day of the week, as is more plainly seen in the Gospels; for the day of the Lord's resurrection is called by Matthew mia sabbaton, and by the other three evangelists he mia (ton) sabbaton, [1587] and it is well ascertained that the same is the day which is now called the Lord's day. Either, therefore, it was after the close of the seventh day that they had assembled,--namely, in the beginning of the night which followed, and which belonged to the Lord's day, or the first day of the week,--and in this case the apostle, before proceeding to break bread with them, as is done in the sacrament of the body of Christ, continued his discourse until midnight, and also, after celebrating the sacrament, continued still speaking again to those who were assembled, being much pressed for time in order that he might set out at dawn upon the Lord's day; or if it was on the first day of the week, at an hour before sunset on the Lord's day, that they had assembled, the words of the text, "Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow," themselves expressly state the reason for his prolonging his discourse,--namely, that he was about to leave them, and wished to give them ample instruction. The passage does not therefore prove that they habitually fasted on the Lord's day, but only that it did not seem meet to the apostle to interrupt, for the sake of taking refreshment, an important discourse, which was listened to with the ardour of most lively interest by persons whom he was about to leave, and whom, on account of his many other journeyings, he visited but seldom, and perhaps on no other occasion than this, especially because, as subsequent events prove, he was then leaving them without expectation of seeing them again in this life. Nay, by this instance, it is rather proved that such fasting on the Lord's day was not customary, because the writer of the history, in order to prevent this being thought, has taken care to state the reason why the discourse was so prolonged, that we might know that in an emergency dinner is not to stand in the way of more important work. But indeed the example of these most eager listeners goes further; for by them all bodily refreshment, not dinner only, but supper also, was disregarded when thirsting vehemently, not for water, but for the word of truth; and considering that the fountain was about to be removed from them, they drank in with unabated desire whatever flowed from the apostle's lips.

29. In that age, however, although fasting upon the Lord's day was not usually practised, it was not so great an offence to the Church when, in any similar emergency to that in which Paul was at Troas, men did not attend to the refreshment of the body throughout the whole of the Lord's day until midnight, or even until the dawn of the following morning. But now, since heretics, and especially these most impious Manichæans, have begun not to observe an occasional fast upon the Lord's day, when constrained by circumstances, but to prescribe such fasting as a duty binding by sacred and solemn institution, and this practice of theirs has become well known to Christian communities; even were such an emergency arising as that which the apostle experienced, I verily think that what he then did should not now be done, lest the harm done by the offence given should be greater than the good received from the words spoken. Whatever necessity may arise, or good reason, compelling a Christian to fast on the Lord's day,--as we find, e.g., in the Acts of the Apostles, that in peril of shipwreck they fasted on board of the ship in which the apostle was for fourteen days successively, within which the Lord's day came round twice, [1588] --we ought to have no hesitation in believing that the Lord's day is not to be placed among the days of voluntary fasting, except in the case of one vowing to fast continuously for a period longer than a week.

Chap. XIII.

30. The reason why the Church prefers to appoint the fourth and sixth days of the week for fasting, is found by considering the gospel narrative. There we find that on the fourth day of the week [1589] the Jews took counsel to put the Lord to death. One day having intervened,--on the evening of which, at the close, namely, of the day which we call the fifth day of the week, the Lord ate the passover with His disciples,--He was thereafter betrayed on the night which belonged to the sixth day of the week, the day (as is everywhere known) of His passion. This day, beginning with the evening, was the first day of unleavened bread. The evangelist Matthew, however, says that the fifth day of the week was the first of unleavened bread, because in the evening following it the paschal supper was to be observed, at which they began to eat the unleavened bread, and the lamb offered in sacrifice. From which it is inferred that it was upon the fourth day of the week that the Lord said, "You know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified;" [1590] and for this reason that day has been regarded as one suitable for fasting, because, as the evangelist immediately adds: "Then assembled together the chief priests and the scribes and the elders of the people unto the palace of the high priest, who is called Caiaphas, and consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty and kill Him." [1591] After the intermission of one day,--the day, namely, of which the evangelist writes: [1592] "Now, on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we prepare for Thee to eat the passover? "--the Lord suffered on the sixth day of the week, as is admitted by all: wherefore the sixth day also is rightly reckoned a day for fasting, as fasting is symbolical of humiliation; whence it is said, "I humbled my soul with fasting." [1593]

31. The next day is the Jewish Sabbath, on which day Christ's body rested in the grave, as in the original fashioning of the world God rested on that day from all His works. Hence originated that variety in the robe of His bride [1594] which we are now considering: some, especially the Eastern communities, preferring to take food on that day, that their action might be emblematic of the divine rest; others, namely the Church of Rome, and some churches in the West, preferring to fast on that day because of the humiliation of the Lord in death. Once in the year, namely at Easter, all Christians observe the seventh day of the week by fasting, in memory of the mourning with which the disciples, as men bereaved, lamented the death of the Lord (and this is done with the utmost devoutness by those who take food on the seventh day throughout the rest of the year); thus providing a symbolical representation of both events,--of the disciples' sorrow on one seventh day in the year, and of the blessing of repose on all the others. There are two things which make the happiness of the just and the end of all their misery to be confidently expected, viz. death and the resurrection of the dead. In death is that rest of which the prophet speaks: "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast." [1595] In resurrection blessedness is consummated in the whole man, both body and soul. Hence it came to be thought that both of these things [death and resurrection] should be symbolized, not by the hardship of fasting, but rather by the cheerfulness of refreshment with food, excepting only the Easter Saturday, on which, as I have said, it had been resolved to commemorate by a more protracted fast the mourning of the disciples, as one of the events to be had in remembrance.

Chap. XIV.

32. Since, therefore (as I have said above), we do not find in the Gospels or in the apostolical writings, belonging properly to the revelation of the New Testament, that any law was laid down as to fasts to be observed on particular days; and since this is consequently one of many things, difficult to enumerate, which make up a variety in the robe of the King's daughter, [1596] that is to say, of the Church,--I will tell you the answer given to my questions on this subject by the venerable Ambrose Bishop of Milan, by whom I was baptized. When my mother was with me in that city, I, as being only a catechumen, felt no concern about these questions; but it was to her a question causing anxiety, whether she ought, after the custom of our own town, to fast on the Saturday, or, after the custom of the Church of Milan, not to fast. To deliver her from perplexity, I put the question to the man of God whom I have just named. He answered, "What else can I recommend to others than what I do myself?" When I thought that by this he intended simply to prescribe to us that we should take food on Saturdays--for I knew this to be his own practice--he, following me, added these words: "When I am here I do not fast on Saturday; but when I am at Rome I do: whatever church you may come to, conform to its custom, if you would avoid either receiving or giving offence." This reply I reported to my mother, and it satisfied her, so that she scrupled not to comply with it; and I have myself followed the same rule. Since, however, it happens, especially in Africa, that one church, or the churches within the same district, may have some members who fast and others who do not fast on the seventh day, it seems to me best to adopt in each congregation the custom of those to whom authority in its government has been committed. Wherefore, if you are quite willing to follow my advice, especially because in regard to this matter I have spoken at greater length than was necessary, do not in this resist your own bishop, but follow his practice without scruple or debate.

Footnotes

[1569] Sabbato. [1570] We give the ipsissima verba of this canon: "In his enim rebus de quibus nihil certi statuit Scriptura divina mos populi Dei vel instituta majorum pro lege tenenda sunt." [1571] In the text the name is Urbicus, from Urbs Roma. [1572] Matt. xii. 8-12. [1573] Matt. ix. 15. [1574] Eccles. iii. 4. [1575] Num. xv. 35. [1576] Matt. ix. 15. [1577] Luke xviii. 11, 12. [1578] Matt. v. 21. [1579] Rom. xiv. 3. [1580] 1 Cor. viii. 8. [1581] Rom. xiv. 20. [1582] Matt. xi. 19. [1583] Ecclus. iii. 1. [1584] Priscillian, Bishop of Avila in Spain, adopted Gnostic and Manichæan errors and practices. He was condemned by the Synod of Saragossa in 381 A.D., and beheaded, along with his principal followers, by order of Maximus in 385 A.D. [1585] Acts xx. 7. [1586] Acts xx. 11. [1587] "Prima Sabbati a Matthæo, a cætetis autem tribus una Sabbati dicitur." Matt. xxviii. 1; Mark xvi. 2; Luke xxiv. 1; John xx. 1. [1588] Acts xxvii. 33. [1589] Commonly called quarta feria. [1590] Matt. xxvi. 2. [1591] Matt. xxvi. 3, 4. [1592] Matt. xxvi. 17. [1593] Ps. xxxv. 13. [1594] Ps. xlv. 13, 14. [1595] Isa. xxvi. 20. [1596] Ps. xlv. 13.


Letter XXXVII.

(a.d. 397.)

To Simplicianus, [1597] My Lord Most Blessed, and My Father Most Worthy of Being Cherished with Respect and Sincere Affection, Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

1. I received the letter which your Holiness kindly sent,--a letter full of occasions of much joy to me, because assuring me that you remember me, that you love me as you used to do, and that you take great pleasure in every one of the gifts which the Lord has in His compassion been pleased to bestow on me. In reading that letter, I have eagerly welcomed the fatherly affection which flows from your benignant heart towards me: and this I have not found for the first time, as something short-lived and new, but long ago proved and well known, my lord, most blessed, and most worthy of being cherished with respect and sincere love.

2. Whence comes so great a recompense for the literary labour given by me to the writing of a few books as this, that your Excellency should condescend to read them? Is it not that the Lord, to whom my soul is devoted, has purposed thus to comfort me under my anxieties, and to lighten the fear with which in such labour I cannot but be exercised, lest, notwithstanding the evenness of the plain of truth, I stumble through want either of knowledge or of caution? For when what I write meets your approval, I know by whom it is approved, for I know who dwells in you; and the Giver and Dispenser of all spiritual gifts designs by your approbation to confirm my obedience to Him. For whatever in these writings of mine merits your approbation is from God, who has by me as His instrument said, "Let it be done," and it was done; and in your approval God has pronounced that what was done is "good." [1598]

3. As for the questions which you have condescended to command me to resolve, even if through the dulness of my mind I did not understand them, I might through the assistance of your merits find an answer to them. This only I ask, that on account of my weakness you intercede with God for me, and that whatever writings of mine come into your sacred hands, whether on the topics to which you have in a manner so kind and fatherly directed my attention, or on any others, you will not only take pains to read them, but also accept the charge of reviewing and correcting them; for I acknowledge the mistakes which I myself have made, as readily as the gifts which God has bestowed on me.

Footnotes

[1597] Simplicianus succeeded Ambrose in the see of Milan in 397 A.D. This letter is the preface to the two books addressed to Simplicianus, and contained in vol. vi. of the Benedictine edition of Augustin. [1598] Gen. i. 3, 4.


Letter XXXVIII.

(a.d. 397.)

To His Brother Profuturus Augustin Sends Greeting.

1. As for my spirit, I am well, through the Lord's good pleasure, and the strength which He condescends to impart; but as for my body, I am confined to bed. I can neither walk, nor stand, nor sit, because of the pain and swelling of a boil or tumour. [1599] But even in such a case, since this is the will of the Lord, what else can I say than that I am well? For if we do not wish that which He is pleased to do, we ought rather to take blame to ourselves than to think that He could err in anything which He either does or suffers to be done. All this you know well; but what shall I more willingly say to you than the things which I say to myself, seeing that you are to me a second self? I commend therefore both my days and my nights to your pious intercessions. Pray for me, that I may not waste my days through want of self-control, and that I may bear my nights with patience: pray that, though I walk in the midst of the shadow of death, the Lord may so be with me that I shall fear no evil.

2. You have heard, doubtless, of the death of the aged Megalius, [1600] for it is now twenty-four days since he put off this mortal body. I wish to know, if possible, whether you have seen, as you proposed, his successor in the primacy. We are not delivered from offences, but it is equally true that we are not deprived of our refuge; our griefs do not cease, but our consolations are equally abiding. And well do you know, my excellent brother, how, in the midst of such offences, we must watch lest hatred of any one gain a hold upon the heart, and so not only hinder us from praying to God with the door of our chamber closed, [1601] but also shut the door against God Himself; for hatred of another insidiously creeps upon us, while no one who is angry considers his anger to be unjust. For anger habitually cherished against any one becomes hatred, since the sweetness which is mingled with what appears to be righteous anger makes us detain it longer than we ought in the vessel, until the whole is soured, and the vessel itself is spoiled. Wherefore it is much better for us to forbear from anger, even when one has given us just occasion for it, than, beginning with what seems just anger against any one, to fall, through this occult tendency of passion, into hating him. We are wont to say that, in entertaining strangers, it is much better to bear the inconvenience of receiving a bad man than to run the risk of having a good man shut out, through our caution lest any bad man be admitted; but in the passions of the soul the opposite rule holds true. For it is incomparably more for our soul's welfare to shut the recesses of the heart against anger, even when it knocks with a just claim for admission, than to admit that which it will be most difficult to expel, and which will rapidly grow from a mere sapling to a strong tree. Anger dares to increase with boldness more suddenly than men suppose, for it does not blush in the dark, when the sun has gone down upon it. [1602] You will understand with how great care and anxiety I write these things, if you consider the things which lately on a certain journey you said to me.

3. I salute my brother Severus, and those who are with him. I would perhaps write to them also, if the limited time before the departure of the bearer permitted me. I beseech you also to assist me in persuading our brother Victor (to whom I desire through your Holiness to express my thanks for his informing me of his setting out to Constantina) not to refuse to return by way of Calama, on account of a business known to him, in which I have to bear a very heavy burden in the importunate urgency of the elder Nectarius concerning it; he gave me his promise to this effect. Farewell!

Footnotes

[1599] Rhagas vel exochas. [1600] Megalius, Bishop of Calama and Primate of Numidia, by whom two years before Augustin had been ordained Bishop of Hippo. The reflections upon anger which follow the allusion here to the death of Megalius were probably suggested by the remembrance of an incident in the life of that bishop. While Augustin was a presbyter, Megalius had written in anger a letter to him for which he afterwards apologized, formally retracting calumny which it contained. [1601] Matt. vi. 6. [1602] Eph. iv. 26.


Letter XXXIX.

(a.d. 397.)

To My Lord Augustin, a Father [1603] Truly Holy and Most Blessed, Jerome Sends Greeting in Christ.

Chap. I.

1. Last year I sent by the hand of our brother, the subdeacon Asterius, a letter conveying to your Excellency a salutation due to you, and readily rendered by me; and I think that my letter was delivered to you. I now write again, by my holy brother the deacon Præsidius, begging you in the first place not to forget me, and in the second place to receive the bearer of this letter, whom I commend to you with the request that you recognise him as one very near and dear to me, and that you encourage and help him in whatever way his circumstances may demand; not that he is in need of anything (for Christ has amply endowed him), but that he is most eagerly desiring the friendship of good men, and thinks that in securing this he obtains the most valuable blessing. His design in travelling to the West you may learn from his own lips.

Chap. II.

2. As for us, established here in our monastery, we feel the shock of waves on every side, and are burdened with the cares of our lot as pilgrims. But we believe in Him who hath said, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world," [1604] and are confident that by His grace and guidance we shall prevail against our adversary the devil.

I beseech you to give my respectful salutation to the holy and venerable brother, our father Alypius. The brethren who, with me, devote themselves to serve the Lord in this monastery, salute you warmly. May Christ our Almighty God guard you from harm, and keep you mindful of me, my lord and father truly holy and venerable.

Footnotes

[1603] [Papa.] [1604] John xvi. 33.


Letter XL.

(a.d. 397.)

To My Lord Much Beloved, and Brother Worthy of Being Honoured and Embraced with the Most Sincere Devotion of Charity, My Fellow-Presbyter Jerome, Augustin Sends Greeting.

Chap. I.

1. I thank you that, instead of a mere formal salutation, you wrote me a letter, though it was much shorter than I would desire to have from you; since nothing that comes from you is tedious, however much time it may demand. Wherefore, although I am beset with great anxieties about the affairs of others, and that, too, in regard to secular matters, I would find it difficult to pardon the brevity of your letter, were it not that I consider that it was written in reply to a yet shorter letter of my own. Address yourself, therefore, I entreat you, to that exchange of letters by which we may have fellowship, and may not permit the distance which separates us to keep us wholly apart from each other; though we are in the Lord bound together by the unity of the Spirit, even when our pens rest and we are silent. The books in which you have laboured to bring treasures from the Lord's storehouse give me almost a complete knowledge of you. For if I may not say, "I know you," because I have not seen your face, it may with equal truth be said that you do not know yourself, for you cannot see your own face. If, however, it is this alone which constitutes your acquaintance with yourself, that you know your own mind, we also have no small knowledge of it through your writings, in studying which we bless God that to yourself, to us, to all who read your works, He has given you as you are.

Chap. II.

2. It is not long since, among other things, a certain book of yours came into my hands, the name of which I do not yet know, for the manuscript itself had not the title written, as is customary, on the first page. The brother with whom it was found said that its title is Epitaphium,--a name which we might believe you to have approved, if we found in the work a notice of the lives or writings of those only who are deceased. Inasmuch, however, as mention is there made of the works of some who were at the time when it was written, or are even now, alive, we wonder why you either gave this title to it, or permitted others to believe that you had done so. The book itself has our complete approval as a useful work.

Chap. III.

3. In your exposition of the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians I have found one thing which causes me much concern. For if it be the case that statements untrue in themselves, but made, as it were, out of a sense of duty in the interest of religion, [1605] have been admitted into the Holy Scriptures, what authority will be left to them? If this be conceded, what sentence can be produced from these Scriptures, by the weight of which the wicked obstinacy of error can be broken down? For as soon as you have produced it, if it be disliked by him who contends with you, he will reply that, in the passage alleged, the writer was uttering a falsehood under the pressure of some honourable sense of duty. And where will any one find this way of escape impossible, if it be possible for men to say and believe that, after introducing his narrative with these words, "The things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not," [1606] the apostle lied when he said of Peter and Barnabas, "I saw that they walked not uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel "? [1607] For if they did walk uprightly, Paul wrote what was false; and if he wrote what was false here, when did he say what was true? Shall he be supposed to say what is true when his teaching corresponds with the predilection of his reader, and shall everything which runs counter to the impressions of the reader be reckoned a falsehood uttered by him under a sense of duty? It will be impossible to prevent men from finding reasons for thinking that he not only might have uttered a falsehood, but was bound to do so, if we admit this canon of interpretation. There is no need for many words in pursuing this argument, especially in writing to you, for whose wisdom and prudence enough has already been said. I would by no means be so arrogant as to attempt to enrich by my small coppers [1608] your mind, which by the divine gift is golden; and none is more able than yourself to revise and correct that work to which I have referred.

Chap. IV.

4. You do not require me to teach you in what sense the apostle says, "To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews," [1609] and other such things in the same passage, which are to be ascribed to the compassion of pitying love, not the artifices of intentional deceit. For he that ministers to the sick becomes as if he were sick himself; not, indeed, falsely pretending to be under the fever, but considering, with the mind of one truly sympathizing, what he would wish done for himself if he were in the sick man's place. Paul was indeed a Jew; and when he had become a Christian, he had not abandoned those Jewish sacraments which that people had received in the right way, and for a certain appointed time. Therefore, even although he was an apostle of Christ, he took part in observing these; but with this view, that he might show that they were in no wise hurtful to those who, even after they had believed in Christ, desired to retain the ceremonies which by the law they had learned from their fathers; provided only that they did not build on these their hope of salvation, since the salvation which was foreshadowed in these has now been brought in by the Lord Jesus. For the same reason, he judged that these ceremonies should by no means be made binding on the Gentile converts, because, by imposing a heavy and superfluous burden, they might turn aside from the faith those who were unaccustomed to them.

5. The thing, therefore, which he rebuked in Peter was not his observing the customs handed down from his fathers--which Peter, if he wished, might do without being chargeable with deceit or inconsistency, for, though now superfluous, these customs were not hurtful to one who had been accustomed to them--but his compelling the Gentiles to observe Jewish ceremonies, [1610] which he could not do otherwise than by so acting in regard to them as if their observance was, even after the Lord's coming, still necessary to salvation, against which truth protested through the apostolic office of Paul. Nor was the Apostle Peter ignorant of this, but he did it through fear of those who were of the circumcision. Manifestly, therefore, Peter was truly corrected, and Paul has given a true narrative of the event, unless, by the admission of a falsehood here, the authority of the Holy Scriptures given for the faith of all coming generations is to be made wholly uncertain and wavering. For it is neither possible nor suitable to state within the compass of a letter how great and how unutterably evil must be the consequences of such a concession. It might, however, be shown seasonably, and with less hazard, if we were conversing together.

6. Paul had forsaken everything peculiar to the Jews that was evil, especially this: "That, being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they had not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." [1611] In this, moreover, he differed from them: that after the passion and resurrection of Christ, in whom had been given and made manifest the mystery of grace, according to the order of Melchizedek, they still considered it binding on them to celebrate, not out of mere reverence for old customs, but as necessary to salvation, the sacraments of the old economy, which were indeed at one time necessary, else had it been unprofitable and vain for the Maccabees to suffer martyrdom, as they did, for their adherence to them. [1612] Lastly, in this also Paul differed from the Jews: that they persecuted the Christian preachers of grace as enemies of the law. These and all similar errors and sins he declares that he "counted but loss and dung that he might win Christ;" [1613] but he does not, in so saying, disparage the ceremonies of the Jewish law, if only they were observed after the custom of their fathers, in the way in which he himself observed them, without regarding them as necessary to salvation, and not in the way in which the Jews affirmed that they must be observed, nor in the exercise of deceptive dissimulation such as he had rebuked in Peter. For if Paul observed these sacraments in order, by pretending to be a Jew, to gain the Jews, why did he not also take part with the Gentiles in heathen sacrifices, when to them that were without law he became as without law, that he might gain them also? The explanation is found in this, that he took part in the Jewish sacrifices, as being himself by birth a Jew; and that when he said all this which I have quoted, he meant, not that he pretended to be what he was not, but that he felt with true compassion that he must bring such help to them as would be needful for himself if he were involved in their error. Herein he exercised not the subtlety of a deceiver, but the sympathy of a compassionate deliverer. In the same passage the apostle has stated the principle more generally: "To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some," [1614] --the latter clause of which guides us to understand the former as meaning that he showed himself one who pitied the weakness of another as much as if it had been his own. For when he said, "Who is weak, and I am not weak?" [1615] he did not wish it to be supposed that he pretended to suffer the infirmity of another, but rather that he showed it by sympathy.

7. Wherefore I beseech you, apply to the correction and emendation of that book a frank and truly Christian severity, and chant what the Greeks call palinodia. For incomparably more lovely than the Grecian Helen is Christian truth: In her defence, our martyrs have fought against Sodom with more courage than the heroes of Greece displayed against Troy for Helen's sake. I do not say this in order that you may recover the faculty of spiritual sight, [1616] --far be it from me to say that you have lost it!--but that, having eyes both clear and quick in discernment, you may turn them towards that from which, in unaccountable dissimulation, you have turned them away, refusing to see the calamitous consequences which would follow on our once admitting that a writer of the divine books could in any part of his work honourably and piously utter a falsehood.

Chap. V.

8. I had written some time ago a letter to you on this subject, [1617] which was not delivered to you, because the bearer to whom it was entrusted did not finish his journey to you. From it I may quote a thought which occurred to me while I was dictating it, and which I ought not to omit in this letter, in order that, if your opinion is still different from mine, and is better, you may readily forgive the anxiety which has moved me to write. It is this: If your opinion is different, and is according to truth (for only in that case can it be better than mine), you will grant that "a mistake of mine, which is in the interest of truth, cannot deserve great blame, if indeed it deserves blame at all, when it is possible for you to use truth in the interest of falsehood without doing wrong." [1618]

9. As to the reply which you were pleased to give me concerning Origen, I did not need to be told that we should, not only in ecclesiastical writers, but in all others, approve and commend what we find right and true, but reject and condemn what we find false and mischievous. What I craved from your wisdom and learning (and I still crave it), was that you should acquaint us definitely with the points in which that remarkable man is proved to have departed from the belief of the truth. Moreover, in that book in which you have mentioned all the ecclesiastical writers whom you could remember, and their works, it would, I think, be a more convenient arrangement if, after naming those whom you know to be heretics (since you have chosen not to pass them without notice), you would add in what respect their doctrine is to be avoided. Some of these heretics also you have omitted, and I would fain know on what grounds. If, however, perchance it has been from a desire not to enlarge that volume unduly that you refrained from adding to a notice of heretics, the statement of the things in which the Catholic Church has authoritatively condemned them, I beg you not to grudge bestowing on this subject, to which with humility and brotherly love I direct your attention, a portion of that literary labour by which already, by the grace of the Lord our God, you have in no small measure stimulated and assisted the saints in the study of the Latin tongue, and publish in one small book (if your other occupations permit you) a digest of the perverse dogmas of all the heretics who up to this time have, through arrogance, or ignorance, or self-will, attempted to subvert the simplicity of the Christian faith; a work most necessary for the information of those who are prevented, either by lack of leisure or by their not knowing the Greek language, from reading and understanding so many things. I would urge my request at greater length, were it not that this is commonly a sign of misgivings as to the benevolence of the party from whom a favour is sought. Meanwhile I cordially recommend to your goodwill in Christ our brother Paulus, to whose high standing in these regions I bear before God willing testimony.

Footnotes

[1605] [Velut officiosa mendacia.] [1606] Gal. i. 20. [1607] Gal. ii. 14. [1608] [Obolis meis.] [1609] 1 Cor. ix. 20. [1610] Gal. ii. 14. [1611] Rom. x. 3. [1612] 2 Macc. vii. 1. [1613] Phil. iii. 8. [1614] 1 Cor. ix. 22. [1615] 2 Cor. xi. 29. [1616] The reference here is to the story of the poet Stesichorus, who, having lost his sight as a judgment for writing an attack on Helen, was miraculously healed when he wrote a poem in retractation. [1617] [Epist. XXVIII.] [1618] See Letter XXVIII. sec. 5.


Letter XLI.

(a.d. 397.)

To Father Aurelius, Our Lord Most Blessed and Worthy of Veneration, Our Brother Most Sincerely Beloved, and Our Partner in the Sacerdotal Office, Alypius and Augustin Send Greeting in the Lord.

1. "Our mouth is filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing," [1619] by your letter informing us that, by the help of that God whose inspiration guided you, you have carried into effect your pious purpose concerning all our brethren in orders, and especially concerning the regular delivering of a sermon to the people in your presence by the presbyters, through whose tongues thus engaged your love sounds louder in the hearts than their voice does in the ears of men. Thanks be unto God! Is there anything better for us to have in our heart, or utter with our lips, or record with our pen, than this? Thanks be unto God! No other phrase is more easily spoken, and nothing more pleasant in sound, profound in significance, and profitable in practice, than this. Thanks be unto God, who has endowed you with a heart so true to the interests of your sons, and who has brought to light what you had latent in the inner soul, beyond the reach of human eye, giving you not only the will to do good, but the means of realizing your desires. So be it, certainly so be it! let these works shine before men, that they may see them, and rejoice and glorify your Father in heaven. [1620] In such things delight yourself in the Lord; and may your prayers for these presbyters be graciously heard on their behalf by Him whose voice you do not consider it beneath you to hear when He speaks by them! May they go on, and walk, yea, run in the way of the Lord! May the small and the great be blessed together, being made glad by those who say unto them, "Let us go into the house of the Lord!" [1621] Let the stronger lead; let the weaker imitate their example, being followers of them, as they are of Christ. May we all be as ants pursuing eagerly the path of holy industry, as bees labouring amidst the fragrance of holy duty; and may fruit be brought forth in patience by the saving grace of stedfastness unto the end! May the Lord "not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, but with the temptation may He make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it"! [1622]

2. Pray for us: we value your prayers as worthy to be heard, since you go to God with so great an offering of unfeigned love, and of praise brought to Him by your works. Pray that in us also these works may shine, for He to whom you pray knows with what fulness of joy we behold them shining in you. Such are our desires; such are the abounding comforts which in the multitude of our thoughts within us delight our souls. [1623] It is so now because such is the promise of God; and as He hath promised, so shall it be in the time to come. We beseech you, by Him who hath blessed you, and has by you bestowed this blessing on the people whom you serve, to order any of the presbyters' sermons which you please to be transcribed, and after revisal sent to us. For I on my part am not neglecting what you required of me; and as I have written often before, I am still longing to know what you think of Tychonius' seven Rules or Keys. [1624]

We warmly commend to you our brother Hilarinus, leading physician and magistrate of Hippo. As to our brother Romanus, we know how actively you are exerting yourself on his behalf, and that we need ask nothing but that God may prosper your endeavours.

Footnotes

[1619] Ps. cxxvi. 1. [1620] Matt. v. 16. [1621] Ps. cxxii. 1. [1622] 1 Cor. ix. 13. [1623] Ps. xciv. 19. [1624] On this work of Tychonius, see Augustin, De Doctrina Christiana, b. iii., in which these seven keys for the opening of Scripture are stated and examined.


Letter XLII.

(a.d. 397.)

To Paulinus and Therasia, My Brother and Sister in Christ, Worthy of Respect and Praise, Most Eminent for Piety, Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

Could this have been hoped or expected by us, that now by our brother Severus we should have to claim the answer which your love has not yet written to us, so long and so impatiently desiring your reply? Why have we been doomed through two summers (and these in the parched land of Africa) to bear this thirst? What more can I say? O generous man, who art daily giving away what is your own, be just, and pay what is a debt to us. Perhaps the reason of your long delay is your desire to finish and transmit to me that book against heathen worship, in writing which I had heard that you were engaged, and for which I had expressed a very earnest desire. O that you might by so rich a feast satisfy the hunger which has been sharpened by fasting (so far as your pen was concerned) for more than a year! but if this be not yet prepared, our complaints will not cease unless meanwhile you prevent us from being famished before that is finished. Salute our brethren, especially Romanus and Agilis. [1625] From this place all who are with me salute you, and they would be less provoked by your delay in writing if they loved you less than they do.

Footnotes

[1625] See Epistle XXXI. p. 258.


Letter XLIII.

(a.d. 397.)

To Glorius, Eleusius, the Two Felixes, Grammaticus, and All Others to Whom This May Be Acceptable, My Lords Most Beloved and Worthy of Praise, Augustin Sends Greeting.

Chap. I.

1. The Apostle Paul hath said: "A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted and sinneth, being condemned of himself." [1626] But though the doctrine which men hold be false and perverse, if they do not maintain it with passionate obstinacy, especially when they have not devised it by the rashness of their own presumption, but have accepted it from parents who had been misguided and had fallen into error, and if they are with anxiety seeking the truth, and are prepared to be set right when they have found it, such men are not to be counted heretics. Were it not that I believe you to be such, perhaps I would not write to you. And yet even in the case of a heretic, however puffed up with odious conceit, and insane through the obstinacy of his wicked resistance to truth, although we warn others to avoid him, so that he may not deceive the weak and inexperienced, we do not refuse to strive by every means in our power for his correction. On this ground I wrote even to some of the chief of the Donatists, not indeed letters of communion, which on account of their perversity they have long ceased to receive from the undivided Catholic Church which is spread throughout the world, but letters of a private kind, such as we may send even to pagans. These letters, however, though they have sometimes read them, they have not been willing, or perhaps it is more probable, have not been able, to answer. In these cases, it seems to me that I have discharged the obligation laid on me by that love which the Holy Spirit teaches us to render, not only to our own, but to all, saying by the apostle: "The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men." [1627] In another place we are warned that those who are of a different opinion from us must be corrected with meekness, "if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." [1628]

2. I have said these things by way of preface, lest any one should think, because you are not of our communion, that I have been influenced by forwardness rather than consideration in sending this letter, and in desiring thus to confer with you regarding the welfare of the soul; though I believe that, if I were writing to you about an affair of property, or the settlement of some dispute about money, no one would find fault with me. So precious is this world in the esteem of men, and so small is the value which they set upon themselves! This letter, therefore, shall be a witness in my vindication at the bar of God, who knows the spirit in which I write, and who has said: "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the sons of God." [1629]

Chap. II.

3. I beg you, therefore, to call to mind that, when I was in your town, [1630] and was discussing with you a little concerning the communion of Christian unity, certain Acts were brought forward by you, from which a statement was read aloud that about seventy bishops condemned Cæcilianus, formerly our Bishop of Carthage, along with his colleagues, and those by whom he was ordained. In the same Acts was given a full account of the case of Felix of Aptunga, as one singularly odious and criminal. When all these had been read, I answered that it was not to be wondered at if the men who then caused that schism, and who did not scruple to tamper with Acts, thought that it was right to condemn those against whom they had been instigated by envious and wicked men, although the sentence was passed without deliberation, in the absence of the parties condemned, and without acquainting them with the matter laid to their charge. I added that we have other ecclesiastical Acts, according to which Secundus of Tigisis, who was for the time Primate of Numidia, left those who, being there present, confessed themselves traditors to the judgment of God, and permitted them to remain in the episcopal sees which they then occupied; and I stated that the names of these men are in the list of those who condemned Cæcilianus, and that this Secundus himself was president of the Council in which he secured the condemnation of those who, being absent, were accused as traditors, by the votes of those whom he pardoned when, being present, they confessed the same crime.

4. I then said that some time after the ordination of Majorinus, whom they with impious wickedness set up against Cæcilianus, raising one altar against another, and rending with infatuated contentiousness the unity of Christ, they applied to Constantine, who was then emperor, to appoint bishops to act as judges and arbiters concerning the questions which, having arisen in Africa, disturbed the peace of the Church. [1631] This having been done, Cæcilianus and those who had sailed from Africa to accuse him being present, and the case tried by Melchiades, who was then Bishop of Rome, along with the assessors whom at the request of the Donatists the Emperor had sent, nothing could be proved against Cæcilianus; and thus, while he was confirmed in his episcopal see, Donatus, who was present as his opponent, was condemned. After all this, when they all still persevered in the obstinacy of their most sinful schism, the Emperor being appealed to, took pains to have the matter again more carefully examined and settled at Arles. They, however, declining an ecclesiastical decision, appealed to Constantine himself to hear their cause. When this trial came on, both parties being present, Cæcilianus was pronounced innocent, and they retired vanquished; but they still persisted in the same perversity. At the same time the case of Felix of Aptunga was not forgotten, and he too was acquitted of the crimes laid to his charge, after an investigation by the proconsul at the order of the same prince.

5. Since, however, I was only saying these things, not reading from the record, I seemed to you to be doing less than my earnestness had led you to expect. Perceiving this, I sent at once for that which I had promised to read. While I went on to visit the Church at Gelizi, intending to return thence to you, all these Acts were brought to you before two days had passed, and were read to you, as you know, so far as time permitted, in one day. We read first how Secundus of Tigisis did not dare to depose his colleagues in office who confessed themselves to be traditors; but afterwards, by the help of these very men, dared to condemn, without their confessing the crime, and in their absence, Cæcilianus and others who were his colleagues. And we next read the proconsular Acts in which Felix was, after a most thorough investigation, proved innocent. These, as you will remember, were read in the forenoon. In the afternoon I read to you their petition to Constantine, and the ecclesiastical record of the proceedings in Rome of the judges whom he appointed, by which the Donatists were condemned, and Cæcilianus confirmed in his episcopal dignity. In conclusion, I read the letters of the Emperor Constantine, in which the evidence of all these things was established beyond all possibility of dispute.

Chap. III.

6. What more do you ask, sirs? what more do you ask? The matter in question here is not your gold and silver; it is not your land, nor property, nor bodily health that is at stake. I appeal to your souls concerning their obtaining eternal life, and escaping eternal death. At length awake! I am not handling an obscure question, nor searching into some hidden mystery, for the investigation of which capacity is found in no human intellect, or at least in only a few: the thing is clear as day. Is anything more obvious? could anything be more quickly seen? I affirm that parties innocent and absent were condemned by a Council, very numerous indeed, but hasty in their decisions. I prove this by the proconsular Acts, in which that man was wholly cleared from the charge of being a traditor, whom the Acts of the Council which your party brought forward proclaimed as most specially guilty. I affirm further, that the sentence against those who were said to be traditors was passed by men who had confessed themselves guilty of that very crime. I prove this by the ecclesiastical Acts in which the names of those men are set forth, to whom Secundus of Tigisis, professing a desire to preserve peace, granted pardon of a crime which he knew them to have committed, and by whose help he afterwards, notwithstanding the destruction of peace, passed sentence upon others of whose crime he had no evidence; whereby he made it manifest that in the former decision he had been moved, not by a regard for peace, but by fear for himself. For Purpurius, Bishop of Limata, had alleged against him that he himself, when he had been put in custody by a curator and his soldiers, in order to compel him to give up the Scriptures, was let go, doubtless not without paying a price, in either giving up something, or ordering others to do so for him. He, fearing that this suspicion might be easily enough confirmed, having obtained the advice of Secundus the younger, his own kinsman, and having consulted all his colleagues in the episcopal office, remitted crimes which required no proof to be judged by God, and in so doing appeared to be protecting the peace of the Church: which was false, for he was only protecting himself.

7. For if, in truth, regard for peace had any place in his heart, he would not afterwards at Carthage have joined those traditors whom he had left to the judgment of God when they were present, and confessed their fault, in passing sentence for the same crime upon others who were absent, and against whom no one had proved the charge. He was bound, moreover, to be the more afraid on that occasion of disturbing the peace, inasmuch as Carthage was a great and famous city, from which any evil originating there might extend, as from the head of the body, throughout all Africa. Carthage was also near to the countries beyond the sea, and distinguished by illustrious renown, so that it had a bishop of more than ordinary influence, who could afford to disregard even a number of enemies conspiring against him, because he saw himself united by letters of communion both to the Roman Church, in which the supremacy of an apostolic chair has always flourished, [1632] and to all other lands from which Africa itself received the gospel, and was prepared to defend himself before these Churches if his adversaries attempted to cause an alienation of them from him. Seeing, therefore, that Cæcilianus declined to come before his colleagues, whom he perceived or suspected (or, as they affirm, pretended to suspect) to be biassed by his enemies against the real merits of his case, it was all the more the duty of Secundus, if he wished to be the guardian of true peace, to prevent the condemnation in their absence of those who had wholly declined to compear at their bar. For it was not a matter concerning presbyters or deacons or clergy of inferior order, but concerning colleagues who might refer their case wholly to the judgment of other bishops, especially of apostolical churches, in which the sentence passed against them in their absence would have no weight, since they had not deserted their tribunal after having compeared before it, but had always declined compearance because of the suspicions which they entertained.

8. This consideration ought to have weighed much with Secundus, who was at that time Primate, if his desire, as president of the Council, was to promote peace; for he might perhaps have quieted or restrained the mouths of those who were raging against men who were absent, if he had spoken thus: "Ye see, brethren, how after so great havoc of persecution peace has been given to us, through God's mercy, by the princes of this world; surely we, being Christians and bishops, ought not to break up the Christian unity which even pagan enemies have ceased to assail. Either, therefore, let us leave to God, as Judge, all those cases which the calamity of a most troublous time has brought upon the Church; or if there be some among you who have such certain knowledge of the guilt of other parties, that they are able to bring against them a definite indictment, and prove it if they plead not guilty, and who also shrink from having communion with such persons, let them hasten to our brethren and peers, the bishops of the churches beyond the sea, and present to them in the first place a complaint concerning the conduct and contumacy of the accused, as having through consciousness of guilt declined the jurisdiction of their peers in Africa, so that by these foreign bishops they may be summoned to compear and answer before them regarding the things laid to their charge. If they disobey this summons, their criminality and obduracy will become known to those other bishops; and by a synodical letter sent in their name to all parts of the world throughout which the Church of Christ is now extended, the parties accused will be excluded from communion with all churches, in order to prevent the springing up of error in the see of the Church at Carthage. When that has been done, and these men have been separated from the whole Church, we shall without fear ordain another bishop over the community in Carthage; whereas, if now another bishop be ordained by us, communion will most probably be withheld from him by the Church beyond the sea, because they will not recognise the validity of the deposition of the bishop, whose ordination was everywhere acknowledged, and with whom letters of communion had been exchanged; and thus, through our undue eagerness to pronounce without deliberation a final sentence, the great scandal of schism within the Church, when it has rest from without, may arise, and we may be found presuming to set up another altar, not against Cæcilianus, but against the universal Church, which, uninformed of our procedure, would still hold communion with him."

9. If any one had been disposed to reject sound and equitable counsels such as these, what could he have done? or how could he have procured the condemnation of any one of his absent peers, when he could not have any decisions with the authority of the Council, seeing that the Primate was opposed to him? And if such a serious revolt against the authority of the Primate himself arose, that some were resolved to condemn at once those whose case he desired to postpone, how much better would it have been for him to separate himself by dissent from such quarrelsome and factious men, than from the communion of the whole world! But because there were no charges which could be proved at the bar of foreign bishops against Cæcilianus and those who took part in his ordination, those who condemned them were not willing to delay passing sentence; and when they had pronounced it, were not at any pains to intimate to the Church beyond the sea the names of those in Africa with whom, as condemned traditors, she should avoid communion. For if they had attempted this, Cæcilianus and the others would have defended themselves, and would have vindicated their innocence against their false accusers by a most thorough trial before the ecclesiastical tribunal of bishops beyond the sea.

10. Our belief concerning that perverse and unjust Council is, that it was composed chiefly of traditors whom Secundus of Tigisis had pardoned on their confession of guilt; and who, when a rumour had gone abroad that some had been guilty of delivering up the sacred books, sought to turn aside suspicion from themselves by bringing a calumny upon others, and to escape the detection of their crime, through surrounding themselves with a cloud of lying rumours, when men throughout all Africa, believing their bishops, said what was false concerning innocent men, that they had been condemned at Carthage as traditors. Whence you perceive, my beloved friends, how that which some of your party affirmed to be improbable could indeed happen, viz. that the very men who had confessed their own guilt as traditors, and had obtained the remission of their case to the divine tribunal, afterwards took part in judging and condemning others who, not being present to defend themselves, were accused of the same crime. For their own guilt made them more eagerly embrace an opportunity by which they might overwhelm others with a groundless accusation, and by thus finding occupation for the tongues of men, which screen their own misdeeds from investigation. Moreover, if it were inconceivable that a man should condemn in another the wrong which he had himself done, the Apostle Paul would not have had occasion to say: "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things." [1633] This is exactly what these men did, so that the words of the apostle may be fully and appropriately applied to them.

11. Secundus, therefore, was not acting in the interests of peace and unity when he remitted to the divine tribunal the crimes which these men confessed: for, if so, he would have been much more careful to prevent a schism at Carthage, when there were none present to whom he might be constrained to grant pardon of a crime which they confessed; when, on the contrary, all that the preservation of peace demanded was a refusal to condemn those who were absent. They would have acted unjustly to these innocent men, had they even resolved to pardon them, when they were not proved guilty, and had not confessed the guilt, but were actually not present at all. For the guilt of a man is established beyond question when he accepts a pardon. How much more outrageous and blind were they who thought that they had power to condemn for crimes which, as unknown, they could not even have forgiven! In the former case, crimes that were known were remitted to the divine arbitration, lest others should be inquired into; in the latter case, crimes that were not known were made ground of condemnation, that those which were known might be concealed. But it will be said, the crime of Cæcilianus and the others was known. Even if I were to admit this, the fact of their absence ought to have protected them from such a sentence. For they were not chargeable with deserting a tribunal before which they had never stood; nor was the Church so exclusively represented in these African bishops, that in refusing to appear before them they could be supposed to decline all ecclesiastical jurisdiction. For there remained thousands of bishops in countries beyond the sea, before whom it was manifest that those who seemed to distrust their peers in Africa and Numidia could be tried. Have you forgotten what Scripture commands: "Blame no one before you have examined him; and when you have examined him, let your correction be just"? [1634] If, then, the Holy Spirit has forbidden us to blame or correct any one before we have questioned him, how much greater is the crime of not merely blaming or correcting, but actually condemning men who, being absent, could not be examined as to the charges brought against them!

12. Moreover, as to the assertion of these judges, that though the parties accused were absent, having not fled from trial, but always avowed their distrust of that faction, and declined to appear before them, the crimes for which they condemned them were well known; I ask, my brethren, how did they know them? You reply, We cannot tell, since the evidence is not stated in the public Acts. But I will tell you how they knew them. Observe carefully the case of Felix of Aptunga, and first read how much more vehement they were against him; for they had just the same grounds for their knowledge in the case of the others as in his, who was afterwards proved most completely innocent by a thorough and severe investigation. How much greater the justice and safety and readiness with which we are warranted in believing the innocence of the others whose indictment was less serious, and their condemnation less severe, seeing that the man against whom they raged much more furiously has been proved innocent!

Chap. IV.

13. Some one may perhaps make an objection which, though it was disapproved by you when it was brought forward, I must not pass over, for it has been made by others, viz.: It was not meet that a bishop should be acquitted by trial before a proconsul: as if the bishop had himself procured this trial, and it had not been done by order of the Emperor, to whose care this matter, as one concerning which he was responsible to God, especially belonged. For they themselves had constituted the Emperor the arbiter and judge in this question regarding the surrender of the sacred books, and regarding the schism, by their sending petitions to him, and afterwards appealing to him; and nevertheless they refuse to acquiesce in his decision. If, therefore, he is to be blamed whom the magistrate absolved, though he had not himself applied to that tribunal, how much more worthy of blame are those who desired an earthly king to be the judge of their cause! For if it be not wrong to appeal to the Emperor, it is not wrong to be tried by the Emperor, and consequently not wrong to be tried by him to whom the Emperor refers the case. One of your friends was anxious to make out a ground of complaint on the fact that, in the case of the bishop Felix, one witness was suspended on the rack, and another tortured with pincers. [1635] But was it in the power of Felix to prevent the prosecution of the inquiry with diligence, and even severity, when the case regarding which the advocate was labouring to discover the truth was his own? For what else would such a resistance to investigation have been construed to signify, than a confession of his crime? And yet this proconsul, surrounded with the awe-inspiring voices of heralds, and the blood-stained hands of executioners at his service, would not have condemned one of his peers in absence, who declined to come before his tribunal, if there was any other place where his cause could be disposed of. Or if he had in such circumstances pronounced sentence, he would himself assuredly have suffered the due and just award prescribed by civil law.

Chap. V.

14. If, however, you repudiate the Acts of a proconsul, submit yourselves to the Acts of the Church. These have all been read over to you in their order. Perhaps you will say that Melchiades, bishop of the Roman Church, along with the other bishops beyond the sea who acted as his colleagues, had no right to usurp the place of judge in a matter which had been already settled by seventy African bishops, over whom the bishop of Tigisis as Primate presided. But what will you say if he in fact did not usurp this place? For the Emperor, being appealed to, sent bishops to sit with him as judges, with authority to decide the whole matter in the way which seemed to them just. This we prove, both by the petitions of the Donatists and the words of the Emperor himself, both of which were, as you remember, read to you, and are now accessible to be studied or transcribed by you. Read and ponder all these. See with what scrupulous care for the preservation or restoration of peace and unity everything was discussed; how the legal standing of the accusers was inquired into, and what defects were proved in this matter against some of them; and how it was clearly proved by the testimony of those present that they had nothing to say against Cæcilianus, but wished to transfer the whole matter to the people belonging to the party of Majorinus, [1636] that is, to the seditious multitude who were opposed to the peace of the Church, in order, forsooth, that Cæcilianus might be accused by that crowd which they believed to be powerful enough to bend aside to their views the minds of the judges by mere turbulent clamour, without any documentary evidence or examination as to the truth; unless it was likely that true accusations should be brought against Cæcilianus by a multitude infuriated and infatuated by the cup of error and wickedness, in a place where seventy bishops had with insane precipitancy condemned, in their absence, men who were their peers, and who were innocent, as was proved in the case of Felix of Aptunga. They wished to have Cæcilianus accused by a mob such as that to which they had given way themselves, when they pronounced sentence upon parties who were absent, and who had not been examined. But assuredly they had not come to judges who could be persuaded to such madness.

15. Your own prudence may enable you to remark here both the obstinacy of these men, and the wisdom of the judges, who to the last persisted in refusing to admit accusations against Cæcilianus from the populace who were of the faction of Majorinus, who had no legal standing in the case. You will also remark how they were required to bring forward the men who had come with them from Africa as accusers or witnesses, or in some other connection with the case, and how it was said that they had been present, but had been withdrawn by Donatus. The said Donatus promised that he would produce them, and this promise he made repeatedly; yet, after all, declined to appear again in presence of that tribunal before which he had already confessed so much, that it seemed as if by his refusal to return he desired only to avoid being present to hear himself condemned; but the things for which he was to be condemned had been proved against him in his own presence, and after examination. Besides this, a libel bringing charges against Cæcilianus was handed in by some parties. How the inquiry was thereupon opened anew, what persons brought up the libel, and how nothing after all could be proved against Cæcilianus, I need not state, seeing that you have heard it all, and can read it as often as you please.

16. As to the fact that there were seventy bishops in the Council [which condemned Cæcilianus], you remember what was said in the way of pleading against him the venerable authority of so great a number. Nevertheless these most venerable men resolved to keep their judgment unembarrassed by endless questions of hopeless intricacy, and did not care to inquire either what was the number of those bishops, or whence they had been collected, when they saw them to be blinded with such reckless presumption as to pronounce rash sentence upon their peers in their absence, and without having examined them. And yet what a decision was finally pronounced by the blessed Melchiades himself; how equitable, how complete, how prudent, and how fitted to make peace! For he did not presume to depose from his own rank those peers against whom nothing had been proved; and, laying blame chiefly upon Donatus, whom he had found the cause of the whole disturbance, he gave to all the others restoration if they chose to accept it, and was prepared to send letters of communion even to those who were known to have been ordained by Majorinus; so that wherever there were two bishops, through this dissension doubling their number, he decided that the one who was prior in the date of ordination should be confirmed in his see, and a new congregation found for the other. O excellent man! O son of Christian peace, father of the Christian people! Compare now this handful, with that multitude of bishops, not counting, but weighing them: on the one side you have moderation and circumspection; on the other, precipitancy and blindness. On the one side, clemency has not wronged justice, nor has justice been at variance with clemency; on the other side, fear was hiding itself under passion, and passion was goaded to excess by fear. In the one case, they assembled to clear the innocent from false accusations by discovering where the guilt really lay; in the other, they had met to screen the guilty from true accusations by bringing false charges against the innocent.

Chap. VI.

17. Could Cæcilianus leave himself to be tried and judged by these men, when he had such others before whom, if his case were argued, he could most easily prove his innocence? He could not have left himself in their hands even had he been a stranger recently ordained over the Church at Carthage, and consequently not aware of the power in perverting the minds of men, either worthless or unwise, which was then possessed by a certain Lucilla, a very wealthy woman, whom he had offended when he was a deacon, by rebuking her in the exercise of church discipline; for this evil influence was also at work to bring about that iniquitous transaction. For in that Council, in which men absent and innocent were condemned by persons who had confessed themselves to be traditors, there were a few who wished, by defaming others, to hide their own crimes, that men, led astray by unfounded rumours, might be turned aside from inquiring into the truth. The number of those who were especially interested in this was not great, although the preponderating authority was on their side; because they had with them Secundus himself, who, yielding to fear, had pardoned them. But the rest are said to have been bribed and instigated specially against Cæcilianus by the money of Lucilla. There are Acts in the possession of Zenophilus, a man of consular rank, according to which one Nundinarius, a deacon who had been (as we learn from the same Acts) deposed by Sylvanus, bishop of Cirta, having failed in an attempt to recommend himself to that party by the letters of other bishops, in the heat of passion revealed many secrets, and brought them forward in open court; amongst which we read this on the record, that the rearing of rival altars in the Church of Carthage, the chief city of Africa, was due to the bishops being bribed by the money of Lucilla. I am aware that I did not read these Acts to you, but you remember that there was not time. Besides these influences, there was also some bitterness arising from mortified pride, because they had not themselves ordained Cæcilianus bishop of Carthage.

18. When Cæcilianus knew that these men had assembled, not as impartial judges, but hostile and perverted through all these things, was it possible that either he should consent, or the people over whom he presided should allow him, to leave the church and go into a private dwelling, where he was not to be tried fairly by his peers, but to be slain by a small faction, urged on by a woman's spite, especially when he saw that his case might have an unbiassed and equitable hearing before the Church beyond the sea, which was uninfluenced by private enmities on either side in the dispute? If his adversaries declined pleading before that tribunal, they would thereby cut themselves off from that communion with the whole world which innocence enjoys. And if they attempted there to bring a charge against him, then he would compear for himself, and defend his innocence against all their plots, as you have learned that he afterwards did, when they, already guilty of schism, and stained with the atrocious crime of having actually reared their rival altar, applied--but too late--for the decision of the Church beyond the sea. For this they would have done at first, if their cause had been supported by truth; but their policy was to come to the trial after false rumours had gained strength by lapse of time, and public report of old standing, so to speak, had prejudged the case; or, which seems more likely, having first condemned Cæcilianus as they pleased, they relied for safety upon their number, and did not dare to open the discussion of so bad a case before other judges, by whom, as they were not influenced by bribery, the truth might be discovered.

Chap. VII.

19. But when they actually found that the communion of the whole world with Cæcilianus continued as before, and that letters of communion from churches beyond the sea were sent to him, and not to the man whom they had flagitiously ordained, they became ashamed of being always silent; for it might be objected to them: Why did they suffer the Church in so many countries to go on in ignorance, communicating with men that were condemned; and especially why did they cut themselves off from communion with the whole world, against which they had no charge to make, by their bearing in silence the exclusion from that communion of the bishop whom they had ordained in Carthage? They chose, therefore, as it is reported, to bring their dispute with Cæcilianus before the foreign churches, in order to secure one of two things, either of which they were prepared to accept: if, on the one hand, by any amount of craft, they succeeded in making good the false accusation, they would abundantly satisfy their lust of revenge; if, however, they failed, they might remain as stubborn as before, but would now have, as it were, some excuse for it, in alleging that they had suffered at the hands of an unjust tribunal,--the common outcry of all worthless litigants, though they have been defeated by the clearest light of truth,--as if it might not have been said, and most justly said, to them: "Well, let us suppose that those bishops who decided the case at Rome were not good judges; there still remained a plenary Council of the universal Church, in which these judges themselves might be put on their defence; so that, if they were convicted of mistake, their decisions might be reversed." Whether they have done this or not, let them prove: for we easily prove that it was not done, by the fact that the whole world does not communicate with them; or if it was done, they were defeated there also, of which their state of separation from the Church is a proof.

20. What they actually did afterwards, however, is sufficiently shown in the letter of the Emperor. For it was not before other bishops, but at the bar of the Emperor, that they dared to bring the charge of wrong judgment against ecclesiastical judges of so high authority as the bishops by whose sentence the innocence of Cæcilianus and their own guilt had been declared. He granted them the second trial at Aries, before other bishops; not because this was due to them, but only as a concession to their stubbornness, and from a desire by all means to restrain so great effrontery. For this Christian Emperor did not presume so to grant their unruly and groundless complaints as to make himself the judge of the decision pronounced by the bishops who had sat at Rome; but he appointed, as I have said, other bishops, from whom, however, they preferred again to appeal to the Emperor himself; and you have heard the terms in which he disapproved of this. Would that even then they had desisted from their most insane contentions, and had yielded at last to the truth, as he yielded to them when (intending afterwards to apologize for this course to the reverend prelates) he consented to try their case after the bishops, on condition that, if they did not submit to his decision, for which they had themselves appealed, they should thenceforward be silent! For he ordered that both parties should meet him at Rome to argue the case. When Cæcilianus, for some reason, failed to compear there, he, at their request, ordered all to follow him to Milan. Then some of their party began to withdraw, perhaps offended that Constantine did not follow their example, and condemn Cæcilianus in his absence at once and summarily. When the prudent Emperor was aware of this, he compelled the rest to come to Milan in charge of his guards. Cæcilianus having come thither, he brought him forward in person, as he has written; and having examined the matter with the diligence, caution, and prudence which his letters on the subject indicate, he pronounced Cæcilianus perfectly innocent, and them most criminal.

Chap. VIII.

21. And to this day they administer baptism outside of the communion of the Church, and, if they can, they rebaptize the members of the Church: they offer sacrifice in discord and schism, and salute in the name of peace communities which they pronounce beyond the bounds of the peace of salvation. The unity of Christ is rent asunder, the heritage of Christ is reproached, the baptism of Christ is treated with contempt; and they refuse to have these errors corrected by constituted human authorities, applying penalties of a temporal kind in order to prevent them from being doomed to eternal punishment for such sacrilege. We blame them for the rage which has driven them to schism, the madness which makes them rebaptize, and for the sin of separation from the heritage of Christ, which has been spread abroad through all lands. In using manuscripts which are in their hands as well as in ours, we mention churches, the names of which are now read by them also, but with which they have now no communion; and when these are pronounced in their conventicles, they say to the reader, "Peace be with thee;" and yet they have no peace with those to whom these letters were written. They, on the other hand, blame us for crimes of men now dead, making charges which either are false, or, if true, do not concern us; not perceiving that in the things which we lay to their charge they are all involved, but in the things which they lay to our charge the blame is due to the chaff or the tares in the Lord's harvest, and the crime does not belong to the good grain; not considering, moreover, that within our unity those only have fellowship with the wicked who take pleasure in their being such, whereas those who are displeased with their wickedness yet cannot correct them,--as they do not presume to root out the tares before the harvest, lest they root out the wheat also, [1637] --have fellowship with them, not in their deeds, but in the altar of Christ; so that not only do they avoid being defiled by them, but they deserve commendation and praise according to the word of God, because, in order to prevent the name of Christ from being reproached by odious schisms, they tolerate in the interest of unity that which in the interest of righteousness they hate.

22. If they have ears, let them hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. For in the Apocalypse of John we read: "Unto the angel of the Church of Ephesus write: These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name's sake hast tolerated them, [1638] and hast not fainted." [1639] Now, if He wished this to be understood as addressed to a celestial angel, and not to those invested with authority in the Church, He would not go on to say: "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." [1640] This could not be said to the heavenly angels, who retain their love unchanged, as the only beings of their order that have departed and fallen from their love are the devil and his angels. The first love here alluded to is that which was proved in their tolerating for Christ's name's sake the false apostles. To this He commands them to return, and to do "their first works." Now we are reproached with the crimes of bad men, not done by us, but by others; and some of them, moreover, not known to us. Nevertheless, even if they were actually committed, and that under our own eyes, and we bore with them for the sake of unity, letting the tares alone on account of the wheat, whosoever with open heart receives the Holy Scriptures would pronounce us not only free from blame, but worthy of no small praise.

23. Aaron bears with the multitude demanding, fashioning, and worshipping an idol. Moses bears with thousands murmuring against God, and so often offending His holy name. David bears with Saul his persecutor, even when forsaking the things that are above by his wicked life, and following after the things that are beneath by magical arts, avenges his death, and calls him the Lord's anointed, [1641] because of the venerable right by which he had been consecrated. Samuel bears with the reprobate sons of Eli, and his own perverse sons, whom the people refused to tolerate, and were therefore rebuked by the warning and punished by the severity of God. Lastly, he bears with the nation itself, though proud and despising God. Isaiah bears with those against whom he hurls so many merited denunciations. Jeremiah bears with those at whose hands he suffers so many things. Zechariah bears with the scribes and Pharisees, as to whose character in those days Scripture informs us. I know that I have omitted many examples: let those who are willing and able read the divine records for themselves: they will find that all the holy servants and friends of God have always had to bear with some among their own people, with whom, nevertheless, they partook in the sacraments of that dispensation, and in so doing not only were not defiled by them, but were to be commended for their tolerant spirit, "endeavouring to keep," as the apostle says, "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." [1642] Let them also observe what has occurred since the Lord's coming, in which time we would find many more examples of this toleration in all parts of the world, if they could all be written down and authenticated: but attend to those which are on record. The Lord Himself bears with Judas, a devil, a thief, His own betrayer; He permits him, along with the innocent disciples, to receive that which believers know as our ransom. [1643] The apostles bear with false apostles; and in the midst of men who sought their own things, and not the things of Jesus Christ, Paul, not seeking his own, but the things of Christ, lives in the practice of a most noble toleration. In fine, as I mentioned a little while ago, the person presiding under the title of Angel over a Church, is commended, because, though he hated those that were evil, he yet bore with them for the Lord's name's sake, even when they were tried and discovered.

24. In conclusion, let them ask themselves: Do they not bear with the murders and devastations by fire which are perpetrated by the Circumcelliones, who treat with honour the dead bodies of those who cast themselves down from dangerous heights? Do they not bear with the misery which has made all Africa groan for years beneath the incredible outrages of one man, Optatus [bishop of Thamugada]? I forbear from specifying the tyrannical acts of violence and public depredations in districts, towns, and properties throughout Africa; for it is better to leave you to speak of these to each other, whether in whispers or openly, as you please. For wherever you turn your eyes, you will find the things of which I speak, or, more correctly, refrain from speaking. Nor do we on this ground accuse those whom, when they do such things, you love. What we dislike in that party is not their bearing with those who are wicked, but their intolerable wickedness in the matter of schism, of raising altar against altar, and of separation from the heritage of Christ now spread, as was so long ago promised, throughout the world. We behold with grief and lamentation peace broken, unity rent asunder, baptism administered a second time, and contempt poured on the sacraments, which are holy even when ministered and received by the wicked. If they regard these things as trifles, let them observe those examples by which it has been proved how they are esteemed by God. The men who made an idol perished by a common death, being slain with the sword: [1644] but when the men endeavoured to make a schism in Israel, the leaders were swallowed up by the opening earth, and the crowd of their accomplices was consumed by fire. [1645] In the difference between the punishments, the different degrees of demerit may be discerned.

Chap. IX.

25. These, then, are the facts: In time of persecution, the sacred books are surrendered to the persecutors. Those who were guilty of this surrender confess it, and are remitted to the divine tribunal; those who were innocent are not examined, but condemned at once by rash men. The integrity of that one who, of all the men thus condemned in their absence, was the most vehemently accused, is afterwards vindicated before unimpeachable judges. From the decision of bishops an appeal is made to the Emperor; the Emperor is chosen judge; and the sentence of the Emperor, when pronounced, is set at naught. What was then done you have read; what is now being done you have before your eyes. If, after all that you have read, you are still in doubt, be convinced by what you see. By all means let us give up arguing from ancient manuscripts, public archives, or the acts of courts, civil or ecclesiastical. We have a greater book--the world itself. In it I read the accomplishment of that of which I read the promise in the Book of God: "The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee: ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession." [1646] He that has not communion with this inheritance may know himself to be disinherited, whatever books he may plead to the contrary. He that assails this inheritance is plainly enough declared to be an outcast from the family of God. The question is raised as to the parties guilty of surrendering the divine books in which that inheritance is promised. Let him be believed to have delivered the testament to the flames, who is resisting the intentions of the testator. O faction of Donatus, what has the Corinthian Church done against you? In speaking of this one Church, I wish to be understood as asking the same question in regard to all similar churches remote from you. What have these churches done against you, which could not know even what you had done, or the names of the men whom you branded with condemnation? Or is it so, that because Cæcilianus gave offence to Lucilla in Africa, the light of Christ is lost to the whole world? [1647]

26. Let them at last become sensible of what they have done; for in the lapse of years, by a just retribution, their work has recoiled upon themselves. Ask by what woman's instigation Maximianus [1648] (said to be a kinsman of Donatus) withdrew himself from the communion of Primianus, and how, having gathered a faction of bishops, he pronounced sentence against Primianus in his absence, and had himself ordained as a rival bishop in his place,--precisely as Majorinus, under the influence of Lucilla, assembled a faction of bishops, and, having condemned Cæcilianus in his absence, was ordained bishop in opposition to him. Do you admit, as I suppose you do, that when Primianus was delivered by the other bishops of his communion in Africa from the sentence pronounced by the faction of Maximianus, this decision was valid and sufficient? And will you refuse to admit the same in the case of Cæcilianus, when he was released by the bishops of the same one Church beyond the sea from the sentence pronounced by the faction of Majorinus? Pray, my brethren, what great thing do I ask of you? What difficulty is there in comprehending what I bring before you? The African Church, if it be compared with the churches in other parts of the world, is very different from them, and is left far behind both in numbers and in influence; and even if it had retained its unity, is far smaller when compared with the universal Church in other nations, than was the faction of Maximianus when compared with that of Primianus. I ask, however, only this--and I believe it to be just--that you give no more weight to the Council of Secundus of Tigisis, which Lucilla stirred up against Cæcilianus when absent, and against an apostolic see and the whole world in communion with Cæcilianus, than you give to the Council of Maximianus, which in like manner some other woman stirred up against Primianus when absent, and against the rest of the multitude throughout Africa which was in communion with him. What case could be more transparent? what demand more just?

27. You see and know all these things, and you groan over them; and yet God at the same time sees that nothing compels you to remain in such fatal and impious schism, if you would but subdue the lust of the flesh in order to win the spiritual kingdom; and in order to escape from eternal punishment, have courage to forfeit the friendship of men, whose favour will not avail at the bar of God. Go now, and take counsel together: find what you can say in reply to that which I have written. If you bring forward manuscripts on your side, we do the same; if your party say that our documents are not to be trusted, let them not take it amiss if we retort the charge. No one can erase from heaven the divine decree, no one can efface from earth the Church of God. His decree has promised the whole world, and the Church has filled it; and it includes both bad and good. On earth it loses none but the bad, and into heaven it admits none but the good.

In writing this discourse, God is my witness with what sincere love to peace and to you I have taken and used that which He has given. It shall be to you a means of correction if you be willing, and a testimony against you whether you will or not.

Footnotes

[1626] Tit. iii. 10, 11. [1627] 1 Thess. iii. 12. [1628] 2 Tim. ii. 25, 26. [1629] Matt. v. 9. [1630] Tubursi, a town recently identified, half-way between Calama and Madaura. [1631] They asked judges from Gaul, as a country in which none had been guilty of surrendering the sacred books under pressure of persecution. The bishops appointed were Maternus of Agrippina, Rheticius of Augustodunum, and Marinus of Arles. They were sent to Rome with fifteen Italian bishops; Melchiades, Bishop of Rome, presided in their meeting in A.D. 313, and acquitted Cæcilianus. [1632] "In qua semper apostolicæ cathedræ viguit principatus." The use in the translalion of the indefinite article, "an apostolic chair," is vindicated by the language of Augustin in sec. 26 of this letter regarding Carthage, and by the words in Letter CCXXXII. sec. 3: "Christianæ societatis quæ per sedes apostolorum et successiones episcoporum certa per orbem propagatione diffunditur." [1633] Rom. ii. 1. [1634] Ecclus. xi. 7. [1635] Ungulæ, mentioned in Codex Justinianus. ix. 18. 7. [1636] Ordained by the Donatists bishop of Carthage in room of Cæcilianus. [1637] Matt. xiii. 29. [1638] Augustin translates ebastasas (E. V. "hast laboured") by "sustinuisti eos"--"hast tolerated them;" and upon this his argument turns. [1639] Rev. ii. 1-3. [1640] Rev. ii. 4, 5. [1641] Christum Domini. [1642] Eph. iv. 3. [1643] Augustin holds that Judas was present at the institution of the Lord's Supper. See Letter XLIV. sec. 10, p. 288. [1644] Ex. xxxii. 27, 28. [1645] Num. xvi. 31, 35. [1646] Ps. ii. 7, 8. [1647] The original has a play on the words Lucillam and Lucem. [1648] A deacon in the Donatist communion at Carthage. This matter is more fully gone into by Augustin in his second sermon on Ps. xxxvi.


Letter XLIV.

(a.d. 398.)

To My Lords Most Beloved, and Brethren Worthy of All Praise, Eleusius, Glorius, and the Two Felixes, Augustin Sends Greeting.

Chap. I.

1. In passing through Tubursi on my way to the church at Cirta, though pressed for time, I visited Fortunius, your bishop there, and found him to be, in truth, just such a man as you were wont most kindly to lead me to expect. When I sent him notice of your conversation with me concerning him, and expressed a desire to see him, he did not decline the visit. I therefore went to him, because I thought it due to his age that I should go to him, instead of insisting upon his first coming to me. I went, therefore, accompanied by a considerable number of persons, who, as it happened, were at that time beside me. When, however, we had taken our seats in his house, the thing becoming known, a considerable addition was made to the crowd assembled; but in that whole multitude there appeared to me to be very few who desired the matter to be discussed in a sound and profitable manner, or with the deliberation and solemnity which so great a question demands. All the others had come rather in the mood of playgoers, expecting a scene in our debates, than in Christian seriousness of spirit, seeking instruction in regard to salvation. Accordingly they could neither favour us with silence when we spoke, nor speak with care, or even with due regard to decorum and order,--excepting, as I have said, those few persons about whose pious and sincere interest in the matter there was no doubt. Everything was therefore thrown into confusion by the noise of men speaking loudly, and each according to the unchecked impulse of his own feelings; and though both Fortunius and I used entreaty and remonstrance, we utterly failed in persuading them to listen silently to what was spoken.

2. The discussion of the question was opened notwithstanding, and for some hours we persevered, speeches being delivered by each side in turn, so far as was permitted by an occasional respite from the voices of the noisy onlookers. In the beginning of the debate, perceiving that things which had been spoken were liable to be forgotten by myself, or by those about whose salvation I was deeply concerned; being desirous also that our debate should be managed with caution and self-restraint, and that both you and other brethren who were absent might be able to learn from a record what passed in the discussion, I demanded that our words should be taken down by reporters. This was for a long time resisted, either by Fortunius or by those on his side. At length, however, he agreed to it; but the reporters who were present, and were able to do the work thoroughly, declined, for some reason unknown to me, to take notes. I urged them, that at least the brethren who accompanied me, though not so expert in the work, should take notes, and promised that I would leave the tablets on which the notes were taken in the hands of the other party. This was agreed to. Some words of mine were first taken down, and some statements on the other side were dictated and recorded. After that, the reporters, not being able to endure the disorderly interruptions vociferated by the opposing party, and the increased vehemence with which under this pressure our side maintained the debate, gave up their task. This, however, did not close the discussion, many things being still said by each as he obtained an opportunity. This discussion of the whole question, or at least so much of all that was said as I can remember, I have resolved, my beloved friends, that you shall not lose; and you may read this letter to Fortunius, that he may either confirm my statements as true, or himself inform you, without hesitation, of anything which his more accurate recollection suggests.

Chap. II.

3. He was pleased to begin with commending my manner of life, which he said he had come to know through your statements (in which I am sure there was more kindness than truth), adding that he had remarked to you that I might have done well all the things which you had told him of me, if I had done them within the Church. I thereupon asked him what was the Church within which it was the duty of a man so to live; whether it was that one which, as Sacred Scripture had long foretold, was spread over the whole world, or that one which a small section of Africans, or a small part of Africa, contained. To this he at first attempted to reply, that his communion was in all parts of the earth. I asked him whether he was able to issue letters of communion, which we call regular, [1649] to places which I might select; and I affirmed, what was obvious to all, that in this way the question might be most simply settled. In the event of his agreeing to this, my intention was that we should send such letters to those churches which we both knew, on the authority of the apostles, to have been already founded in their time.

4. As the falsity of his statement, however, was apparent, a hasty retreat from it was made in a cloud of confused words, in the midst of which he quoted the Lord's words: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits." [1650] When I said that these words of the Lord might also be applied by us to them, he went on to magnify the persecution which he affirmed that his party had often suffered; intending thereby to prove that his party were Christians because they endured persecution. When I was preparing, as he went on with this, to answer him from the Gospel, he himself anticipated me in bringing forward the passage in which the Lord says: "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." [1651] Thanking him for the apt quotation, I immediately added that this behoved therefore to be inquired into, whether they had indeed suffered persecution for righteousness' sake. In following up this inquiry I wished this to be ascertained, though indeed it was patent to all, whether the persecutions under Macarius [1652] fell upon them while they were within the unity of the Church, or after they had been severed from it by schism; so that those who wished to see whether they had suffered persecution for righteousness' sake might turn rather to the prior question, whether they had done rightly in cutting themselves off from the unity of the whole world. For if they were found in this to have done wrong, it was manifest that they suffered persecution for unrighteousness' sake rather than for righteousness' sake, and could not therefore be numbered among those of whom it is said, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake." Thereupon mention was made of the surrender of the sacred books, a matter about which much more has been spoken than has ever been proved true. On our side it was said in reply, that their leaders rather than ours had been traditors; but that if they would not believe the documents with which we supported this charge, we could not be compelled to accept those which they brought forward.

Chap. III.

5. Having therefore laid aside that question as one on which there was a doubt, I asked how they could justify their separation of themselves from all other Christians who had done them no wrong, who throughout the world preserved the order of succession, and were established in the most ancient churches, but had no knowledge whatever as to who were traditors in Africa; and who assuredly could not hold communion with others than those whom they had heard of as occupying the episcopal sees. He answered that the foreign churches had done them no wrong, up to the time when they had consented to the death of those who, as he had said, had suffered in the Macarian persecution. Here I might have said that it was impossible for the innocence of the foreign churches to be affected by the offence given in the time of Macarius, seeing that it could not be proved that he had done with their sanction what he did. I preferred, however, to save time by asking whether, supposing that the foreign churches had, through the cruelties of Macarius, lost their innocence from the time in which they were said to have approved of these, it could even be proved that up to that time the Donatists had remained in unity with the Eastern churches and other parts of the world.

6. Thereupon he produced a certain volume, by which he wished to show that a Council at Sardica had sent a letter to African bishops who belonged to the party of Donatus. When this was read aloud, I heard the name Donatus among the bishops to whom the writing had been sent. I therefore insisted upon being told whether this was the Donatus from whom their faction takes its name; as it was possible that they had written to some bishop named Donatus belonging to another section [heresy], especially since in these names no mention had been made of Africa. How then, I asked, could it be proved that we must believe the Donatus here named to be the Donatist bishop, when it could not even be proved that this letter had been specially directed to bishops in Africa? For although Donatus is a common African name, there is nothing improbable in the supposition, that either some one in other countries should be found bearing an African name, or that a native of Africa should be made a bishop there. We found, moreover, no day or name of consul given in the letter, from which any certain light might have been furnished by comparison of dates. I had indeed once heard that the Arians, when they had separated from the Catholic communion, had endeavoured to ally the Donatists in Africa with themselves; and my brother Alypius recalled this to me at the time in a whisper. Having then taken up the volume itself, and glancing over the decrees of the said Council, I read that Athanasius, Catholic bishop of Alexandria, who was so conspicuous as a debater in the keen controversies with the Arians, and Julius, bishop of the Roman Church, also a Catholic, had been condemned by that Council of Sardica; from which we were sure that it was a Council of Arians, against which heretics these Catholic bishops had contended with singular fervour. I therefore wished to take up and carry with me the volume, in order to give more pains to find out the date of the Council. He refused it, however, saying that I could get it there if I wished to study anything in it. I asked also that he would allow me to mark the volume; for I feared, I confess, lest, if perchance necessity arose for my asking to consult it, another should be substituted in its room. This also he refused.

Chap. IV.

7. Thereafter he began to insist upon my answering categorically this question: Whether I thought the persecutor or the persecuted to be in the right? To which I answered, that the question was not fairly stated: it might be that both were in the wrong, or that the persecution might be made by the one who was the more righteous of the two parties; and therefore it was not always right to infer that one is on the better side because he suffers persecution, although that is almost always the case. When I perceived that he still laid great stress upon this, wishing to have the justice of the cause of his party acknowledged as beyond dispute because they had suffered persecution, I asked him whether he believed Ambrose, bishop of the Church of Milan, to be a righteous man and a Christian? He was compelled to deny expressly that that man was a Christian and a righteous man; for if he had admitted this, I would at once have objected to him that he esteemed it necessary for him to be rebaptized. When, therefore, he was compelled to pronounce concerning Ambrose that he was not a Christian nor a righteous man, I related the persecution which he endured when his church was surrounded with soldiers. I also asked whether Maximianus, who had made a schism from their party at Carthage, was in his view a righteous man and a Christian. He could not but deny this. I therefore reminded him that he had endured such persecution that his church had been razed to the foundations. By these instances I laboured to persuade him, if possible, to give up affirming that the suffering of persecution is the most infallible mark of Christian righteousness.

8. He also related that, in the infancy of their schism, his predecessors, being anxious to devise some way of hushing up the fault of Cæcilianus, lest a schism should take place, had appointed over the people belonging to his communion in Carthage an interim bishop before Majorinus was ordained in opposition to Cæcilianus. He alleged that this interim bishop was murdered in his own meeting house by our party. This, I confess, I had never heard before, though so many charges brought by them against us have been refuted and disproved, while by us greater and more numerous crimes have been alleged against them. After having narrated this story, he began again to insist on my answering whether in this case I thought the murderer or the victim the more righteous man; as if he had already proved that the event had taken place as he had stated. I therefore said that we must first ascertain the truth of the story, for we ought not to believe without examination all that is said: and that even were it true, it was possible either that both were equally bad, or that one who was bad had caused the death of another yet worse than himself. For, in truth, it is possible that his guilt is more heinous who rebaptizes the whole man than his who kills the body only.

9. After this there was no occasion for the question which he afterwards put to me. He affirmed that even a bad man should not be killed by Christians and righteous men; as if we called those who in the Catholic Church do such things righteous men: a statement, moreover, which it is more easy for them to affirm than to prove to us, so long as they themselves, with few exceptions, bishops, presbyters, and clergy of all kinds, go on gathering mobs of most infatuated men, and causing, wherever they are able, so many violent massacres, and devastations to the injury not of Catholics only, but sometimes even of their own partisans. In spite of these facts, Fortunius, affecting ignorance of the most villanous doings, which were better known by him than by me, insisted upon my giving an example of a righteous man putting even a bad man to death. This was, of course, not relevant to the matter in hand; for I conceded that wherever such crimes were committed by men having the name of Christians, they were not the actions of good men. Nevertheless, in order to show him what was the true question before us, I answered by inquiring whether Elijah seemed to him to be a righteous man; to which he could not but assent. Thereupon I reminded him how many false prophets Elijah slew with his own hand. [1653] He saw plainly herein, as indeed he could not but see, that such things were then lawful to righteous men. For they did these things as prophets guided by the Spirit and sanctioned by the authority of God, who knows infallibly to whom it may be even a benefit to be put to death. [1654] He therefore required me to show him one who, being a righteous man, had in the New Testament times put any one, even a criminal and impious man, to death.

Chap. V.

10. I then returned to the argument used in my former letter, [1655] in which I laboured to show that it was not right either for us to reproach them with atrocities of which some of their party had been guilty, or for them to reproach us if any such deeds were found by them to have been done on our side. For I granted that no example could be produced from the New Testament of a righteous man putting any one to death; but I insisted that by the example of our Lord Himself, it could be proved that the wicked had been tolerated by the innocent. For His own betrayer, who had already received the price of His blood, He suffered to remain undistinguished from the innocent who were with Him, even up to that last kiss of peace. He did not conceal from the disciples the fact that in the midst of them was one capable of such a crime; and, nevertheless, He administered to them all alike, without excluding the traitor, the first sacrament of His body and blood. [1656] When almost all felt the force of this argument, Fortunius attempted to meet it by saying, that before the Lord's Passion that communion with a wicked man did no harm to the apostles, because they had not as yet the baptism of Christ, but the baptism of John only. When he said this, I asked him to explain how it was written that Jesus baptized more disciples than John, though Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples, that is to say, baptized by means of His disciples? [1657] How could they give what they had not received (a question often used by the Donatists themselves)? Did Christ baptize with the baptism of John? I was prepared to ask many other questions in connection with this opinion of Fortunius; such as--how John himself was interrogated as to the Lord's baptizing, and replied that He had the bride, and was the Bridegroom? [1658] Was it, then, lawful for the Bridegroom to baptize with the baptism of him who was but a friend or servant? Again, how could they receive the Eucharist if not previously baptized? or how could the Lord in that case have said in reply to Peter, who was willing to be wholly washed by Him, "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit"? [1659] For perfect cleansing is by the baptism, not of John, but of the Lord, if the person receiving it be worthy; if, however, he be unworthy, the sacraments abide in him, not to his salvation, but to his perdition. When I was about to put these questions, Fortunius himself saw that he ought not to have mooted the subject of the baptism of the disciples of the Lord.

11. From this we passed to something else, many on both sides discoursing to the best of their ability. Among other things it was alleged that our party was still intending to persecute them; and he [Fortunius] said that he would like to see how I would act in the event of such persecution, whether I would consent to such cruelty, or withhold from it all countenance. I said that God saw my heart, which was unseen by them; also that they had hitherto had no ground for apprehending such persecution, which if it did take place would be the work of bad men, who were, however, not so bad as some of their own party; but that it was not incumbent on us to withdraw ourselves from communion with the Catholic Church on the ground of anything done against our will, and even in spite of our opposition (if we had an opportunity of testifying against it), seeing that we had learned that toleration for the sake of peace which the apostle prescribes in the words: "Forbearing one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." [1660] I affirmed that they had not preserved this peace and forbearance, when they had caused a schism, within which, moreover, the more moderate among them now tolerated more serious evils, lest that which was already a fragment should be broken again, although they did not, in order to preserve unity, consent to exercise forbearance in smaller things. I also said that in the ancient economy the peace of unity and forbearance had not been so fully declared and commended as it is now by the example of the Lord and the charity of the New Testament; and yet prophets and holy men were wont to protest against the sins of the people, without endeavouring to separate themselves from the unity of the Jewish people, and from communion in partaking along with them of the sacraments then appointed.

12. After that, mention was made, I know not in what connection, of Genethlius of blessed memory, the predecessor of Aurelius in the see of Carthage, because he had suppressed some edict granted against the Donatists, and had not suffered it to be carried into effect. They were all praising and commending him with the utmost kindness. I interrupted their commendatory speeches with the remark that, for all this, if Genethlius himself had fallen into their hands, it would have been declared necessary to baptize him a second time. (We were by this time all standing, as the time of our going away was at hand.) On this the old man said plainly, that a rule had now been made, according to which every believer who went over from us to them must be baptized; but he said this with the most manifest reluctance and sincere regret. When he himself most frankly bewailed many of the evil deeds of his party, making evident, as was further proved by the testimony of the whole community, how far he was from sharing in such transactions, and told us what he was wont to say in mild expostulation to those of his own party; when also I had quoted the words of Ezekiel--"As the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth it shall die" [1661] --it which it is written that the son's fault is not to be reckoned to his father, nor the father's fault reckoned to his son, it was agreed by all that in such discussions the excesses of bad men ought not to be brought forward by either party against the other. There remained, therefore, only the question as to schism. I therefore exhorted him again and again that he should with tranquil and undisturbed mind join me in an effort to bring to a satisfactory end, by diligent research, the examination of so important a matter. When he kindly replied that I myself sought this with a single eye, but that others who were on my side were averse to such examination of the truth, I left him with this promise, that I would bring to him more of my colleagues, ten at least, who desire this question to be sifted with the same good-will and calmness and pious care which I saw that he had discovered and now commended in myself. He gave me a similar promise regarding a like number of his colleagues.

Chap. VI.

13. Wherefore I exhort you, and by the blood of the Lord implore you, to put him in mind of his promise, and to insist urgently that what has been begun, and is now, as you see, nearly finished, may be concluded. For, in my opinion, you will have difficulty in finding among your bishops another whose judgment and feelings are so sound as we have seen that old man's to be. The next day he came to me himself, and we began to discuss the matter again. I could not, however, remain long with him, as the ordination of a bishop required my departing from the place. I had already sent a messenger to the chief man of the Coelicolæ, [1662] of whom I had heard that he had introduced a new baptism among them, and had by this impiety led many astray, intending, so far as my limited time permitted, to confer with him. Fortunius, when he learned that he was coming, perceiving that I was to be otherwise engaged, and having himself some other duty calling him from home, bade me a kind and friendly farewell.

14. It seems to me that if we would avoid the attendance of a noisy crowd, rather hindering than helping the debate, and if we wish to complete by the Lord's help so great a work begun in a spirit of unfeigned good-will and peace, we ought to meet in some small village in which neither party has a church, and which is inhabited by persons belonging to both churches, such as Titia. Let this or any other such place be agreed upon in the region of Tubursi or of Thagaste, and let us take care to have the canonical books at hand for reference. Let any other documents be brought thither which either party may judge useful; and laying all other things aside, uninterrupted, if it please God, by other cares, devoting our time for as many days as we can to this one work, and each imploring in private the Lord's guidance, we may, by the help of Him to whom Christian peace is most sweet, bring to a happy termination the inquiry which has been in such a good spirit opened. Do not fail to write in reply what you or Fortunius think of this.

Footnotes

[1649] Formatæ. [1650] Matt. vii. 15, 16. [1651] Matt. v. 10. [1652] Macarius was sent in a.d. 348 by the Emperor Constans to Africa, to exhort all to cherish the unity of the Catholic Church, and at the same time to collect for the relief of the poor. The vehement opposition with which the Donatists met him led to conflicts and bloodshed, the Donatists claiming the honour of martyrdom for all of their party who fell in fighting with the imperial soldiers. [1653] 1 Kings xviii. 40. [1654] Qui novit cui etiam prosit occidi. [1655] Let. XLIII. pp. 283, 284. [1656] Matt. xxvi. 20-28. [1657] John iv. 1, 2. [1658] John iii. 29. [1659] John xiii. 10. [1660] Eph. iv. 2, 3. [1661] Ezek. xviii. 4. [1662] The Coelicolæ are mentioned in some laws of Honorius as heretics whose heresy, if they refused to abandon it, involved them in civil penalties.


Letter XLV.

A short letter to Paulinus and Therasia repeating the request made in Letter XLII., and again complaining of the long silence of his friend.


Letter XLVI.

(a.d. 398.)

A letter propounding several cases of conscience.

To My Beloved and Venerable Father the Bishop Augustin, Publicola Sends Greeting.

It is written: "Ask thy father, and he will show thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee." [1663] I have therefore judged it right to "seek the law at the mouth of the priest" in regard to a certain case which I shall state in this letter, desiring at the same time to be instructed in regard to several other matters. I have distinguished the several questions by stating each in a separate paragraph, and I beg you kindly to give an answer to each in order.

I. In the country of the Arzuges it is customary, as I have heard, for the barbarians to take an oath, swearing by their false gods, in the presence of the decurion stationed on the frontier or of the tribune, when they have come under engagement to carry baggage to any part, or to protect the crops from depredation; and when the decurion certifies in writing that this oath has been taken, the owners or farmers of land employ them as watchmen of their crops; or travellers who have occasion to pass through their country hire them, as if assured of their now being trustworthy. Now a doubt has arisen in my mind whether the landowner who thus employs a barbarian, of whose fidelity he is persuaded in consequence of such an oath, does not make himself and the crops committed to that man's charge to share the defilement of that sinful oath; and so also with the traveller who may employ his services. I should mention, however, that in both cases the barbarian is rewarded for his services with money. Nevertheless in both transactions there comes in, besides the pecuniary remuneration, this oath before the decurion or tribune involving mortal sin. I am concerned as to whether this sin does not defile either him who accepts the oath of the barbarian, or at least the things which are committed to the barbarian's keeping. For whatever other terms be in the arrangement, even such as the payment of gold, and giving of hostages in security, nevertheless this sinful oath has been a real part of the transaction. Be pleased to resolve my doubts definitely and positively. For if your answer indicate that you are in doubt yourself, I may fall into greater perplexity than before.

II. I have also heard that my own land-stewards receive from the barbarians hired to protect the crops an oath in which they appeal to their false gods. Does not this oath so defile these crops, that if a Christian uses them or takes the money realized by their sale, he is himself defiled? Do answer this.

III. Again, I have heard from one person that no oath was taken by the barbarian in making agreement with my steward, but another has said to me that such an oath was taken. Suppose now that the latter statement were false, tell me if I am bound to forbear from using these crops, or the money obtained for them, merely because I have heard the statement made, according to the scriptural rule: "If any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not, for his sake that showed it." [1664] Is this case parallel to the case of meat offered to idols; and if it is, what am I to do with the crops, or with the price of them?

IV. In this case ought I to examine both him who said that no oath was taken before my steward, and the other who said that the oath was taken, and bring witnesses to prove which of the two spoke truly, leaving the crops or their price untouched so long as there is uncertainty in the matter?

V. If the barbarian who swears this sinful oath were to require of the steward or of the tribune stationed on the frontier, that he, being a Christian, should give him assurance of his faithfulness to his part of the engagement about watching the crops, by the same oath which he himself has taken, involving mortal sin, does the oath pollute only that Christian man? Does it not also pollute the things regarding which he took the oath? Or if a pagan who has authority on the frontier thus give to a barbarian this oath in token of acting faithfully to him, does he not involve in the defilement of his own sin those in whose interest he swears? If I send a man to the Arzuges, is it lawful for him to take from a barbarian that sinful oath? Is not the Christian who takes such an oath from him also defiled by his sin?

VI. Is it lawful for a Christian to use wheat or beans from the threshing-floor, wine or oil from the press, if, with his knowledge, some part of what has been taken thence was offered in sacrifice to a false god?

VII. May a Christian use for any purpose wood which he knows to have been taken from one of their idols' groves?

VIII. If a Christian buy in the market meat which has not been offered to idols, and have in his mind conflicting doubts as to whether it has been offered to idols or not, but eventually adopt the opinion that it was not, does he sin if he partake of this meat?

IX. If a man does an action good in itself, about which he has some misgivings as to whether it is good or bad, can it be reckoned as a sin to him if he does it believing it to be good, although formerly he may have thought it bad?

X. If any one has falsely said that some meat has been offered to idols, and afterwards confess that it was a falsehood, and this confession is believed, may a Christian use the meat regarding which he heard that statement, or sell it, and use the price obtained?

XI. If a Christian on a journey, overpowered by want, having fasted for one, two, or several days, so that he can no longer endure the privation, should by chance, when in the last extremity of hunger, and when he sees death close at hand, find food placed in an idol's temple, where there is no man near him, and no other food to be found; whether should he die or partake of that food?

XII. If a Christian is on the point of being killed by a barbarian or a Roman, ought he to kill the aggressor to save his own life? or ought he even, without killing the assailant, to drive him back and fight with him, seeing it has been said, "Resist not evil"? [1665]

XIII. May a Christian put a wall for defence against an enemy round his property? and if some use that wall as a place from which to fight and kill the enemy, is the Christian the cause of the homicide?

XIV. May a Christian drink at a fountain or well into which anything from a sacrifice has been cast? May he drink from a well found in a deserted temple? If there be in a temple where an idol is worshipped a well or fountain which nothing has defiled, may he draw water thence, and drink of it?

XV. May a Christian use baths [1666] in places in which sacrifice is offered to images? May he use baths which are used by pagans on a feastday, either while they are there or after they have left?

XVI. May a Christian use the same sedanchair [1667] as has been used by pagans coming down from their idols on a feastday, if in that chair they have performed any part of their idolatrous service, and the Christian is aware of this?

XVII. If a Christian, being the guest of another, has forborne from using meat set before him, concerning which it was said to him that it had been offered in sacrifice, but afterwards by some accident finds the same meat for sale and buys it, or has it presented to him at another man's table, and then eat of it, without knowing that it is the same, is he guilty of sin?

XVIII. May a Christian buy and use vegetables or fruit which he knows to have been brought from the garden of a temple or of the priests of an idol? That you may not be put to trouble in searching the Scriptures concerning the oath of which I have spoken and the idols, I resolved to set before you those texts which, by the Lord's help, I have found; but if you have found anything better or more to the purpose in Scripture, be so good as let me know. For example, when Laban said to Jacob, "The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor judge betwixt us," [1668] Scripture does not declare which god is meant. Again, when Abimelech came to Isaac, and he and those who were with him sware to Isaac, we are not told what kind of oath it was. [1669] As to the idols, Gideon was commanded by the Lord to make a whole burnt-offering of the bullock which he killed. [1670] And in the book of Joshua the son of Nun, it is said of Jericho that all the silver, and gold, and brass should be brought into the treasures of the Lord, and the things found in the accursed city were called sacred. [1671] Also we read in Deuteronomy: [1672] "Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it."

May the Lord preserve thee. I salute thee. Pray for me.

Footnotes

[1663] Deut. xxxii. 7. [1664] 1 Cor. x. 28. [1665] Matt. v. 39. [1666] Balneis vel thermis. [1667] The Benedictine Fathers translate this, in their note, sitz-bath. [1668] Gen. xxxi. 53. [1669] Gen. xxvi. 31. [1670] Judg. vi. 26. [1671] Josh. vi. 19. [1672] Deut. vii. 26.


Letter XLVII.

(a.d. 398.)

To the Honourable Publicola, My Much Beloved Son, Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

1. Your perplexities have, since I learned them by your letter, become mine also, not because all those things by which you tell me that you are disturbed, disturb my mind: but I have been much perplexed, I confess, by the question how your perplexities were to be removed; especially since you require me to give a conclusive answer, lest you should fall into greater doubts than you had before you applied to me to have them resolved. For I see that I cannot give this, since, though I may write things which appear to me most certain, if I do not convince you, you must be beyond question more at a loss than before; and though it is in my power to use arguments which weigh with myself, I may fail of convincing another by these. However, lest I should refuse the small service which your love claims, I have resolved after some consideration to write in reply.

2. One of your doubts is as to using the services of a man who has guaranteed his fidelity by swearing by his false gods. In this matter I beg you to consider whether, in the event of a man failing to keep his word after having pledged himself by such an oath, you would not regard him as guilty of a twofold sin. For if he kept the engagement which he had confirmed by this oath, he would be pronounced guilty in this only, that he swore by such deities; but no one would justly blame him for keeping his engagement. But in the case supposed, seeing that he both swore by those whom he should not worship, and did, notwithstanding his promise, what he should not have done, he was guilty of two sins: whence it is obvious that in using, not for an evil work, but for some good and lawful end, the service of a man whose fidelity is known to have been confirmed by an oath in the name of false gods, one participates, not in the sin of swearing by the false gods, but in the good faith with which he keeps his promise. The faith which I here speak of as kept is not that on account of which those who are baptized in Christ are called faithful: that is entirely different and far removed from the faith desiderated in regard to the arrangements and compacts of men. Nevertheless it is, beyond all doubt, worse to swear falsely by the true God than to swear truly by the false gods; for the greater the holiness of that by which we swear, the greater is the sin of perjury. It is therefore a different question whether he is not guilty who requires another to pledge himself by taking an oath in the name of his gods, seeing that he worships false gods. In answering this question, we may accept as decisive those examples which you yourself quoted of Laban and of Abimelech (if Abimelech did swear by his gods, as Laban swore by the god of Nahor). This is, as I have said, another question, and one which would perchance perplex me, were it not for those examples of Isaac and Jacob, to which, for aught I know, others might be added. It may be that some scruple might yet be suggested by the precept in the New Testament, "Swear not at all;" [1673] words which were in my opinion spoken, not because it is a sin to swear a true oath, but because it is a heinous sin to forswear oneself: from which crime our Lord would have us keep at a great distance, when He charged us not to swear at all. I know, however, that our opinion is different: wherefore it should not be discussed at present; let us rather treat of that about which you have thought of asking my advice. On the same ground on which you forbear from swearing yourself, you may, if such be your opinion, regard it as forbidden to exact an oath from another, although it is expressly said, Swear not; but I do not remember reading anywhere in Holy Scripture that we are not to take another's oath. The question whether we ought to take advantage of the concord which is established between other parties by their exchange of oaths is entirely different. If we answer this in the negative, I know not whether we could find any place on earth in which we could live. For not only on the frontier, but throughout all the provinces, the security of peace rests on the oaths of barbarians. And from this it would follow, that not only the crops which are guarded by men who have sworn fidelity in the name of their false gods, but all things which enjoy the protection secured by the peace which a similar oath has ratified, are defiled. If this be admitted by you to be a complete absurdity, dismiss with it your doubts on the cases which you named.

3. Again, if from the threshing-floor or wine-press of a Christian anything be taken, with his knowledge, to be offered to false gods, he is guilty in permitting this to be done, if it be in his power to prevent it. If he finds that it has been done, or has not the power to prevent it, he uses without scruple the rest of the grain or wine, as uncontaminated, just as we use fountains from which we know that water has been taken to be used in idol-worship. The same principle decides the question about baths. For we have no scruple about inhaling the air into which we know that the smoke from all the altars and incense of idolaters ascends. From which it is manifest, that the thing forbidden is our devoting anything to the honour of the false gods, or appearing to do this by so acting as to encourage in such worship those who do not know our mind, although in our heart we despise their idols. And when temples, idols, groves, etc., are thrown down by permission from the authorities, although our taking part in this work is a clear proof of our not honouring, but rather abhorring, these things, we must nevertheless forbear from appropriating any of them to our own personal and private use; so that it may be manifest that in overthrowing these we are influenced, not by greed, but by piety. When, however, the spoils of these places are applied to the benefit of the community or devoted to the service of God, they are dealt with in the same manner as the men themselves when they are turned from impiety and sacrilege to the true religion. We understand this to be the will of God from the examples quoted by yourself: the grove of the false gods from which He commanded wood to be taken [by Gideon] for the burnt-offering; and Jericho, of which all the gold, silver, and brass was to be brought into the Lord's treasury. Hence also the precept in Deuteronomy: "Thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein; for it is an abomination to the Lord thy God. Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou become a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing." [1674] From which it appears plainly, that either the appropriation of such spoils to their own private use was absolutely forbidden, or they were forbidden to carry anything of that kind into their own houses with the intention of giving to it honour; for then this would be an abomination and accursed in the sight of God; whereas the honour impiously given to such idols is, by their public destruction, utterly abolished.

4. As to meats offered to idols, I assure you we have no duty beyond observing what the apostle taught concerning them. Study, therefore, his words on the subject, which, if they were obscure to you, I would explain as well as I could. He does not sin who, unwittingly, afterwards partakes of food which he formerly refused because it had been offered to an idol. A kitchen-herb, or any other fruit of the ground, belongs to Him who created it; for "the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof," and "every creature of God is good." [1675] But if that which the earth has borne is consecrated or offered to an idol, then we must reckon it among the things offered to idols. We must beware lest, in pronouncing that we ought not to eat the fruits of a garden belonging to an idol-temple, we be involved in the inference that it was wrong for the apostle to take food in Athens, since that city belonged to Minerva, and was consecrated to her as the guardian deity. The same answer I would give as to the well or fountain enclosed in a temple, though my scruples would be somewhat more awakened if some part of the sacrifices be thrown into the said well or fountain. But the case is, as I have said before, exactly parallel to our using of the air which receives the smoke of these sacrifices; or, if this be thought to make a difference, that the sacrifice, the smoke whereof mingles with the air, is not offered to the air itself, but to some idol or false god, whereas sometimes offerings are cast into the water with the intention of sacrificing to the waters themselves, it is enough to say that the same principle would preclude us from using the light of the sun, because wicked men continually worship that luminary wherever they are tolerated in doing so. Sacrifices are offered to the winds, which we nevertheless use for our convenience, although they seem, as it were, to inhale and swallow greedily the smoke of these sacrifices. If any one be in doubt regarding meat, whether it has been offered to an idol or not, and the fact be that it has not, when he eats that meat under the impression that it has not been offered to an idol, he by no means does wrong; because neither in fact, nor now in his judgment, is it food offered to an idol, although he formerly thought it was. For surely it is lawful to correct false impressions by others that are true. But if any one believes that to be good which is evil, and acts accordingly, he sins in entertaining that belief; and these are all sins of ignorance, in which one thinks that to be right which it is wrong for him to do.

5. As to killing others in order to defend one's own life, I do not approve of this, unless one happen to be a soldier or public functionary acting, not for himself, but in defence of others or of the city in which he resides, if he act according to the commission lawfully given him, and in the manner becoming his office. [1676] When, however, men are prevented, by being alarmed, from doing wrong, it may be said that a real service is done to themselves. The precept, "Resist not evil," [1677] was given to prevent us from taking pleasure in revenge, in which the mind is gratified by the sufferings of others, but not to make us neglect the duty of restraining men from sin. From this it follows that one is not guilty of homicide, because he has put up a wall round his estate, if any one is killed by the wall falling upon him when he is throwing it down. For a Christian is not guilty of homicide though his ox may gore or his horse kick a man, so that he dies. On such a principle, the oxen of a Christian should have no horns, and his horses no hoofs, and his dogs no teeth. On such a principle, when the Apostle Paul took care to inform the chief captain that an ambush was laid for him by certain desperadoes, and received in consequence an armed escort, [1678] if the villains who plotted his death had thrown themselves on the weapons of the soldiers, Paul would have had to acknowledge the shedding of their blood as a crime with which he was chargeable. God forbid that we should be blamed for accidents which, without our desire, happen to others through things done by us or found in our possession, which are in themselves good and lawful. In that event, we ought to have no iron implements for the house or the field, lest some one should by them lose his own life or take another's; no tree or rope on our premises, lest some one hang himself; no window in our house, lest some one throw himself down from it. But why mention more in a list which must be interminable? For what good and lawful thing is there in use among men which may not become chargeable with being an instrument of destruction?

6. I have now only to notice (unless I am mistaken) the case which you mentioned of a Christian on a journey overcome by the extremity of hunger; whether, if he could find nothing to eat but meat placed in an idol's temple, and there was no man near to relieve him, it would be better for him to die of starvation than to take that food for his nourishment? Since in this question it is not assumed that the food thus found was offered to the idol (for it might have been left by mistake or designedly by persons who, on a journey, had turned aside there to take refreshment; or it might have been put there for some other purpose), I answer briefly thus: Either it is certain that this food was offered to the idol, or it is certain that it was not, or neither of these things is known. If it is certain, it is better to reject it with Christian fortitude. In either of the other alternatives, it may be used for his necessity without any conscientious scruple.

Footnotes

[1673] Matt. v. 34, 36. [1674] Deut. vii. 25, 26. [1675] Ps. xxiv. 1; 1 Cor. x. 25, 26; and 1 Tim. iv. 4. [1676] For Augustin's mature view on this subject, see his work, De Libero Arbitrio, i. 5. 13: "That it is wrong to shed the blood of our fellow-men in defence of those things which ought to be despised by us." [1677] Matt. v. 39. [1678] Acts xxiii. 17-24.


Letter XLVIII.

(a.d. 398.)

To My Lord Eudoxius, My Brother and Fellow-Presbyter, Beloved and Longed For, and to the Brethren Who are with Him, [1679] Augustin and the Brethren Who are Here Send Greeting.

1. When we reflect upon the undisturbed rest which you enjoy in Christ, we also, although engaged in labours manifold and arduous, find rest with you, beloved. We are one body under one Head, so that you share our toils, and we share your repose: for "if one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or if one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it." [1680] Therefore we earnestly exhort and beseech you, by the deep humility and most compassionate majesty of Christ, to be mindful of us in your holy intercessions; for we believe you to be more lively and undistracted in prayer than we can be, whose prayers are often marred and weakened by the darkness and confusion arising from secular occupations: not that we have these on our own account, but we can scarcely breathe for the pressure of such duties imposed upon us by men compelling us, so to speak, to go with them one mile, with whom we are commanded by our Lord to go farther than they ask. [1681] We believe, nevertheless, that He before whom the sighing of the prisoner comes [1682] will look on us persevering in the ministry in which He was pleased to put us, with promise of reward, and, by the assistance of your prayers, will set us free from all distress.

2. We exhort you in the Lord, brethren, to be stedfast in your purpose, and persevere to the end; and if the Church, your Mother, calls you to active service, guard against accepting it, on the one hand, with too eager elation of spirit, or declining it, on the other, under the solicitations of indolence; and obey God with a lowly heart, submitting yourselves in meekness to Him who governs you, who will guide the meek in judgment, and will teach them His way. [1683] Do not prefer your own ease to the claims of the Church; for if no good men were willing to minister to her in her bringing forth of her spiritual children, the beginning of your own spiritual life would have been impossible. As men must keep the way carefully in walking between fire and water, so as to be neither burned nor drowned, so must we order our steps between the pinnacle of pride and the whirlpool of indolence; as it is written, "declining neither to the right hand nor to the left." [1684] For some, while guarding too anxiously against being lifted up and raised, as it were, to the dangerous heights on the right hand, have fallen and been engulphed in the depths on the left. Again, others, while turning too eagerly from the danger on the left hand of being immersed in the torpid effeminacy of inaction, are, on the other hand, so destroyed and consumed by the extravagance of self-conceit, that they vanish into ashes and smoke. See then, beloved, that in your love of ease you restrain yourselves from all mere earthly delight, and remember that there is no place where the fowler who fears lest we fly back to God may not lay snares for us; let us account him whose captives we once were to be the sworn enemy of all good men; let us never consider ourselves in possession of perfect peace until iniquity shall have ceased, and "judgment shall have returned unto righteousness." [1685]

3. Moreover, when you are exerting yourselves with energy and fervour, whatever you do, whether labouring diligently in prayer, fasting, or almsgiving, or distributing to the poor, or forgiving injuries, "as God also for Christ's sake hath forgiven us," [1686] or subduing evil habits, and chastening the body and bringing it into subjection, [1687] or bearing tribulation, and especially bearing with one another in love (for what can he bear who is not patient with his brother?), or guarding against the craft and wiles of the tempter, and by the shield of faith averting and extinguishing his fiery darts, [1688] or "singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts," or with voices in harmony with your hearts; [1689] --whatever you do, I say, "do all to the glory of God," [1690] who "worketh all in all," [1691] and be so "fervent in Spirit" [1692] that your "soul may make her boast in the Lord." [1693] Such is the course of those who walk in the "straight way," whose "eyes are ever upon the Lord, for He shall pluck their feet out of the net." [1694] Such a course is neither interrupted by business, nor benumbed by leisure, neither boisterous nor languid, neither presumptuous nor desponding, neither reckless nor supine. "These things do, and the God of peace shall be with you." [1695]

4. Let your charity prevent you from accounting me forward in wishing to address you by letter. I remind you of these things, not because I think you come short in them, but because I thought that I would be much commended unto God by you, if, in doing your duty to Him, you do it with a remembrance of my exhortation. For good report, even before the coming of the brethren Eustasius and Andreas from you, had brought to us, as they did, the good savour of Christ, which is yielded by your holy conversation. Of these, Eustasius has gone before us to that land of rest, on the shore of which beat no rude waves such as those which encompass your island home, and in which he does not regret Caprera, for the homely raiment [1696] with which it furnished him he wears no more.

Footnotes

[1679] The monastery of these brethren was in the island of Capraria--the same, I suppose, with Caprera--now so widely famous as Garibaldi's home. [1680] 1 Cor. xii. 26. [1681] Matt. v. 41. [1682] Ps. lxxix. 11. [1683] Ps. xxv. 9. [1684] Deut. xvii. 11. [1685] Ps. lvii. 1 and xciv. 15. [1686] Eph. iv. 32. [1687] 1 Cor. ix. 27. [1688] Eph. vi. 16. [1689] Eph. v. 19. [1690] 1 Cor. x. 31. [1691] 1 Cor. xii. 6. [1692] Rom. xii. 11. [1693] Ps. xxxiv. 2. [1694] Ps. xxv. 15. [1695] Phil. iv. 9. [1696] Cilicium, the garment of goats' hair worn by the brethren. These were the staple article of manufacture in Caprera, "the goat island."


Letter XLIX.

This letter, written to Honoratus, a Donatist bishop, contains nothing on the Donatist schism which is not already found in Letters XLIII. and XLIV., or supplied in Letter LIII.


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