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 C.

(a.d. 409.)

To Donatus His Noble and Deservedly Honourable Lord, and Eminently Praiseworthy Son, Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

1. I would indeed that the African Church were not placed in such trying circumstances as to need the aid of any earthly power. But since, as the apostle says, "there is no power but of God," [2320] it is unquestionable that, when by you the sincere sons of your Catholic Mother help is given to her, our help is in the name of the Lord, "who made heaven and earth." [2321] For oh, noble and deservedly honourable lord, and eminently praiseworthy son, who does not perceive that in the midst of so great calamities no small consolation has been bestowed upon us by God, in that you, such a man, and so devoted to the name of Christ, have been raised to the dignity of proconsul, so that power allied with your goodwill may restrain the enemies of the Church from their wicked and sacrilegious attempts? In fact, there is only one thing of which we are much afraid in your administration of justice, viz., lest perchance, seeing that every injury done by impious and ungrateful men against the Christian society is a more serious and heinous crime than if it had been done against others, you should on this ground consider that it ought to be punished with a severity corresponding to the enormity of the crime, and not with the moderation which is suitable to Christian forbearance. We beseech you, in the name of Jesus Christ, not to act in this manner. For we do not seek to revenge ourselves in this world; nor ought the things which we suffer to reduce us to such distress of mind as to leave no room in our memory for the precepts in regard to this which we have received from Him for whose truth and in whose name we suffer; we "love our enemies," and we "pray for them." [2322] It is not their death, but their deliverance from error, that we seek to accomplish by the help of the terror of judges and of laws, whereby they may be preserved from falling under the penalty of eternal judgment; we do not wish either to see the exercise of discipline towards them neglected, or, on the other hand, to see them subjected to the severer punishments which they deserve. Do you, therefore, check their sins in such a way, that the sinners may be spared to repent of their sins.

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2. We beg you, therefore, when you are pronouncing judgment in cases affecting the Church, how wicked soever the injuries may be which you shall ascertain to have been attempted or inflicted on the Church, to forget that you have the power of capital punishment, and not to forget our request. Nor let it appear to you an unimportant matter and beneath your notice, my most beloved and honoured son, that we ask you to spare the lives of the men on whose behalf we ask God to grant them repentance. For even granting that we ought never to deviate from a fixed purpose of overcoming evil with good, let your own wisdom take this also into consideration, that no person beyond those who belong to the Church is at pains to bring before you cases pertaining to her interests. If, therefore, your opinion be, that death must be the punishment of men convicted of these crimes, you will deter us from endeavouring to bring anything of this kind before your tribunal; and this being discovered, they will proceed with more unrestrained boldness to accomplish speedily our destruction, when upon us is imposed and enjoined the necessity of choosing rather to suffer death at their hands, than to bring them to death by accusing them at your bar. Disdain not, I beseech you, to accept this suggestion, petition, and entreaty from me. For I do not think that you are unmindful that I might have great boldness in addressing you, even were I not a bishop, and even though your rank were much above what you now hold. Meanwhile, let the Donatist heretics learn at once through the edict of your Excellency that the laws passed against their error, which they suppose and boastfully declare to be repealed, are still in force, although even when they know this they may not be able to refrain in the least degree from injuring us. You will, however, most effectively help us to secure the fruit of our labours and dangers, if you take care that the imperial laws for the restraining of their sect, which is full of conceit and of impious pride, be so used that they may not appear either to themselves or to others to be suffering hardship in any form for the sake of truth and righteousness; but suffer them, when this is requested at your hands, to be convinced and instructed by incontrovertible proofs of things which are most certain, in public proceedings in the presence of your Excellency or of inferior judges, in order that those who are arrested by your command may themselves incline their stubborn will to the better part, and may read these things profitably to others of their party. For the pains bestowed are burdensome rather than really useful, when men are only compelled, not persuaded by instruction, to forsake a great evil and lay hold upon a great benefit.


[2320] Rom. xiii. 1. [2321] Ps. cxxiv. 8. [2322] Matt. v. 44.

Letter CI.

(a.d. 409.)

To Memor, [2323] My Lord Most Blessed, and with All Veneration Most Beloved, My Brother and Colleague Sincerely Longed For, Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

1. I ought not to write any letter to your holy Charity, without sending at the same time those books which by the irresistible plea of holy love you have demanded from me, that at least by this act of obedience I might reply to those letters by which you have put on me a high honour indeed, but also a heavy load. Albeit, while I bend because of the load, I am raised up because of your love. For it is not by an ordinary man that I am loved and raised up and made to stand erect, but by a man who is a priest of the Lord, and whom I know to be so accepted before Him, that when you raise to the Lord your good heart, having me in your heart, you raise me with yourself to Him. I ought, therefore, to have sent at this time those books which I had promised to revise. The reason why I have not sent them is that I have not revised them, and this not because I was unwilling, but because I was unable, having been occupied with many very urgent cares. But it would have shown inexcusable ingratitude and hardness of heart to have permitted the bearer, my holy colleague and brother Possidius, in whom you will find one who is very much the same as myself, either to miss becoming acquainted with you, who love me so much, or to come to know you without any letter from me. For he is one who has been by my labours nourished, not in those studies which men who are the slaves of every kind of passion call liberal, but with the Lord's bread, in so far as this could be supplied to him from my scanty store.

2. For to men who, though they are unjust and impious, imagine that they are well educated in the liberal arts, what else ought we to say than what we read in those writings which truly merit the name of liberal,--"if the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." [2324] For it is through Him that men come to know, even in those studies which are termed liberal by those who have not been called to this true liberty, anything in them which deserves the name. For they have nothing which is consonant with liberty, except that which in them is consonant with truth; for which reason the Son Himself hath said: "The truth shall make you free." [2325] The freedom which is our privilege has therefore nothing in common with the innumerable and impious fables with which the verses of silly poets are full, nor with the fulsome and highly-polished falsehoods of their orators, nor, in fine, with the rambling subtleties of philosophers themselves, who either did not know anything of God, or when they knew God, did not glorify Him as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened; so that, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and four-footed beasts, and to creeping things, or who, though not wholly or at all devoted to the worship of images, nevertheless worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator. [2326] Far be it, therefore, from us to admit that the epithet liberal is justly bestowed on the lying vanities and hallucinations, or empty trifles and conceited errors of those men--unhappy men, who knew not the grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, by which alone we are "delivered from the body of this death," [2327] and who did not even perceive the measure of truth which was in the things which they knew. Their historical works, the writers of which profess to be chiefly concerned to be accurate in narrating events, may perhaps, I grant, contain some things worthy of being known by "free" men, since the narration is true, whether the subject described in it be the good or the evil in human experience. At the same time, I can by no means see how men who were not aided in their knowledge by the Holy Spirit, and who were obliged to gather floating rumours under the limitations of human infirmity, could avoid being misled in regard to very many things; nevertheless, if they have no intention of deceiving, and do not mislead other men otherwise than so far as they have themselves, through human infirmity, fallen into a mistake, there is in such writings an approach to liberty.

3. Forasmuch, however, as the powers belonging to numbers [2328] in all kinds of movements are most easily studied as they are presented in sounds, and this study furnishes a way of rising to the higher secrets of truth, by paths gradually ascending, so to speak, in which Wisdom pleasantly reveals herself, and in every step of providence meets those who love her, [2329] desired, when I began to have leisure for study, and my mind was not engaged by greater and more important cares, to exercise myself by writing those books which you have requested me to send. I then wrote six books on rhythm alone, and proposed, I may add, to write other six on music, [2330] as I at that time expected to have leisure. But from the time that the burden of ecclesiastical cares was laid upon me, all these recreations have passed from my hand so completely, that now, when I cannot but respect your wish and command,--for it is more than a request,--I have difficulty in even finding what I had written. If, however, I had it in my power to send you that treatise, it would occasion regret, not to me that I had obeyed your command, but to you that you had so urgently insisted upon its being sent. For five books of it are all but unintelligible, unless one be at hand who can in reading not only distinguish the part belonging to each of those between whom the discussion is maintained, but also mark by enunciation the time which the syllables should occupy, so that their distinctive measures may be expressed and strike the ear, especially because in some places there occur pauses of measured length, which of course must escape notice, unless the reader inform the hearer of them by intervals of silence where they occur.

The sixth book, however, which I have found already revised, and in which the product of the other five is contained, I have not delayed to send to your Charity; it may, perhaps, be not wholly unsuited to one of your venerable age. [2331] As to the other five books, they seem to me scarcely worthy of being known and read by Julian, [2332] our son, and now our colleague, for, as a deacon, he is engaged in the same warfare with ourselves. Of him I dare not say, for it would not be true, that I love him more than I love you; yet this I may say, that I long for him more than for you. It may seem strange, that when I love both equally, I long more ardently for the one than the other; but the cause of the difference is, that I have greater hope of seeing him; for I think that if ordered or sent by you he come to us, he will both be doing what is suitable to one of his years, especially as he is not yet hindered by weightier responsibilities, and he will more speedily bring yourself to me.

I have not stated in this treatise the kinds of metre in which the lines of David's Psalms are composed, because I do not know them. For it was not possible for any one, in translating these from the Hebrew (of which language I know nothing), to preserve the metre at the same time, lest by the exigencies of the measure he should be compelled to depart from accurate translation further than was consistent with the meaning of the sentences. Nevertheless, I believe, on the testimony of those who are acquainted with that language, that they are composed in certain varieties of metre; for that holy man loved sacred music, and has more than any other kindled in me a passion for its study.

May the shadow of the wings of the Most High be for ever the dwelling-place [2333] of you all, who with oneness of heart occupy one home, [2334] father and mother, bound in the same brotherhood with your sons, being all the children of the one Father. Remember us.


[2323] We regard Memori, not Memorio, as the true reading. [2324] John viii. 36. [2325] John viii. 38. [2326] Rom. i. 21-25. [2327] Rom. vii. 24, 25. [2328] Quid numeri valeant. [2329] Wisd. vi. 17. [2330] De melo. [2331] Gravitatem tuam. [2332] Julian, son of Memor, afterwards a leading supporter of the Pelagian heresy. [2333] Ps. xci. 1. [2334] Ps. lxviii. 6, Septuagint.

Letter CII.

(a.d. 409.)

To Deogratias, My Brother in All Sincerity, and My Fellow-Presbyter, Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

1. In choosing to refer to me questions which were submitted to yourself for solution, you have not done so, I suppose, from indolence, but because, loving me more than I deserve, you prefer to hear through me even those things which you already know quite well. I would rather, however, that the answers were given by yourself, because the friend who proposed the questions seems to be shy of following advice from me, if I may judge from the fact that he has written no reply to a letter of mine, for what reason he knows best. I suspect this, however, and there is neither ill-will nor absurdity in the suspicion; for you also know very well how much I love him, and how great is my grief that he is not yet a Christian; and it is not unreasonable to think that one whom I see unwilling to answer my letters is not willing to have anything written by me to him. I therefore implore you to comply with a request of mine, seeing that I have been obedient to you, and, notwithstanding most engrossing duties, have feared to disappoint the wish of one so dear to me by declining to comply with your request. What I ask is this, that you do not refuse yourself to give an answer to all his questions, seeing that, as you have told me, he begged this from you; and it is a task to which, even before receiving this letter, you were competent; for when you have read this letter, you will see that scarcely anything has been said by me which you did not already know, or which you could not have come to know though I had been silent. This work of mine, therefore, I beg you to keep for the use of yourself and of all other persons whose desire for instruction you deem it suited to satisfy. But as for the treatise of your own composition which I demand from you, give it to him to whom this treatise is most specially adapted, and not to him only, but also all others who find exceedingly acceptable such statements concerning these things as you are able to make, among whom I number myself. May you live always in Christ, and remember me.

2. Question I. Concerning the resurrection. This question perplexes some, and they ask, Which of two kinds of resurrection corresponds to that which is promised to us? is it that of Christ, or that of Lazarus? They say, "If the former, how can this correspond with the resurrection of those who have been born by ordinary generations, seeing that He was not thus born? [2335] If, on the other hand, the resurrection of Lazarus is said to correspond to ours, here also there seems to be a discrepancy, since the resurrection of Lazarus was accomplished in the case of a body not yet dissolved, but the same body in which he was known by the name of Lazarus; whereas ours is to be rescued after many centuries from the mass in which it has ceased to be distinguishable from other things. Again, if our state after the resurrection is one of blessedness, in which the body shall be exempt from every kind of wound, and from the pain of hunger, what is meant by the statement that Christ took food, and showed his wounds after His resurrection? For if He did it to convince the doubting, when the wounds were not real, He practised on them a deception; whereas, if He showed them what was real, it follows that wounds received by the body shall remain in the state which is to ensue after resurrection."

3. To this I answer, that the resurrection of Christ and not of Lazarus corresponds to that which is promised, because Lazarus was so raised that he died a second time, whereas of Christ it is written: "Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him." [2336] The same is promised to those who shall rise at the end of the world, and shall reign for ever with Christ. As to the difference in the manner of Christ's generation and that of other men, this has no bearing upon the nature of His resurrection, just as it had none upon the nature of His death, so as to make it different from ours. His death was not the less real because of His not having been begotten by an earthly father; just as the difference between the mode of the origination of the body of the first man, who was formed immediately from the dust of the earth, and of our bodies, which we derive from our parents, made no such difference as that his death should be of another kind than ours. As, therefore, difference in the mode of birth does not make any difference in the nature of death, neither does it make any difference in the nature of resurrection.

4. But lest the men who doubt this should, with similar scepticism, refuse to accept as true what is written concerning the first man's creation, let them inquire or observe, if they can at least believe this, how numerous are the species of animals which are born from the earth without deriving their life from parents, but which by ordinary procreation reproduce offspring like themselves, and in which, notwithstanding the different mode of origination, the nature of the parents born from the earth and of the offspring born from them is the same; for they live alike and they die alike, although born in different ways. There is therefore no absurdity in the statement that bodies dissimilar in their origination are alike in their resurrection. But men of this kind, not being competent to discern in what respect any diversity between things affects or does not affect them, so soon as they discover any unlikeness between things in their original formation, contend that in all that follows the same unlikeness must still exist. Such men may as reasonably suppose that oil made from fat should not float on the surface in water as olive oil does, because the origin of the two oils is so different, the one being from the fruit of a tree, the other from the flesh of an animal.

5. Again, as to the alleged difference in regard to the resurrection of Christ's body and of ours, that His was raised on the third day not dissolved by decay and corruption, whereas ours shall be fashioned again after a long time, and out of the mass into which undistinguished they shall have been resolved,--both of these things are impossible for man to do, but to divine power both are most easy. For as the glance of the eye does not come more quickly to objects which are at hand, and more slowly to objects more remote, but darts to either distance with equal swiftness, so, when the resurrection of the dead is accomplished "in the twinkling of an eye," [2337] it is as easy for the omnipotence of God and for the ineffable expression of His will [2338] to raise again bodies which have by long lapse of time been dissolved, as to raise those which have recently fallen under the stroke of death. These things are to some men incredible because they transcend their experience, although all nature is full of wonders so numerous, that they do not seem to us to be wonderful, and are therefore accounted unworthy of attentive study or investigation, not because our faculties can easily comprehend them, but because we are so accustomed to see them. For myself, and for all who along with me labour to understand the invisible things of God by means of the things which are made, [2339] I may say that we are filled not less, perhaps even more, with wonder by the fact, that in one grain of seed, so insignificant, there lies bound up as it were all that we praise in the stately tree, than by the fact that the bosom of this earth, so vast, shall restore entire and perfect to the future resurrection all those elements of human bodies which it is now receiving when they are dissolved.

6. Again, what contradiction is there between the fact that Christ partook of food after His resurrection, and the doctrine that in the promised resurrection-state there shall be no need of food, when we read that angels also have partaken of food of the same kind and in the same way, not in empty and illusive simulation, but in unquestionable reality; not, however, under the pressure of necessity, but in the free exercise of their power? For water is absorbed in one way by the thirsting earth, in another way by the glowing sunbeams; in the former we see the effect of poverty, in the latter of power. Now the body of that future resurrection-state shall be imperfect in its felicity if it be incapable of taking food; imperfect, also, if, on the other hand, it be dependent on food. I might here enter on a fuller discussion concerning the changes possible in the qualities of bodies, and the dominion which belongs to higher bodies over those which are of inferior nature; but I have resolved to make my reply short, and I write this for mind so endowed that the simple suggestion of the truth is enough for them.

7. Let him who proposed these questions know by all means that Christ did, after His resurrection, show the scars of His wounds, not the wounds themselves, to disciples who doubted; for whose sake, also, it pleased Him to take food and drink more than once, lest they should suppose that His body was not real, but that He was a spirit, appearing to them as a phantom, and not a substantial form. These scars would indeed have been mere illusive appearances if no wounds had gone before; yet even the scars would not have remained if He had willed it otherwise. But it pleased Him to retain them with a definite purpose, namely, that to those whom He was building up in faith unfeigned He might show that one body had not been substituted for another, but that the body which they had seen nailed to the cross had risen again. What reason is there, then, for saying, "If He did this to convince the doubting, He practised a deception"? Suppose that a brave man, who had received many wounds in confronting the enemy when fighting for his country, were to say to a physician of extraordinary skill, who was able so to heal these wounds as to leave not a scar visible, that he would prefer to be healed in such a way that the traces of the wounds should remain on his body as tokens of the honours he had won, would you, in such a case, say that the physician practised deception, because, though he might by his art make the scars wholly disappear, he did by the same art, for a definite reason, rather cause them to continue as they were? The only ground upon which the scars could be proved to be a deception would be, as I have already said, if no wounds had been healed in the places where they were seen.

8. Question II. Concerning the epoch of the Christian religion, they have advanced, moreover, some other things, which they might call a selection of the more weighty arguments of Porphyry against the Christians: "If Christ," they say, "declares Himself to be the Way of salvation, the Grace and the Truth, and affirms that in Him alone, and only to souls believing in Him, is the way of return to God, [2340] what has become of men who lived in the many centuries before Christ came? To pass over the time," he adds, "which preceded the founding of the kingdom of Latium, let us take the beginning of that power as if it were the beginning of the human race. In Latium itself gods were worshipped before Alba was built; in Alba, also, religious rites and forms of worship in the temples were maintained. Rome itself was for a period of not less duration, even for a long succession of centuries, unacquainted with Christian doctrine. What, then, has become of such an innumerable multitude of souls, who were in no wise blameworthy, seeing that He in whom alone saving faith can be exercised had not yet favoured men with His advent? The whole world, moreover, was not less zealous than Rome itself in the worship practised in the temples of the gods. Why, then," he asks, "did He who is called the Saviour withhold Himself for so many centuries of the world? And let it not be said," he adds, "that provision had been made for the human race by the old Jewish law. It was only after a long time that the Jewish law appeared and flourished within the narrow limits of Syria, and after that, it gradually crept onwards to the coasts of Italy; but this was not earlier than the end of the reign of Caius, or, at the earliest, while he was on the throne. What, then, became of the souls of men in Rome and Latium who lived before the time of the Cæsars, and were destitute of the grace of Christ, because He had not then come?"

9. To these statements we answer by requiring those who make them to tell us, in the first place, whether the sacred rites, which we know to have been introduced into the worship of their gods at times which can be ascertained, were or were not profitable to men. If they say that these were of no service for the salvation of men, they unite with us in putting them down, and confess that they were useless. We indeed prove that they were baneful; but it is an important concession that by them it is at least admitted that they were useless. If, on the other hand, they defend these rites, and maintain that they were wise and profitable institutions, what, I ask, has become of those who died before these were instituted? for they were defrauded of the saving and profitable efficacy which these possessed. If, however, it be said that they could be cleansed from guilt equally well in another way, why did not the same way continue in force for their posterity? What use was there for instituting novelties in worship.

10. If, in answer to this, they say that the gods themselves have indeed always existed, and were in all places alike powerful to give liberty to their worshippers, but were pleased to regulate the circumstances of time, place, and manner in which they were to be served, according to the variety found among things temporal and terrestrial, in such a way as they knew to be most suitable to certain ages and countries, why do they urge against the Christian religion this question, which, if it be asked in regard to their own gods, they either cannot themselves answer, or, if they can, must do so in such a way as to answer for our religion not less than their own? For what could they say but that the difference between sacraments which are adapted to different times and places is of no importance, if only that which is worshipped in them all be holy, just as the difference between sounds of words belonging to different languages and adapted to different hearers is of no importance, if only that which is spoken be true; although in this respect there is a difference, that men can, by agreement among themselves, arrange as to the sounds of language by which they may communicate their thoughts to one another, but that those who have discerned what is right have been guided only by the will of God in regard to the sacred rites which were agreeable to the Divine Being. This divine will has never been wanting to the justice and piety of mortals for their salvation; and whatever varieties of worship there may have been in different nations bound together by one and the same religion, the most important thing to observe was this how far, on the one hand, human infirmity was thereby encouraged to effort, or borne with while, on the other hand, the divine authority was not assailed.

11. Wherefore, since we affirm that Christ is the Word of God, by whom all things were made and is the Son, because He is the Word, not a word uttered and belonging to the past but abides unchangeably with the unchangeable Father, Himself unchangeable, under whose rule the whole universe, spiritual and material, is ordered in the way best adapted to different times and places, and that He has perfect wisdom and knowledge as to what should be done, and when and where everything should be done in the controlling and ordering of the universe,--most certainly, both before He gave being to the Hebrew nation, by which He was pleased, through sacraments suited to the time, to prefigure the manifestation of Himself in His advent, and during the time of the Jewish commonwealth, and, after that, when He manifested Himself in the likeness of mortals to mortal men in the body which He received from the Virgin, and thenceforward even to our day, in which He is fulfilling all which He predicted of old by the prophets, and from this present time on to the end of the world, when He shall separate the holy from the wicked, and give to every man his due recompense,--in all these successive ages He is the same Son of God, co-eternal with the Father, and the unchangeable Wisdom by whom universal nature was called into existence, and by participation in whom every rational soul is made blessed.

12. Therefore, from the beginning of the human race, whosoever believed in Him, and in any way knew Him, and lived in a pious and just manner according to His precepts, was undoubtedly saved by Him, in whatever time and place he may have lived. For as we believe in Him both as dwelling with the Father and as having come in the flesh, so the men of the former ages believed in Him both as dwelling with the Father and as destined to come in the flesh. And the nature of faith is not changed, nor is the salvation made different, in our age, by the fact that, in consequence of the difference between the two epochs, that which was then foretold as future is now proclaimed as past. Moreover, we are not under necessity to suppose different things and different kinds of salvation to be signified, when the self-same thing is by different sacred words and rites of worship announced in the one case as fulfilled, in the other as future. As to the manner and time, however, in which anything that pertains to the one salvation common to all believers and pious persons is brought to pass, let us ascribe wisdom to God, and for our part exercise submission to His will. Wherefore the true religion, although formerly set forth and practised under other names and with other symbolical rites than it now has, and formerly more obscurely revealed and known to fewer persons than now in the time of clearer light and wider diffusion, is one and the same in both periods.

13. Moreover, we do not raise any objection to their religion on the ground of the difference between the institutions appointed by Numa Pompilius for the worship of the gods by the Romans, and those which were up till that time practised in Rome or in other parts of Italy; nor on the fact that in the age of Pythagoras that system of philosophy became generally adopted which up to that time had no existence, or lay concealed, perhaps, among a very small number whose views were the same, but whose religious practice and worship was different: the question upon which we join issue with them is, whether these gods were true gods, or worthy of worship, and whether that philosophy was fitted to promote the salvation of the souls of men. This is what we insist upon discussing; and in discussing it we pluck up their sophistries by the root. Let them, therefore, desist from bringing against us objections which are of equal force against every sect, and against religion of every name. For since, as they admit, the ages of the world do not roll on under the dominion of chance, but are controlled by divine Providence, what may be fitting and expedient in each successive age transcends the range of human understanding, and is determined by the same wisdom by which Providence cares for the universe.

14. For if they assert that the reason why the doctrine of Pythagoras has not prevailed always and universally is, that Pythagoras was but a man, and had not power to secure this, can they also affirm that in the age and in the countries in which his philosophy flourished, all who had the opportunity of hearing him were found willing to believe and follow him? And therefore it is the more certain that, if Pythagoras had possessed the power of publishing his doctrines where he pleased and when he pleased, and if he had also possessed along with that power a perfect foreknowledge of events, he would have presented himself only at those places and times in which he foreknew that men would believe his teaching. Wherefore, since they do not object to Christ on the ground of His doctrine not being universally embraced,--for they feel that this would be a futile objection if alleged either against the teaching of philosophers or against the majesty of their own gods,--what answer, I ask, could they make, if, leaving out of view that depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God within which it may be that some other divine purpose lies much more deeply hidden, and without prejudging the other reasons possibly existing, which are fit subjects for patient study by the wise, we confine ourselves, for the sake of brevity in this discussion, to the statement of this one position, that it pleased Christ to appoint the time in which He would appear and the persons among whom His doctrine was to be proclaimed, according to His knowledge of the times and places in which men would believe on Him? [2341] For He foreknew, regarding those ages and places in which His gospel has not been preached, that in them the gospel, if preached, would meet with such treatment from all, without exception, as it met with, not indeed from all, but from many, at the time of His personal presence on earth, who would not believe in Him, even though men were raised from the dead by Him; and such as we see it meet with in our day from many who, although the predictions of the prophets concerning Him are so manifestly fulfilled, still refuse to believe, and, misguided by the perverse subtlety of the human heart, rather resist than yield to divine authority, even when this is so clear and manifest, so glorious and so gloriously published abroad. So long as the mind of man is limited in capacity and in strength, it is his duty to yield to divine truth. Why, then, should we wonder if Christ knew that the world was so full of unbelievers in the former ages, that He righteously refused to manifest Himself or to be preached to those of whom He foreknew that they would not believe either His words or His miracles? For it is not incredible that all may have been then such as, to our amazement, so many have been from the time of His advent to the present time, and even now are.

15. And yet, from the beginning of the human race, He never ceased to speak by His prophets, at one time more obscurely, at another time more plainly, as seemed to divine wisdom best adapted to the time; nor were there ever wanting men who believed in Him, from Adam to Moses, and among the people of Israel itself, which was by a special mysterious appointment a prophetic nation, and among other nations before He came in the flesh. For seeing that in the sacred Hebrew books some are mentioned, even from Abraham's time, not belonging to his natural posterity nor to the people of Israel, and not proselytes added to that people, who were nevertheless partakers of this holy mystery, [2342] why may we not believe that in other nations also, here and there, some more were found, although we do not read their names in these authoritative records? Thus the salvation provided by this religion, by which alone, as alone true, true salvation is truly promised, was never wanting to any one who was worthy of it, and he to whom it was wanting was not worthy of it. [2343] And from the beginning of the human family, even to the end of time, it is preached, to some for their advantage, to some for their condemnation. Accordingly, those to whom it has not been preached at all are those who were foreknown as persons who would not believe; those to whom, notwithstanding the certainty that they would not believe, the salvation has been proclaimed are set forth as an example of the class of unbelievers; and those to whom, as persons who would believe, the truth is proclaimed are being prepared for the kingdom of heaven and for the society of the holy angels.

16. Question III. Let us now look to the question which comes next in order. "They find fault," he says, "with the sacred ceremonies, the sacrificial victims, the burning of incense, and all the other parts of worship in our temples; and yet the same kind of worship had its origin in antiquity with themselves, or from the God whom they worship, for He is represented by them as having been in need of the first-fruits."

17. This question is obviously founded upon the passage in our Scriptures in which it is written that Cain brought to God a gift from the fruits of the earth, but Abel brought a gift from the firstlings of the flock. [2344] Our reply, therefore, is, that from this passage the more suitable inference to be drawn is, how ancient is the ordinance of sacrifice which the infallible and sacred writings declare to be due to no other than to the one true God; not because God needs our offerings, seeing that, in the same Scriptures, it is most clearly written, "I said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord, for Thou hast no need of my good," [2345] but because, even in the acceptance or rejection or appropriation of these offerings, He considers the advantage of men, and of them alone. For in worshipping God we do good to ourselves, not to Him. When, therefore, He gives an inspired revelation, and teaches how He is to be worshipped, He does this not only from no sense of need on His part, but from a regard to our highest advantage. For all such sacrifices are significant, being symbols of certain things by which we ought to be roused to search or know or recollect the things which they symbolize. To discuss this subject satisfactorily would demand of us something more than the short discourse in which we have resolved to give our reply at this time, more particularly because in other treatises we have spoken of it fully. [2346] Those also who have before us expounded the divine oracles, have spoken largely of the symbols of the sacrifices of the Old Testament as shadows and figures of things then future.

18. With all our desire, however, to be brief, this one thing we must by no means omit to remark, that the false gods, that is to say, the demons, which are lying angels, would never have required a temple, priesthood, sacrifice, and the other things connected with these from their worshippers, whom they deceive, had they not known that these things were due to the one true God. When, therefore, these things are presented to God according to His inspiration and teaching, it is true religion; but when they are given to demons in compliance with their impious pride, it is baneful superstition. Accordingly, those who know the Christian Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testaments do not blame the profane rites of Pagans on the mere ground of their building temples, appointing priests, and offering sacrifices, but on the ground of their doing all this for idols and demons. As to idols, indeed, who entertains a doubt as to their being wholly devoid of perception? And yet, when they are placed in these temples and set on high upon thrones of honour, that they may be waited upon by suppliants and worshippers praying and offering sacrifices, even these idols, though devoid both of feeling and of life, do, by the mere image of the members and senses of beings endowed with life, so affect weak minds, that they appear to live and breathe, especially under the added influence of the profound veneration with which the multitude freely renders such costly service.

19. To these morbid and pernicious affections of the mind divine Scripture applies a remedy, by repeating, with the impressiveness of wholesome admonition, a familiar fact, in the words, "Eyes have they, but they see not; they have ears, but they hear not," [2347] etc. For these words, by reason of their being so plain, and commending themselves to all people as true, are the more effective in striking salutary shame into those who, when they present divine worship before such images with religious fear, and look upon their likeness to living beings while they are venerating and worshipping them, and utter petitions, offer sacrifices, and perform vows before them as if present, are so completely overcome, that they do not presume to think of them as devoid of perception. Lest, moreover, these worshippers should think that our Scriptures intend only to declare that such affections of the human heart spring naturally from the worship of idols, it is written in the plainest terms, "All the gods of the nations are devils." [2348] And therefore, also, the teaching of the apostles not only declares, as we read in John, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols," [2349] but also, in the words of Paul, "What say I then? that the idol is anything, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is anything? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to devils, and not to God; and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils." [2350] From which it may be clearly understood, that what is condemned in heathen superstitions by the true religion is not the mere offering of sacrifices (for the ancient saints offered these to the true God), but the offering of sacrifices to false gods and to impious demons. For as the truth counsels men to seek the fellowship of the holy angels, in like manner impiety turns men aside to the fellowship of the wicked angels, for whose associates everlasting fire is prepared, as the eternal kingdom is prepared for the associates of the holy angels.

20. The heathen find a plea for their profane rites and their idols in the fact that they interpret with ingenuity what is signified by each of them, but the plea is of no avail. For all this interpretation relates to the creature, not to the Creator, to whom alone is due that religious service which is in the Greek language distinguished by the word latreia. Neither do we say that the earth, the seas, the heaven, the sun, the moon, the stars, and any other celestial influences which may be beyond our ken are demons; but since all created things are divided into material and immaterial, the latter of which we also call spiritual, it is manifest that what is done by us under the power of piety and religion proceeds from the faculty of our souls known as the will, which belongs to the spiritual creation, and is therefore to be preferred to all that is material. Whence it is inferred that sacrifice must not be offered to anything material. There remains, therefore, the spiritual part of creation, which is either pious or impious,--the pious consisting of men and angels who are righteous, and who duly serve God; the impious consisting of wicked men and angels, whom we also call devils. Now, that sacrifice must not be offered to a spiritual creature, though righteous, is obvious from this consideration, that the more pious and submissive to God any creature is, the less does he presume to aspire to that honour which he knows to be due to God alone. How much worse, therefore, is it to sacrifice to devils, that is, to a wicked spiritual creature, which, dwelling in this comparatively dark heaven nearest to earth, as in the prison assigned to him in the air, is doomed to eternal punishment. Wherefore, even when men say that they are offering sacrifices to the higher celestial powers, which are not devils, and imagine that the only difference between us and them is in a name, because they call them gods and we call them angels, the only beings which really present themselves to these men, who are given over to be the sport of manifold deceptions, are the devils who find delight and, in a sense, nourishment in the errors of mankind. For the holy angels do not approve of any sacrifice except what is offered, agreeably to the teaching of true wisdom and true religion, unto the one true God, whom in holy fellowship they serve. Therefore, as impious presumption, whether in men or in angels, commands or covets the rendering to itself of those honours which belong to God, so, on the other hand, pious humility, whether in men or in holy angels, declines these honours when offered, and declares to whom alone they are due, of which most notable examples are conspicuously set forth in our sacred books.

21. In the sacrifices appointed by the divine oracles there has been a diversity of institution corresponding to the age in which they were observed. Some sacrifices were offered before the actual manifestation of that new covenant, the benefits of which are provided by the one true offering of the one Priest, namely, by the shed blood of Christ; and another sacrifice, adapted to this manifestation, and offered in the present age by us who are called Christians after the name of Him who has been revealed, is set before us not only in the gospels, but also in the prophetic books. For a change, not of the God, who is worshipped, nor of the religion itself, but of sacrifices and of sacraments, would seem to be proclaimed without warrant now, if it had not been foretold in the earlier dispensation. For just as when the same man brings to God in the morning one kind of offering, and in the evening another, according to the time of day, he does not thereby change either his God or his religion, any more than he changes the nature of a salutation who uses one form of salutation in the morning and another in the evening: so, in the complete cycle of the ages, when one kind of offering is known to have been made by the ancient saints, and another is presented by the saints in our time, this only shows that these sacred mysteries are celebrated not according to human presumption, but by divine authority, in the manner best adapted to the times. There is here no change either in the Deity or in the religion.

22. Question IV. Let us, in the next place, consider what he has laid down concerning the proportion between sin and punishment when, misrepresenting the gospel, he says: "Christ threatens eternal punishment to those who do not believe in Him;" [2351] and yet He says in another place, "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." [2352] "Here," he remarks, "is something sufficiently absurd and contradictory; for if He is to award punishment according to measure, and all measure is limited by the end of time, what mean these threats of eternal punishment?"

23. It is difficult to believe that this question has been put in the form of objection by one claiming to be in any sense a philosopher; for he says, "All measure is limited by time," as if men were accustomed to no other measures than measures of time, such as hours and days and years, or such as are referred to when we say that the time of a short syllable is one-half of that of a long syllable. [2353] For I suppose that bushels and firkins, urns and amphoræ, are not measures of time. How, then, is all measure limited by time? Do not the heathen themselves affirm that the sun is eternal? And yet they presume to calculate and pronounce on the basis of geometrical measurements what is the proportion between it and the earth. Whether this calculation be within or beyond their power, it is certain, notwithstanding, that it has a disc of definite dimensions. For if they do ascertain how large it is, they know its dimensions, and if they do not succeed in their investigation, they do not know these; but the fact that men cannot discover them is no proof that they do not exist. It is possible, therefore, for something to be eternal, and nevertheless to have a definite measure of its proportions. In this I have been speaking upon the assumption of their own view as to the eternal duration of the sun, in order that they may be convinced by one of their own tenets, and obliged to admit that something may be eternal and at the same time measurable. And therefore let them not think that the threatening of Christ concerning eternal punishment is not to be believed because of His also saying, "In what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you."

24. For if He had said, "That which you have measured shall be measured unto you," even in that case it would not have been necessary to take the clauses as referring to something which was in all respects the same. For we may correctly say, That which you have planted you shall reap, although men plant not fruit but trees, and reap not trees but fruit. We say it, however, with reference to the kind of tree; for a man does not plant a fig-tree, and expect to gather nuts from it. In like manner it might be said, What you have done you shall suffer; not meaning that if one has committed adultery, for example, he shall suffer the same, but that what he has in that crime done to the law, the law shall do unto him, i.e. forasmuch as he has removed from his life the law which prohibits such things, the law shall requite him by removing him from that human life over which it presides. Again, if He had said, "As much as ye shall have measured, so much shall be measured unto you," even from this statement it would not necessarily follow that we must understand punishments to be in every particular equal to the sins punished. Barley and wheat, for example, are not equal in quality, and yet it might be said, "As much as ye shall have measured, so much shall be measured unto you," meaning for so much wheat so much barley. Or if the matter in question were pain, it might be said, "As great pain shall be inflicted on you as you have inflicted on others;" this might mean that the pain should be in severity equal, but in time more protracted, and therefore by its continuance greater. For suppose I were to say of two lamps, "The flame of this one was as hot as the flame of the other," this would not be false, although, perchance, one of them was earlier extinguished than the other. Wherefore, if things be equally great in one respect, but not in another, the fact that they are not alike in all respects does not invalidate the statement that in one respect, as admitted, they are equally great.

25. Seeing, however, that the words of Christ were these, "In what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you," and that beyond all question the measure in which anything is measured is one thing, and that which is measured in it is another, it is obviously possible that with the same measure with which men have measured, say, a bushel of wheat, there may be measured to them thousands of bushels, so that with no difference in the measure there may be all that difference in the quantity, not to speak of the difference of quality which might be in the things measured; for it is not only possible that with the same measure with which one has measured barley to others, wheat may be measured to him, but, moreover, with the same measure with which he has measured grain, gold may be measured to him, and of the grain there may have been one bushel, while there may be very many of the gold. Thus, although there is a difference both in kind and quantity, it may be nevertheless truly said in reference to things which are thus unlike: "In the measure in which he measured to others it is measured unto him."

The reason, moreover, why Christ uttered this saying is sufficiently plain from the immediately preceding context. "Judge not," He said, "that ye be not judged; for in the judgment in which ye judge ye shall be judged." Does this mean that if they have judged any one with injustice they shall themselves be unjustly judged? Of course not; for there is no unrighteousness with God. But it is thus expressed, "In the judgment in which ye judge ye shall be judged," as if it were said, In the will in which ye have dealt kindly with others ye shall be set at liberty, or in the will in which ye have done evil to others ye shall be punished. As if any one, for example, using his eyes for the gratification of base desires, were ordered to be made blind, this would be a just sentence for him to hear, "In those eyes by which thou hast sinned, in them hast thou deserved to be punished." For every one uses the judgment of his own mind, according as it is good or evil, for doing good or for doing evil. Wherefore it is not unjust that he be judged in that in which he judges, that is to say, that he suffer the penalty in the mind's faculty of judgment when he is made to endure those evils which are the consequences of the sinful judgment of his mind.

26. For while other torments which are prepared to be hereafter inflicted are visible, torments occasioned by the same central cause, namely, a depraved will,--it is also the fact that within the mind itself, in which the appetite of the will is the measure of all human actions, sin is followed immediately by punishment, which is for the most part increased in proportion to the greater blindness of one by whom it is not felt. Therefore when He had said, "With [or rather, as Augustin renders it, In] what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged," He went on to add, "And in what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you." A good man, that is to say, will measure out good actions in his own will, and in the same shall blessedness be measured unto him; and in like manner, a bad man will measure out bad actions in his own will, and in the same shall misery be meted out to him; for in whatsoever any one is good when his will aims at what is good, in the same he is evil when his will aims at what is evil. And therefore it is also in this that he is made to experience bliss or misery, viz. in the feeling experienced by his own will, which is the measure both of all actions and of the recompenses of actions. For we measure actions, whether good or bad, by the quality of the volitions which produce them, not by the length of time which they occupy. Were it otherwise, it would be regarded a greater crime to fell a tree than to kill a man. For the former takes a long time and many strokes, the latter may be done with one blow in a moment of time; and yet, if a man were punished with no more than transportation for life for this great crime committed in a moment, it would be said that he had been treated with more clemency than he deserved, although, in regard to the duration of time, the protracted punishment is not in any way to be compared with the sudden act of murder. Where, then, is anything contradictory in the sentence objected to, if the punishments shall be equally protracted or even alike eternal, but differing in comparative gentleness and severity? The duration is the same; the pain inflicted is different in degree, because that which constitutes the measure of the sins themselves is found not in the length of time which they occupy, but in the will of those who commit them.

27. Certainly the will itself endures the punishment, whether pain be inflicted on the mind or on the body; so that the same thing which is gratified by the sin is smitten by the penalty, and so that he who judgeth without mercy is judged without mercy; for in this sentence also the standard of measure is the same only in this point, that what he did not give to others is denied to him, and therefore the judgment passed on him shall be eternal, although the judgment pronounced by him cannot be eternal. It is therefore in the sinner's own measure that punishments which are eternal are measured out to him, though the sins thus punished were not eternal; for as his wish was to have an eternal enjoyment of sin, so the award which he finds is an eternal endurance of suffering.

The brevity which I study in this reply precludes me from collecting all, or at least as many as I could of the statements contained in our sacred books as to sin and the punishment of sin, and deducing from these one indisputable proposition on the subject; and perhaps, even if I obtained the necessary leisure, I might not possess abilities competent to the task. Nevertheless, I think that in the meantime I have proved that there is no contradiction between the eternity of punishment and the principle that sins shall be recompensed in the same measure in which men have committed them.

28. Question V. The objector who has brought forward these questions from Porphyry has added this one in the next place: Will you have the goodness to instruct me as to whether Solomon said truly or not that God has no Son?

29. The answer is brief: Solomon not only did not say this, but, on the contrary, expressly said that God hath a Son. For in one of his writings Wisdom saith: "Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth." [2354] And what is Christ but the Wisdom of God? Again, in another place in the book of Proverbs, he says: "God hath taught me wisdom, and I have learned the knowledge of the holy. [2355] Who hath ascended up into heaven and descended? who hath gathered the winds in His fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son's name?" [2356] Of the two questions concluding this quotation, the one referred to the Father, namely, "What is His name?"--with allusion to the foregoing words, "God hath taught me wisdom,"--the other evidently to the Son, since he says, "or what is His Son's name?"--with allusion to the other statements, which are more properly understood as pertaining to the Son, viz. "Who hath ascended up into heaven and descended?"--a question brought to remembrance by the words of Paul: "He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens;" [2357] --"Who hath gathered the winds in His fists?" i.e. the souls of believers in a hidden and secret place, to whom, accordingly, it is said, "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God;" [2358] --"Who hath bound the waters in a garment?" [2359] whence it could be said, "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ;" [2360] --"Who hath established all the ends of the earth?" the same who said to His disciples, "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." [2361]

30. Question VI. The last question proposed is concerning Jonah, and it is put as if it were not from Porphyry, but as being a standing subject of ridicule among the Pagans; for his words are: "In the next place, what are we to believe concerning Jonah, who is said to have been three days in a whale's belly? The thing is utterly improbable and incredible, that a man swallowed with his clothes on should have existed in the inside of a fish. If, however, the story is figurative, be pleased to explain it. Again, what is meant by the story that a gourd sprang up above the head of Jonah after he was vomited by the fish? What was the cause of this gourd's growth?" Questions such as these I have seen discussed by Pagans amidst loud laughter, and with great scorn.

31. To this I reply, that either all the miracles wrought by divine power may be treated as incredible, or there is no reason why the story of this miracle should not be believed. The resurrection of Christ Himself upon the third day would not be believed by us, if the Christian faith was afraid to encounter Pagan ridicule. Since, however, our friend did not on this ground ask whether it is to be believed that Lazarus was raised on the fourth day, or that Christ rose on the third day, I am much surprised that he reckoned what was done with Jonah to be incredible; unless, perchance, he thinks it easier for a dead man to be raised in life from his sepulchre, than for a living man to be kept in life in the spacious belly of a sea monster. For without mentioning the great size of sea monsters which is reported to us by those who have knowledge of them, let me ask how many men could be contained in the belly which was fenced round with those huge ribs which are fixed in a public place in Carthage, and are well known to all men there? Who can be at a loss to conjecture how wide an entrance must have been given by the opening of the mouth which was the gateway of that vast cavern? unless, perchance, as our friend stated it, the clothing of Jonah stood in the way of his being swallowed without injury, as if he had required to squeeze himself through a narrow passage, instead of being, as was the case, thrown headlong through the air, and so caught by the sea monster as to be received into its belly before he was wounded by its teeth. At the same time, the Scripture does not say whether he had his clothes on or not when he was cast down into that cavern, so that it may without contradiction be understood that he made that swift descent unclothed, if perchance it was necessary that his garment should be taken from him, as the shell is taken from an egg, to make him more easily swallowed. For men are as much concerned about the raiment of this prophet as would be reasonable if it were stated that he had crept through a very small window, or had been going into a bath; and yet, even though it were necessary in such circumstances to enter without parting with one's clothes, this would be only inconvenient, not miraculous.

32. But perhaps our objectors find it impossible to believe in regard to this divine miracle that the heated moist air of the belly, whereby food is dissolved, could be so moderated in temperature as to preserve the life of a man. If so, with how much greater force might they pronounce it incredible that the three young men cast into the furnace by the impious king walked unharmed in the midst of the flames! If, therefore, these objectors refuse to believe any narrative of a divine miracle, they must be refuted by another line of argument. For it is incumbent on them in that case not to single out some one to be objected to, and called in question as incredible, but to denounce as incredible all narratives in which miracles of the same kind or more remarkable are recorded. And yet, if this which is written concerning Jonah were said to have been done by Apuleius of Madaura or Apollonius of Tyana, by whom they boast, though unsupported by reliable testimony, that many wonders were performed (albeit even the devils do some works like those done by the holy angels, not in truth, but in appearance, not by wisdom, but manifestly by subtlety),--if, I say, any such event were narrated in connection with these men to whom they give the flattering name of magicians or philosophers, we should hear from their mouths sounds not of derision, but of triumph. Be it so, then; let them laugh at our Scriptures; let them laugh as much as they can, when they see themselves daily becoming fewer in number, while some are removed by death, and others by their embracing the Christian faith, and when all those things are being fulfilled which were predicted by the prophets who long ago laughed at them, and said that they would fight and bark against the truth in vain, and would gradually come over to our side; and who not only transmitted these statements to us, their descendants, for our learning, but promised that they should be fulfilled in our experience.

33. It is neither unreasonable nor unprofitable to inquire what these miracles signify, so that, after their significance has been explained, men may believe not only that they really occurred, but also that they have been recorded, because of their possessing symbolical meaning. Let him, therefore, who proposes to inquire why the prophet Jonah was three days in the capacious belly of a sea monster, begin by dismissing doubts as to the fact itself; for this did actually occur, and did not occur in vain. For if figures which are expressed in words only, and not in actions, aid our faith, how much more should our faith be helped by figures expressed not only in words, but also in actions! Now men are wont to speak by words; but divine power speaks by actions as well as by words. And as words which are new or somewhat unfamiliar lend brilliancy to a human discourse when they are scattered through it in a moderate and judicious manner, so the eloquence of divine revelation receives, so to speak, additional lustre from actions which are at once marvellous in themselves and skilfully designed to impart spiritual instruction.

34. As to the question, What was prefigured by the sea monster restoring alive on the third day the prophet whom it swallowed? why is this asked of us, when Christ Himself has given the answer, saying, "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given it but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so must the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" [2362] ? In regard to the three days in which the Lord Christ was under the power of death, it would take long to explain how they are reckoned to be three whole days, that is, days along with their nights, because of the whole of the first day and of the third day being understood as represented on the part of each; moreover, this has been already stated very often in other discourses. As, therefore, Jonah passed from the ship to the belly of the whale, so Christ passed from the cross to the sepulchre, or into the abyss of death. And as Jonah suffered this for the sake of those who were endangered by the storm, so Christ suffered for the sake of those who are tossed on the waves of this world. And as the command was given at first that the word of God should be preached to the Ninevites by Jonah, but the preaching of Jonah did not come to them until after the whale had vomited him forth, so prophetic teaching was addressed early to the Gentiles, but did not actually come to the Gentiles until after the resurrection of Christ from the grave.

35. In the next place, as to Jonah's building for himself a booth, and sitting down over against Nineveh, waiting to see what would befall the city, the prophet was here in his own person the symbol of another fact. He prefigured the carnal people of Israel. For he also was grieved at the salvation of the Ninevites, that is, at the redemption and deliverance of the Gentiles, from among whom Christ came to call, not righteous men, but sinners to repentance. [2363] Wherefore the shadow of that gourd over his head prefigured the promises of the Old Testament, or rather the privileges already enjoyed in it, in which there was, as the apostle says, "a shadow of things to come," [2364] furnishing, as it were, a refuge from the heat of temporal calamities in the land of promise. Moreover, in that morning-worm, [2365] which by its gnawing tooth made the gourd wither away, Christ Himself is again prefigured, forasmuch as, by the publication of the gospel from His mouth, all those things which flourished among the Israelites for a time, or with a shadowy symbolical meaning in that earlier dispensation, are now deprived of their significance, and have withered away. And now that nation, having lost the kingdom, the priesthood, and the sacrifices formerly established in Jerusalem, all which privileges were a shadow of things to come, is burned with grievous heat of tribulation in its condition of dispersion and captivity, as Jonah was, according to the history, scorched with the heat of the sun, and is overwhelmed with sorrow; and notwithstanding, the salvation of the Gentiles and of the penitent is of more importance in the sight of God than this sorrow of Israel and the "shadow" of which the Jewish nation was so glad.

36. Again, let the Pagans laugh, and let them treat with proud and senseless ridicule Christ the Worm and this interpretation of the prophetic symbol, provided that He gradually and surely, nevertheless, consume them. For concerning all such Isaiah prophesies, when by him God says to us, "Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings: for the moth shall eat them up as a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool; but my righteousness shall be for ever." [2366] Let us therefore acknowledge Christ to be the morning-worm, because, moreover, in that psalm which bears the title, "Upon the hind of the morning," [2367] He has been pleased to call Himself by this very name: "I am," He says, "a worm, and no man, a reproach of men, and despised of the people." This reproach is one of those reproaches which we are commanded not to fear in the words of Isaiah, "Fear ye not the reproach of men." By that Worm, as by a moth, they are being consumed who under the tooth of His gospel are made to wonder daily at the diminution of their numbers, which is caused by desertion from their party. Let us therefore acknowledge this symbol of Christ; and because of the salvation of God, let us bear patiently the reproaches of men. He is a Worm because of the lowliness of the flesh which He assumed--perhaps, also, because of His being born of a virgin; for the worm is generally not begotten, but spontaneously originated in flesh or any vegetable product [sine concubitu nascitur]. He is the morning-worm, because He rose from the grave before the dawn of day. That gourd might, of course, have withered without any worm at its root; and finally, if God regarded the worm as necessary for this work, what need was there to add the epithet morning-worm, if not to secure that He should be recognised as the Worm who in the psalm, "pro susceptione matutina," sings, "I am a worm, and no man"?

37. What, then, could be more palpable than the fulfilment of this prophecy in the accomplishment of the things foretold? That Worm was indeed despised when He hung upon the cross, as is written in the same psalm: "They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted in the Lord that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him;" [2368] and again, when this was fulfilled which the psalm foretold, "They pierced my hands and my feet. They have told all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture," [2369] --circumstances which are in that ancient book described when future by the prophet with as great plainness as they are now recorded in the gospel history after their occurrence. But if in His humiliation that Worm was despised, is He to be still despised when we behold the accomplishment of those things which are predicted in the latter part of the same psalm: "All the ends of the world shall remember, and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship in His presence. For the kingdom is the Lord's; and He shall govern among the nations"? [2370] Thus the Ninevites "remembered, and turned unto the Lord." The salvation granted to the Gentiles on their repentance, which was thus so long before prefigured, Israel then, as represented by Jonah, regarded with grief, as now their nation grieves, bereft of their shadow, and vexed with the heat of their tribulations. Any one is at liberty to open up with a different interpretation, if only it be in harmony with the rule of faith, all the other particulars which are hidden in the symbolical history of the prophet Jonah; but it is obvious that it is not lawful to interpret the three days which he passed in the belly of the whale otherwise than as it has been revealed by the heavenly Master Himself in the gospel, as quoted above.

38. I have answered to the best of my power the questions proposed; but let him who proposed them become now a Christian at once, lest, if he delay until he has finished the discussion of all difficulties connected with the sacred books, he come to the end of this life before he pass from death to life. For it is reasonable that he inquire as to the resurrection of the dead before he is admitted to the Christian sacraments. Perhaps he ought also to be allowed to insist on preliminary discussion of the question proposed concerning Christ--why He came so late in the world's history, and of a few great questions besides, to which all others are subordinate. But to think of finishing all such questions as those concerning the words, "In what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you," and concerning Jonah, before he becomes a Christian, is to betray great unmindfulness of man's limited capacities, and of the shortness of the life which remains to him. For there are innumerable questions the solution of which is not to be demanded before we believe, lest life be finished by us in unbelief. When, however, the Christian faith has been thoroughly received, these questions behove to be studied with the utmost diligence for the pious satisfaction of the minds of believers. Whatever is discovered by such study ought to be imparted to others without vain self-complacency; if anything still remain hidden, we must bear with patience an imperfection of knowledge which is not prejudicial to salvation.


[2335] Qui nullâ seminis conditione natus est. [2336] Rom. vi. 9. [2337] 1 Cor. xv. 52. [2338] Ineffabili nutui. [2339] Rom. i. 20. [2340] John xiv. 6. [2341] Augustin, having been informed by Hilary (Ep. 219) that this passage was quoted by Semipelagians in defence of their error, made the following remark on it in his work De Prædestinatione Sanctorum, c. ix.: "Do you not observe that my design in this sentence was, without excluding the secret counsel of God and any other causes, to say, in reference to Christ's foreknowledge, what seemed sufficient to reduce to silence the unbelief of the Pagans by whom the objection had been raised? For what is more certain than this, that Christ foreknew who would believe in Him, and in what time and place they would live? But I did not deem it necessary, in that connection, to investigate and discuss the question as to this faith in Christ preached to them, whether they would have it of themselves or would receive it from God--in other words, whether God merely foreknew, or also predestinated them. The sentence, therefore, `that it pleased Christ to appoint the time in which He would appear, and the persons among whom His doctrine was to be proclaimed, according to His knowledge of the times and places in which men would believe in Him,' might have been put thus: that it pleased Christ to appoint the time in which He would appear, and the persons among whom His doctrine was to be proclaimed, according to His knowledge of the times and places in which those would be found who had been chosen in Him before the foundation of the world." [2342] Sacramenti. [2343] On these words Augustin remarks in his Retractations, Book II. ch. xxxi.: "This I said, not meaning that any one could be worthy through his own merit, but in the same sense as the apostle said, `Not of works, but of Him that calleth; it was said unto her, "The elder shall serve the younger"' (Rom. ix. 11, 12),--a calling which he affirms to pertain to the purpose of God. For which reason he says, `Not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace' (2 Tim. i. 9); and again, `We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose' (Rom. viii. 28). Of which calling he says, `That our God would count you worthy of this calling' (2 Thess. i. 11)." [2344] Gen. iv. 3, 4. [2345] Ps. xvi. 2: hoti ton agathon mou ou chreian echeis, LXX. [2346] E.g., in the reply to Faustus, Book xxii. [2347] Ps. cxv. 5, 6. [2348] Ps. xcvi. 5: daimonia, LXX. [2349] 1 John v. 21. [2350] 1 Cor. x. 19, 20. [2351] John iii. 18. [2352] Matt. vii. 2. [2353] "Longam syllabam esse duorum temporum brevem unius etiam pueri sciunt."--Quintil. ix. 4, 47. [2354] Prov. viii. 25: pro de panton bounon genna me, LXX. [2355] According to LXX. [2356] Prov. xxx. 3, 4. [2357] Eph. iv. 10. [2358] Col. iii. 3. [2359] Augustin's words are: quis convertit aquam in vestimento? from the LXX.: tis sunestrepsen hudor en imatio. [2360] Gal. iii. 27. [2361] Acts i. 8. [2362] Matt. xii. 39, 40. [2363] Luke v. 32. [2364] Col. ii. 17. [2365] Vermis matutinus. [2366] Isa. li. 7, 8. [2367] Ps. xxii. The title in the LXX. is, "huper tes antilepseos tes heothines," which Augustin translates, "pro susceptione matutina." [2368] Ps. xxii. 7, 8. [2369] Ps. xxii. 16-18. [2370] Ps. xxii. 27, 28.

Letter CIII.

(a.d. 409.)

To My Lord and Brother, Augustin, Rightly and Justly Worthy of Esteem and of All Possible Honour, Nectarius Sends Greeting in the Lord.

1. In reading the letter of your Excellency, in which you have overthrown the worship of idols and the ritual of their temples, [2371] I seemed to myself to hear the voice of a philosopher, not of such a philosopher as the academician of whom they say, that having neither new doctrine to propound nor earlier statements of his own to defend, he was wont to sit in gloomy corners on the ground absorbed in some deep reverie, with his knees drawn back to his forehead, and his head buried between them, contriving how he might as a detractor assail the discoveries or cavil at the statements by which others had earned renown; nay, the form which rose under the spell of your eloquence and stood before my eyes was rather that of the great statesman Cicero, who, having been crowned with laurels for saving the lives of many of his countrymen, carried the trophies won in his forensic victories into the wondering schools of Greek philosophy, when, as one pausing for breath, he laid down the trumpet of sonorous voice and language which he had blown with blast of just indignation against those who had broken the laws and conspired against the life of the republic, and, adopting the fashion of the Grecian mantle, unfastened and threw back over his shoulders the toga's ample folds.

2. I therefore listened with pleasure when you urged us to the worship and religion of the only supreme God; and when you counselled us to look to our heavenly fatherland, I received the exhortation with joy. For you were obviously speaking to me not of any city confined by encircling ramparts, nor of that commonwealth on this earth which the writings of philosophers have mentioned and declared to have all mankind as its citizens, but of that City which is inhabited and possessed by the great God, and by the spirits which have earned this recompense from Him, to which, by diverse roads and pathways, all religions aspire,--the City which we are not able in language to describe, but which perhaps we might by thinking apprehend. But while this City ought therefore to be, above all others, desired and loved, I am nevertheless of opinion that we are bound not to prove unfaithful to our own native land,--the land which first imparted to us the enjoyment of the light of day, in which we were nursed and educated, and (to pass to what is specially relevant in this case) the land by rendering services to which men obtain a home prepared for them in heaven after the death of the body; for, in the opinion of the most learned, promotion to that celestial City is granted to those men who have deserved well of the cities which gave them birth, and a higher experience of fellowship with God is the portion of those who are proved to have contributed by their counsels or by their labours to the welfare of their native land.

As to the remark which you were pleased wittily to make regarding our town, that it has been made conspicuous not so much by the achievements of warriors as by the conflagrations of incendiaries, and that it has produced thorns rather than flowers, this is not the severest reproof that might have been given, for we know that flowers are for the most part borne on thorny bushes. For who does not know that even roses grow on briars, and that in the bearded heads of grain the ears are guarded by spikes, and that, in general, pleasant and painful things are found blended together?

3. The last statement in your Excellency's letter was, that neither capital punishment nor bloodshed is demanded in order to compensate for the wrong done to the Church, but that the offenders must be deprived of the possessions which they most fear to lose. But in my deliberate judgment, though, of course, I may be mistaken, it is a more grievous thing to be deprived of one's property than to be deprived of life. For, as you know, it is an observation frequently recurring in the whole range of literature, that death terminates the experience of all evils, but that a life of indigence only confers upon us an eternity of wretchedness; for it is worse to live miserably than to put an end to our miseries by death. This fact, also, is declared by the whole nature and method of your work, in which you support the poor, minister healing to the diseased, and apply remedies to the bodies of those who are in pain, and, in short, make it your business to prevent the afflicted from feeling the protracted continuance of their sufferings.

Again, as to the degree of demerit in the faults of some as compared with others, it is of no importance what the quality of the fault may seem to be in a case in which forgiveness is craved. For, in the first place, if penitence procures forgiveness and expiates the crime--and surely he is penitent who begs pardon and humbly embraces the feet of the party whom he has offended--and if, moreover, as is the opinion of some philosophers, all faults are alike, pardon ought to be bestowed upon all without distinction. One of our citizens may have spoken somewhat rudely: this was a fault; another may have perpetrated an insult or an injury: this was equally a fault; another may have violently taken what was not his own: this is reckoned a crime; another may have attacked buildings devoted to secular or to sacred purposes: he ought not to be for this crime placed beyond the reach of pardon. Finally, there would be no occasion for pardon if there were no foregoing faults.

4. Having now replied to your letter, not as the letter deserved, but to the best of my ability, such as it is, I beg and implore you (oh that I were in your presence, that you might also see my tears!) to consider again and again who you are, what is your professed character, and what is the business to which your life is devoted. Reflect upon the appearance presented by a town from which men doomed to torture are dragged forth; think of the lamentations of mothers and wives, of sons and of fathers; think of the shame felt by those who may return, set at liberty indeed, but having undergone the torture; think what sorrow and groaning the sight of their wounds and scars must renew. And when you have pondered all these things, first think of God, and think of your good name among men; or rather think of what friendly charity and the bonds of common humanity require at your hands, and seek to be praised not by punishing but by pardoning the offenders. And such things may indeed be said regarding your treatment of those whom actual guilt condemns on their own confession: to these persons you have, out of regard to your religion, granted pardon; and for this I shall always praise you. But now it is scarcely possible to express the greatness of that cruelty which pursues the innocent, and summons those to stand trial on a capital charge of whom it is certain that they had no share in the crimes alleged. If it so happen that they are acquitted, consider, I beseech you, with what ill-will their acquittal must be regarded by their accusers who of their own accord dismissed the guilty from the bar, but let the innocent go only when they were defeated in their attempts against them.

May the supreme God be your keeper, and preserve you as a bulwark of His religion and an ornament to our country.


[2371] Letter XCI. p. 376.

Letter CIV.

(a.d. 409.)

To Nectarius, My Noble Lord and Brother, Justly Worthy of All Honour and Esteem, Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

Chap. I.

1. I have read the letter which you kindly sent in answer to mine. Your reply comes at a very long interval after the time when I despatched my letter to you. For I had written an answer to you [2372] when my holy brother and colleague Possidius was still with us, before he had entered on his voyage; but the letter which you have been pleased to entrust to him for me I received on March 27th, about eight months after I had written to you. The reason why my communication was so late in reaching you, or yours so late in being sent to me, I do not know. Perhaps your prudence has only now dictated the reply which your pride formerly disdained. If this be the explanation, I wonder what has occasioned the change. Have you perchance heard some report, which is as yet unknown to us, that my brother Possidius had obtained authority for proceedings of greater severity against your citizens, whom--you must excuse me for saying this--he loves in a way more likely to promote their welfare than you do yourself? For your letter shows that you apprehended something of this kind when you charge me to set before my eyes "the appearance presented by a town from which men doomed to torture are dragged forth," and to "think of the lamentations of mothers and wives, of sons and of fathers; of the shame felt by those who may return, set at liberty indeed, but having undergone the torture; and of the sorrow and groaning which the sight of their wounds and scars must renew." [2373] Far be it from us to demand the infliction, either by ourselves or by any one, of such hardships upon any of our enemies! But, as I have said, if report has brought any such measures of severity to your ears, give us a more clear and particular account of the things reported, that we may know either what to do in order to prevent these things from being done, or what answer we must make in order to disabuse the minds of those who believe the rumour.

2. Examine more carefully my letter, to which you have so reluctantly sent a reply, for I have in it made my views sufficiently plain; but through not remembering, as I suppose, what I had written, you have in your reply made reference to sentiments widely differing from mine, and wholly unlike them. For, as if quoting from memory what I had written, you have inserted in your letter what I never said at all in mine. You say that the concluding sentence of my letter was, "that neither capital punishment nor bloodshed is demanded in order to compensate for the wrong done to the Church, but that the offenders must be deprived of that which they most fear to lose;" and then, in showing how great a calamity this imports, you add and connect with my words that you "deliberately judge--though you may perhaps be mistaken--that it is a more grievous thing to be deprived of one's possessions than to be deprived of life." And in order to expound more clearly the kind of possessions to which you refer, you go on to say that. it must be known to me, "as an observation frequently recurring in the whole range of literature, that death terminates the experience of all evils, but that a life of indigence only confers upon us an eternity of wretchedness." From which you have drawn the conclusion that it is "worse to live miserably than to put an end to our miseries by death."

3. Now I for my part do not recollect reading anywhere--either in our [Christian] literature, to which I confess that I was later of applying my mind than I could now wish that I had been, or in your [Pagan] literature, which I studied from my childhood--that "a life of indigence only confers upon us an eternity of wretchedness." For the poverty of the industrious is never in itself a crime; nay, it is to some extent a means of withdrawing and restraining men from sin. And therefore the circumstance that a man has lived in poverty here is no ground for apprehending that this shall procure for him after this brief life "an eternity of wretchedness;" and in this life which we spend on earth it is utterly impossible for any misery to be eternal, seeing that this life cannot be eternal, nay, is not of long duration even in those who attain to the most advanced old age. In the writings referred to, I for my part have read, not that in this life--as you think, and as you allege that these writings frequently affirm--there can be an eternity of wretchedness, but rather that this life itself which we here enjoy is short. Some, indeed but not all, of your authors have said that death is the end of all evils: that is indeed the opinion of the Epicureans, and of such others as believe the soul to be mortal. But those philosophers whom Cicero designates "consulates" in a certain sense, because he attaches great weight to their authority, are of opinion that when our last hour on earth comes the soul is not annihilated, but removes from its tenement, and continues in existence for a state of blessedness or of misery, according to that which a man's actions, whether good or bad, claim as their due recompense. This agrees with the teaching of our sacred writings, with which I wish that I were more fully conversant. Death is therefore the end of all evils--but only in the case of those whose life is, pure, religious, upright, and blameless; not in the case of those who, inflamed with passionate desire for the trifles and vanities of time, are proved to be miserable by the utter perversion of their desires, though meanwhile they esteem themselves happy, and are after death compelled not only to accept as their lot, but to realize in their experience far greater miseries.

4. These sentiments, therefore, being frequently expressed both in some of your own authors, whom you deem worthy of greater esteem, and in all our Scriptures, be it yours, O worthy lover of the country which is on earth your fatherland, to dread on behalf of your countrymen a life of luxurious indulgence rather than a life of indigence; or if you fear a life of indigence, warn them that the poverty which is to be more studiously shunned is that of the man who, though surrounded with abundance of worldly possessions, is, through the insatiable eagerness wherewith he covets these, kept always in a state of want, which, to use the words of your own authors, neither plenty nor scarcity can relieve. In the letter, however, to which you reply, I did not say that those of your citizens who are enemies to the Church were to be corrected by being reduced to that extremity of indigence in which the necessaries of life are wanting, and to which succour is brought by that compassion of which you have thought it incumbent on you to point out to me that it is professed by us in the whole plan of those labours wherein we "support the poor, minister healing to the diseased, and apply remedies to the bodies of those who are in pain;" albeit, even such extremity of want as this would be more profitable than abundance of all things, if abused to the gratification of evil passions. But far be it from me to think that those about whom we are treating should be reduced to such destitution by the measures of coercion proposed.

Chap. II.

5. Though you did not consider it worth while to read my letter over when it was to be answered, perhaps you have at least so far esteemed it as to preserve it, in order to its being brought to you when you at any time might desire it and call for it; if this be the case, look over it again, and mark carefully my words: you will assuredly find in it one thing to which, in my opinion, you must admit that you have made no reply. For in that letter occur the words which I now quote: "We do not desire to gratify our anger by vindictive retribution for the past, but we are concerned to make provision in a truly merciful spirit for the future. Now wicked men have something in respect to which they may be punished, and that by Christians, in a merciful way, and so as to promote their own profit and well-being. For they have these three things--life and health of the body, the means of supporting that life, and the means and opportunities of living a wicked life. Let the two former remain untouched in the possession of those who repent of their crime; this we desire, and this we spare no pains to secure. But as to the third, if it please God to deal with it as a decaying or diseased part, which must be removed with the pruning-knife, He will in such punishment prove the greatness of his compassion." [2374] If you had read over these words of mine again, when you were pleased to write your reply, you would have looked upon it rather as an unkind insinuation than as a necessary duty to address to me a petition not only for deliverance from death, but also for exemption from torture, on behalf of those regarding whom I said that we wished to leave unimpaired their possession of bodily life and health. Neither was there any ground for your apprehending our inflicting a life of indigence and of dependence upon others for daily bread on those regarding whom I had said that we desired to secure to them the second of the possessions named above, viz. the means of supporting life. But as to their third possession, viz. the means and opportunities of living wickedly, that is to say--passing over other things--their silver with which they constructed those images of their false gods, in whose protection or adoration or unhallowed worship an attempt was made even to destroy the church of God by fire, and the provision made for relieving the poverty of very pious persons was given up to become the spoil of a wretched mob, and blood was freely shed--why, I ask, does your patriotic heart dread the stroke which shall cut this away, in order to prevent a fatal boldness from being in everything fostered and confirmed by impunity? This I beg you to discuss fully, and to show me in well-considered arguments what wrong there is in this; mark carefully what I say, lest under the form of a petition in regard to what I am saying you appear to bring against us an indirect accusation.

6. Let your countrymen be well reported of for their virtuous manners, not for their superfluous wealth; we do not wish them to be reduced through coercive measures on our account to the plough of Quintius [Cincinnatus], or to the hearth of Fabricius. Yet by such extreme poverty these statesmen of the Roman republic not only did not incur the contempt of their fellow-citizens, but were on that very account peculiarly dear to them, and esteemed the more qualified to administer the resources of their country. We neither desire nor endeavour to reduce the estates of your rich men, so that in their possession should remain no more than ten pounds of silver, as was the case with Ruffinus, who twice held the consulship, which amount the stern censorship of that time laudably required to be still further reduced as culpably large. So much are we influenced by the prevailing sentiments of a degenerate age in dealing more tenderly with minds that are very feeble, that to Christian clemency the measure which seemed just to the censors of that time appears unduly severe; yet you see how great is the difference between the two cases, the question being in the one, whether the mere fact of possessing ten pounds of silver should be dealt with as a punishable crime, and in the other, whether any one, after committing other very great crimes, should be permitted to retain the sum aforesaid in his possession; we only ask that what in those days was itself a crime be in our days made the punishment of crime. There is, however, one thing which can be done, and ought to be done, in order that, on the one hand, severity may not be pushed even so far as I have mentioned, and that, on the other, men may not, presuming on impunity, run into excess of exultation and rioting, and thus furnish to other unhappy men an example by following which they would become liable to the severest and most unheard of punishments. Let this at least be granted by you, that those who attempt with fire and sword to destroy what are necessaries to us be made afraid of losing those luxuries of which they have a pernicious abundance. Permit us also to confer upon our enemies this benefit, that we prevent them, by their fears about that which it would do them no harm to forfeit, from attempting to that which would bring harm to themselves. For this is to be termed prudent prevention, not punishment of crime; this is not to impose penalties, but to protect men from becoming liable to penalties.

7. When any one uses measures involving the infliction of some pain, in order to prevent an inconsiderate person from incurring the most dreadful punishments by becoming accustomed to crimes which yield him no advantage, he is like one who pulls a boy's hair in order to prevent him from provoking serpents by clapping his hands at them; in both cases, while the acting of love is vexatious to its object, no member of the body is injured, whereas safety and life are endangered by that from which the person is deterred. We confer a benefit upon others, not in every case in which we do what is requested, but when we do that which is not hurtful to our petitioners. For in most cases we serve others best by not giving, and would injure them by giving, what they desire. Hence the proverb, "Do not put a sword in a child's hand." "Nay," says Cicero, "refuse it even to your only son. For the more we love any one, the more are we bound to avoid entrusting to him things which are the occasion of very dangerous faults." He was referring to riches, if I am not mistaken, when he made these observations. Wherefore it is for the most part an advantage to themselves when certain things are removed from persons in whose keeping it is hazardous to leave them, lest they abuse them. When surgeons see that a gangrene must be cut away or cauterized, they often, out of compassion, turn a deaf ear to many cries. If we had been indulgently forgiven by our parents and teachers in our tender years on every occasion on which, being found in a fault, we begged to be let off, which of us would not have grown up intolerable? which of us would have learned any useful thing? Such punishments are administered by wise care, not by wanton cruelty. Do not, I beseech you, in this matter think only how to accomplish that which you are requested by your countrymen to do, but carefully consider the matter in all its bearings. If you overlook the past, which cannot now be undone, consider the future; wisely give heed, not to the desire, but to the real interests of the petitioners who have applied to you. We are convicted of unfaithfulness towards those whom we profess to love, if our only care is lest, by refusing to do what they ask of us, their love towards us be diminished. And what becomes of that virtue which even your own literature commends, in the ruler of his country who studies not so much the wishes as the welfare of his people?

Chap. III.

8. You say "it is of no importance what the quality of the fault may be in any case in which forgiveness is craved." In this you would state the truth if the matter in question were the punishment and not the correction of men. Far be it from a Christian heart to be carried away by the lust of revenge to inflict punishment on any one. Far be it from a Christian, when forgiving any one his fault, to do otherwise than either anticipate or at least promptly answer the petition of him who asks forgiveness; but let his purpose in doing this be, that he may overcome the temptation to hate the man who has offended him, and to render evil for evil, and to be inflamed with rage prompting him, if not to do an injury, at least to desire to see the infliction of the penalties appointed by law; let it not be that he may relieve himself from considering the offender's interest, exercising foresight on his behalf, and restraining him from evil actions. For it is possible, on the one hand, that, moved by more vehement hostility, one may neglect the correction of a man whom he hates bitterly, and, on the other hand, that by correction involving the infliction of some pain one may secure the improvement of another whom he dearly loves.

9. I grant that, as you write, "penitence procures forgiveness, and blots out the offence," but it is that penitence which is practised under the influence of the true religion, and which has regard to the future judgment of God; not that penitence which is for the time professed or pretended before men, not to secure the cleansing of the soul for ever from the fault, but only to deliver from present apprehension of pain the life which is so soon to perish. This is the reason why in the case of some Christians who confessed their fault, and asked forgiveness for having been involved in the guilt of that crime,--either by their not protecting the church when in danger of being burned, or by their appropriating a portion of the property which the miscreants carried off,--we believed that the pain of repentance had borne fruit, and considered it sufficient for their correction, because in their hearts is found that faith by which they could realize what they ought to fear from the judgment of God for their sin. But how can there be any healing virtue in the repentance of those who not only fail to acknowledge, but even persist in mocking and blaspheming Him who is the fountain of forgiveness? At the same time, towards these men we do not cherish any feeling of enmity in our hearts, which are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him whose judgment both in this life and in the life to come we dread, and in whose help we place our hope. But we think that we are even taking measures for the benefit of these men, if, seeing that they do not fear God, we inspire fear in them by doing something whereby their folly is chastened, while their real interests suffer no wrong. We thus prevent that God whom they despise from being more grievously provoked by their greater crimes, to which they would be emboldened by a disastrous assurance of impunity, and we prevent their assurance of impunity from being set forth with even more mischievous effect as an encouragement to others to imitate their example. In fine, on behalf of those for whom you make intercession to us, we intercede before God, beseeching Him to turn them to Himself, and to teach them the exercise of genuine and salutary repentance, purifying their hearts by faith.

10. Behold, then, how we love those men against whom you suppose us to be full of anger,--loving them, you must permit me to say, with a love more prudent and profitable than you yourself cherish towards them; for we plead on their behalf that they may escape much greater afflictions, and obtain much greater blessings. If you also loved these men, not in the mere earthly affections of men, but with that love which is the heavenly gift of God, and if you were sincere in writing to me that you gave ear with pleasure to me when I was recommending to you the worship and religion of the Supreme God, you would not only wish for your countrymen the blessings which we seek on their behalf, but you would yourself by your example lead them to their possession. Thus would the whole business of your interceding with us be concluded with abundant and most reasonable joy. Thus would your title to that heavenly fatherland, in regard to which you say that you welcomed my counsel that you should fix your eye upon it, be earned by a true and pious exercise of your love for the country which gave you birth, when seeking to make sure to your fellow-citizens, not the vain dream of temporal happiness, nor a most perilous exemption from the due punishment of their faults, but the gracious gift of eternal blessedness.

11. You have here a frank avowal of the thoughts and desires of my heart in this matter. As to what lies concealed in the counsels of God, I confess it is unknown to me; I am but a man; but whatever it be, His counsel stands most sure, and incomparably excels in equity and in wisdom all that can be conceived by the minds of men. With truth is it said in our books, "There are many devices in a man's heart; but the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand." [2375] Wherefore, as to what time may bring forth, as to what may arise to simplify or complicate our procedure, in short, as to what desire may suddenly be awakened by the fear of losing or the hope of retaining present possessions; whether God shall show Himself so displeased by what they have done that they shall be punished with the more weighty and severe sentence of a disastrous impunity, or shall appoint that they shall be compassionately corrected in the manner which we propose, or shall avert whatever terrible doom was being prepared for them, and convert it into joy by some more stern but more salutary correction, leading to their turning unfeignedly to seek mercy not from men but from Himself,--all this He knoweth; we know not. Why, then, should your Excellency and I be spending toil in vain over this matter before the time? Let us for a little while lay aside a care the hour of which has not yet come, and, if you please, let us occupy ourselves with that which is always pressing. For there is no time at which it is not both suitable and necessary for us to consider in what way we can please God; because for a man to attain completely in this life to such perfection that no sin whatever shall remain in him is either impossible or (if perchance any attain to it) extremely difficult: wherefore without delay we ought to flee at once to the grace of Him to whom we may address with perfect truth the words which were addressed to some illustrious man by a poet, who declared that he had borrowed the lines from a Cumæan oracle, or ode of prophetic inspiration: "With thee as our leader, the obliteration of all remaining traces of our sin shall deliver the earth from perpetual alarm." [2376] For with Him as our leader, all sins are blotted out and forgiven; and by His way we are brought to that heavenly fatherland, the thought of which as a dwelling-place pleased you greatly when I was to the utmost of my power commending it to your affection and desire.

Chap. IV.

12. But since you said that all religions by diverse roads and pathways aspire to that one dwelling-place, I fear lest, perchance, while supposing that the way in which you are now found tends thither, you should be somewhat reluctant to embrace the way which alone leads men to heaven. Observing, however, more carefully the word which you used, I think that it is not presumptuous for me to expound its meaning somewhat differently; for you did not say that all religions by diverse roads and pathways reach heaven, or reveal, or find, or enter, or secure that blessed land, but by saying in a phrase deliberately weighed and chosen that all religions aspire to it, you have indicated, not the fruition, but the desire of heaven as common to all religions. You have in these words neither shut out the one religion which is true, nor admitted other religions which are false; for certainly the way which brings us to the goal aspires thitherward, but not every way which aspires thitherward brings us to the place wherein all who are brought thither are unquestionably blest. Now we all wish, that is, we aspire, to be blest; but we cannot all achieve what we wish, that is, we do not all obtain what we aspire to. That man, therefore, obtains heaven who walks in the way which not only aspires thitherward, but actually brings him thither, separating himself from others who keep to the ways which aspire heavenward without finally reaching heaven. For there would be no wandering if men were content to aspire to nothing, or if the truth which men aspire to were obtained. If, however, in using the expression "diverse ways," you meant me not to understand contrary ways, but different ways, in the sense in which we speak of diverse precepts, which all tend to build up a holy life,--one enjoining chastity, another patience or faith or mercy, and the like,--in roads and pathways which are only in this sense diverse, that country is not only aspired unto but actually found. For in Holy Scripture we read both of ways and of a way,--of ways, e.g. in the words, "I will teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto Thee;" [2377] of a way, e.g. in the prayer, "Teach me Thy way, O Lord; I will walk in Thy truth." [2378] Those ways and this way are not different; but in one way are comprehended all those of which in another place the Holy Scripture saith, "All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth." [2379] The careful study of these ways furnishes theme for a long discourse, and for most delightful meditation; but this I shall defer to another time if it be required.

13. In the meantime, however,--and this, I think, may suffice in the present reply to your Excellency,--seeing that Christ has said, "I am the way," [2380] it is in Him that mercy and truth are to be sought: if we seek these in any other way, we must go astray, following a path which aspires to the true goal, but does not lead men thither. For example, if we resolved to follow the way indicated in the maxim which you mentioned, "All sins are alike," [2381] would it not lead us into hopeless exile from that fatherland of truth and blessedness? For could anything more absurd and senseless be said, than that the man who has laughed too rudely, and the man who has furiously set his city on fire, should be judged as having committed equal crimes? This opinion, which is not one of many diverse ways leading to the heavenly dwelling-place, but a perverse way leading inevitably to most fatal error, you have judged it necessary to quote from certain philosophers, not because you concurred in the sentiment, but because it might help your plea for your fellow-citizens--that we might forgive those whose rage set our church in flames on the same terms as we would forgive those who may have assailed us with some insolent reproach.

14. But reconsider with me the reasoning by which you supported your position. You say, "If, as is the opinion of some philosophers, all faults are alike, pardon ought to be bestowed upon all without distinction." Thereafter, labouring apparently to prove that all faults are alike, you go on to say, "One of our citizens may have spoken somewhat rudely: this was a fault; another may have perpetrated an insult or an injury: this was equally a fault." This is not teaching truth, but advancing, without any evidence in its support, a perversion of truth. For to your statement, "this was equally a fault," we at once give direct contradiction. You demand, perhaps, proof; but I reply, What proof have you given of your statement? Are we to hear as evidence your next sentence, "Another may have violently taken away what was not his own: this is reckoned a misdemeanour"? Here you own yourself to be ashamed of the maxim which you quoted; you had not the assurance to say that this was equally a fault, but you say "it is reckoned a misdemeanour." But the question here is not whether this also is reckoned a misdemeanour, but whether this offence and the others which you mentioned are faults equal in demerit, unless, of course, they are to be pronounced equal because they are both offences; in which case the mouse and the elephant must be pronounced equal because they are both animals, and the fly and the eagle because they both have wings.

15. You go still further, and make this proposition: "Another may have attacked buildings devoted to secular or to sacred purposes: he ought not for this crime to be placed beyond the reach of pardon." In this sentence you have indeed come to the most flagrant crime of your fellow-citizens, in speaking of injury done to sacred buildings; but even you have not affirmed that this is a crime equal only to the utterance of an insolent word. You have contented yourself with asking, on behalf of those who were guilty of this, that forgiveness which is rightly asked from Christians on the ground of their overflowing compassion, not on the ground of an alleged equality of all offences. I have already quoted a sentence of Scripture, "All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth." They shall therefore find mercy if they do not hate truth. This mercy is granted, not as if it were due on the ground of the faults of all being only equal to the fault of those who have uttered rude words, but because the law of Christ claims pardon for those who are penitent, however inhuman and impious their crime may have been. I beg you, esteemed sir, not to propound these paradoxes of the Stoics as rules of conduct for your son Paradoxus, whom we wish to see grow up in piety and in prosperity, to your satisfaction. For what could be worse for himself, yea, what more dangerous for yourself, than that your ingenuous boy should imbibe an error which would make the guilt, I shall not say of parricide, but of insolence to his father, equal only to that of some rude word inconsiderately spoken to a stranger?

16. You are wise, therefore, to insist, when pleading with us for your countrymen on the compassion of Christians, not on the stern doctrines of the Stoical philosophy, which in no wise help, but much rather hinder, the cause which you have undertaken to support. For a merciful disposition, which we must have if it be possible for us to be moved either by your intercession or by their entreaties, is pronounced by the Stoics to be an unworthy weakness, and they expel it utterly from the mind of the wise man, whose perfection, in their opinion, is to be as impassive and inflexible as iron. With more reason, therefore, might it have occurred to you to quote from your own Cicero that sentence in which, praising Cæsar, he says, "Of all your virtues, none is more worthy of admiration, none more graceful, than your clemency." [2382] How much more ought this merciful disposition to prevail in the churches which follow Him who said, "I am the way," and which learn from His word, "All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth"! Fear not, then, that we will try to bring innocent persons to death, when in truth we do not even wish the guilty to experience the punishment which they deserve, being moved by that mercy which, joined with truth, we love in Christ. But the man who, from fear of painfully crossing the will of the guilty, spares and indulges vices which must thereby gather more strength, is less merciful than the man who, lest he should hear his little boy crying, will not take from him a dangerous knife, and is unmoved by fear of the wounds or death which he may have to bewail as the consequence of his weakness. Reserve, therefore, until the proper time the work of interceding with us for those men, in loving whom (excuse my saying so) you not only do not go beyond us, but are even hitherto refusing to follow our steps; and write rather in your reply what influences you to shun the way which we follow, and in which we beseech you to go along with us towards that fatherland above, in which we rejoice to know that you take great delight.

17. As to those who are by birth your fellow-citizens, you have said indeed that some of them, though not all, were innocent; but, as you must see if you read over again my other letter, you have not made out a defence for them. When, in answer to your remark that you wished to leave your country flourishing, I said that we had felt thorns rather than found flowers in your countrymen, you thought that I wrote in jest. As if, forsooth, in the midst of evils of such magnitude we were in a mood for mirth. Certainly not. While the smoke was ascending from the ruins of our church consumed by fire, were we likely to joke on the subject? Although, indeed, none in your city appeared in my opinion innocent, but those who were absent, or were sufferers, or were destitute both of strength and of authority to prevent the tumult, I nevertheless distinguished in my reply those whose guilt was greater from those who were less to blame, and stated that there was a difference between the cases of those who were moved by fear of offending powerful enemies of the Church, and of those who desired these outrages to be committed; also between those who committed them and those who instigated others to their commission; resolving, however, not to institute inquiry in regard to the instigators, because these, perhaps, could not be ascertained without recourse to the use of tortures, from which we shrink with abhorrence, as utterly inconsistent with our aims. Your friends the Stoics, who hold that all faults are alike, must, however, if they were the judges, pronounce them all equally guilty; and if to this opinion they join that inflexible sternness wherewith they disparage clemency as a vice, their sentence would necessarily be, not that all should be pardoned alike, but that all should be punished alike. Dismiss, therefore, these philosophers altogether from the position of advocates in this case, and rather desire that we may act as Christians, so that, as we desire, we may gain in Christ those whom we forgive, and may not spare them by such indulgence as would be ruinous to themselves. May God, whose ways are mercy and truth, be pleased to enrich you with true felicity!


[2372] Letter XCI. p. 376. [2373] Letter CIII. p. 426. [2374] Letter CXI. 9. p. 379. [2375] Prov. xix. 21. [2376] Virgil. Ecl. iv. 5. [2377] Ps. li. 13. [2378] Ps. lxxxvi. 11. [2379] Ps. xxv. 10. [2380] John xiv. 6. [2381] Letter CIII. 3. p. 426. [2382] Oratio pro Q. Ligario.

Letter CXI.

(November, a.d. 409.)

To Victorianus, His Beloved Lord and Most Longed-for Brother and Fellow-Presbyter, Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

1. My heart has been filled with great sorrow by your letter. You asked me to discuss certain things at great length in my reply; but such calamities as you narrate claim rather many groans and tears than prolix treatises. The whole world, indeed, is afflicted with such portentous misfortunes, that there is scarcely any place where such things as you describe are not being committed and complained of. A short time ago some brethren were massacred by the barbarians even in those deserts of Egypt in which, in order to perfect security, they had chosen places remote from all disturbance as the sites of their monasteries. I suppose, moreover, that the outrages which they have perpetrated in the regions of Italy and Gaul are known to you also; and now similar events begin to be announced to us from many provinces of Spain, which for long seemed exempt from these evils. But why go to a distance for examples? Behold! in our own county of Hippo, which the barbarians have not yet touched, the ravages of the Donatist clergy and Circumcelliones make such havoc in our churches, that perhaps the cruelties of barbarians would be light in comparison. For what barbarian could ever have devised what these have done, viz. casting lime and vinegar into the eyes of our clergymen, besides atrociously beating and wounding every part of their bodies? They also sometimes plunder and burn houses, rob granaries, and pour out oil and wine; and by threatening to do this to all others in the district, they compel many even to be re-baptized. Only yesterday, tidings came to me of forty-eight souls in one place having submitted, under fear of such things, to be rebaptized.

2. These things should make us weep, but not wonder; and we ought to cry unto God that not for our merit, but according to His mercy, He may deliver us from so great evils. For what else was to be expected by the human race, seeing that these things were so long ago foretold both by the prophets and in the Gospels? We ought not, therefore, to be so inconsistent as to believe these Scriptures when they are read by us, and to complain when they are fulfilled; rather, surely, ought even those who had refused to believe when they read or heard these things in Scripture to become believers now when they behold the word fulfilled; so that under this great pressure, as it were, in the olive-press of the Lord our God, although there be the dregs of unbelieving murmurs and blasphemies, there is also a steady out flowing of pure oil in the confessions and prayers of believers. For unto those men who incessantly reproach the Christian faith, impiously saying that the human race did not suffer such grievous calamities before the Christian doctrine was promulgated throughout the world, it is easy to find a reply in the Lord's own words in the gospel, "That servant which knew not his lord's will, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes; but the servant which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes." [2383] What is there to excite surprise, if, in the Christian dispensation, the world, like that servant, knowing the will of the Lord, and refusing to do it, is beaten with many stripes? These men remark the rapidity with which the gospel is proclaimed: they do not remark the perversity with which by many it is despised. But the meek and pious servants of God, who have to bear a double portion of temporal calamities, since they suffer both at the hands of wicked men and along with them, have also consolations peculiarly their own, and the hope of the world to come; for which reason the apostle says, "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in us." [2384]

3. Wherefore, my beloved, even when you meet those whose words you say you cannot bear, because they say, "If we have deserved these things for our sins, how comes it that the servants of God are cut off not less than ourselves by the sword of the barbarians, and the handmaids of God are led away into captivity?"--answer them humbly, truly, and piously in such words as these: However carefully we keep the way of righteousness, and yield obedience to our Lord, can we be better than those three men who were cast into the fiery furnace for keeping the law of God? And yet, read what Azarias, one of those three, said, opening his lips in the midst of the fire: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord God of our fathers: Thy name is worthy to be praised and glorified for evermore; for Thou art righteous in all the things that Thou hast done to us; yea, true are all Thy works: Thy ways are right, and all Thy judgments truth. In all the things which Thou hast brought upon us, and upon the holy city of our fathers, even Jerusalem, Thou hast executed true judgment; for according to truth and judgment didst Thou bring all these things upon us because of our sins. For we have sinned and committed iniquity, departing from Thee. In all things have we trespassed, and not obeyed Thy commandments, nor kept them, neither done as Thou hast commanded us, that it might go well with us. Wherefore all that Thou hast brought upon us, and everything that Thou hast done to us, Thou hast done in true judgment. And Thou didst deliver us into the hands of lawless enemies, most hateful forsakers of God, and to an unjust king, and the most wicked in all the world. And now we cannot open our mouths: we are become a shame and reproach to Thy servants, and to them that worship Thee. Yet deliver us not up wholly, for Thy name's sake, neither disannul Thou Thy covenant; and cause not Thy mercy to depart from us, for Thy beloved Abraham's sake, for Thy servant Isaac's sake, and for Thy holy Israel's sake, to whom Thou hast spoken, and promised that Thou wouldst multiply their seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that lieth upon the sea-shore. For we, O Lord, are become less than any nation, and be kept under this day in all the world because of our sins." [2385] Here, my brother, thou mayest surely see how men such as they, men of holiness, men of courage in the midst of tribulation,--from which, however, they were delivered, the flame itself fearing to consume them, were not silent about their sins, but confessed them, knowing that because of these sins they were deservedly and justly brought low.

4. Nay, can we be better men than Daniel himself, concerning whom God, speaking to the prince of Tyre, says by the prophet Ezekiel, "Art thou wiser than Daniel?" [2386] who also is placed among the three righteous men to whom alone God saith that He would grant deliverance,--pointing, doubtless, in them to three representative righteous men,--declaring that he would deliver only Noah, Daniel, and Job, and that they should save along with themselves neither son nor daughter, but only their own souls? [2387] Nevertheless, read also the prayer of Daniel, and see how, when in captivity, he confesses not only the sins of his people, but his own also, and acknowledges that because of these the justice of God has visited them with the punishment of captivity and with reproach. For it is thus written: "And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said: O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love Him, and to them that keep His commandments; we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from Thy precepts and from Thy judgments: neither have we hearkened unto Thy servants the prophets, which spake in Thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither Thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against Thee. O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against Thee. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him; neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord, to walk in His laws which He set before us by His servants the prophets. Yea, all Israel have transgressed Thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey Thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against them. And He hath confirmed His words which He spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil; for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem. As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Thy truth. Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us; for the Lord our God is righteous in all His works which He doeth; for we obeyed not His voice. And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought Thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten Thee renown as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly. O Lord, according to all Thy righteousness, I beseech Thee, let Thine anger and Thy fury be turned away from Thy city Jerusalem, Thy holy mountain, because, for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. Now, therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of Thy servant, and His supplications, and cause Thy face to shine upon Thy sanctuary which is desolate, for the Lord's sake. O my God, incline Thine ear, and hear; open Thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by Thy name; for we do not present our supplications before Thee for our righteousnesses, but for Thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do: defer not, for Thine own sake, O my God; for Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name. And while I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin, and the sin of my people..." [2388] Observe how he spoke first of his own sins, and then of the sins of his people. And he extols the righteousness of God, and gives praise to God for this, that He visits even His saints with the rod, not unjustly, but because of their sins. If, therefore, this be the language of men who by reason of their eminent sanctity found even encompassing flames and lions harmless, what language would befit men standing on a level so low as we occupy, seeing that, whatever righteousness we may seem to practise, we are very far from being worthy of comparison with them?

5. Lest, however, any one should think that those servants of God, whose death at the hand of barbarians you relate, ought to have been delivered from them in the same manner as the three young men were delivered from the fire, and Daniel from the lions, let such an one know that these miracles were performed in order that the kings by whom they were delivered to these punishments might believe that they worshipped the true God. For in His hidden counsel and mercy God was in this manner making provision for the salvation of these kings. It pleased Him, however, to make no such provision in the case of Antiochus the king, who cruelly put the Maccabees to death; but He punished the heart of the obdurate king with sharper severity through their most glorious sufferings. Yet read what was said by even one of them--the sixth who suffered: "After him they brought also the sixth, who, being ready to die, said, `Be not deceived without cause; for we suffer these things for ourselves, having sinned against God: therefore marvellous things are done unto us; but think not thou that takest in hand to strive against God and His law that thou shalt escape unpunished.'" [2389] You see how these also are wise in the exercise of humility and sincerity, confessing that they are chastened because of their sins by the Lord, of whom it is written: "Whom the Lord loveth He correcteth," [2390] and "He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth;" [2391] wherefore the Apostle says also, "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged; but when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." [2392]

6. These things read faithfully, and proclaim faithfully; and to the utmost of your power beware, and teach others that they must beware, of murmuring against God in these trials and tribulations. You tell me that good, faithful, and holy servants of God have been cut off by the sword of the barbarians. But what matters it whether it is by sickness or by sword that they have been set free from the body? The Lord is careful as to the character with which His servants go from this world--not as to the mere circumstances of their departure, excepting this, that lingering weakness involves more suffering than a sudden death; and yet we read of this same protracted and dreadful weakness as the lot of that Job to whose righteousness God Himself, who cannot be deceived, bears such testimony.

7. Most calamitous, and much to be bewailed, is the captivity of chaste and holy women; but their God is not in the power of their captors, nor does He forsake those captives whom He knows indeed to be His own. For those holy men, the record of whose sufferings and confessions I have quoted from the Holy Scriptures, being held in captivity by enemies who had carried them away, uttered those words, which, preserved in writing, we can read for ourselves, in order to make us understand that servants of God, even when they are in captivity, are not forsaken by their Lord. Nay, more, do we know what wonders of power and grace the almighty and merciful God may please to accomplish by means of these captive women even in the land of the barbarians? Be that as it may, cease not to intercede with groanings on their behalf before God, and to seek, so far as your power and His providence permits you, to do for them whetever can be done, and to give them whatever consolation can be given, as time and opportunity may be granted. A few years ago, a nun, a grand-daughter of Bishop Severus, was carried off by barbarians from the neighbourhood of Sitifa, and was by the marvellous mercy of God restored with great honour to her parents. For at the very time when the maiden entered the house of her barbarian captors, it became the scene of much distress through the sudden illness of its owners, all the barbarians--three brothers, if I mistake not, or more--being attacked with most dangerous disease. Their mother observed that the maiden was dedicated to God, and believed that by her prayers her sons might be delivered from the danger of death, which was imminent. She begged her to intercede for them, promising that if they were healed she should be restored to her parents. She fasted and prayed, and straightway was heard; for, as the result showed, the event had been appointed that this might take place. They therefore, having recovered health by this unexpected favour from God, regarded her with admiration and respect, and fulfilled the promise which their mother had made.

8. Pray, therefore, to God for them, and beseech Him to enable them to say such things as the holy Azariah, whom we have mentioned, poured forth along with other expressions in his prayer and confession before God. For in the land of their captivity these women are in circumstances similar to those of the three Hebrew youths in that land in which they could not sacrifice to the Lord their God in the manner prescribed: they cannot either bring an oblation to the altar of God, or find a priest by whom their oblation may be presented to God. May God therefore grant them grace to say to Him what Azariah said in the following sentences of his prayer: "Neither is there at this time prince, or prophet, or leader, or burnt-offering, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense, or place to sacrifice before Thee, and to find mercy: nevertheless, in a contrite heart and humble spirit let us be accepted. Like as in the burnt-offerings of rams and bullocks, and like as in ten thousands of fat lambs, so let our sacrifice be in Thy sight this day. And grant that we may wholly go after Thee; for they shall not be confounded that put their trust in Thee. And now we follow Thee with all our heart: we fear Thee and seek Thy face. Put us not to shame, but deal with us after Thy loving-kindness, and according to the multitude of Thy mercies. Deliver us also according to Thy marvellous works, and give glory to Thy name, O Lord; and let all them that do Thy servants hurt be ashamed: and let them be confounded in all their power and might, and let their strength be broken: and let them know that Thou art Lord, the only God, and glorious over the whole world." [2393]

9. When His servants use these words, and pray fervently to God, He will stand by them, as He has been wont ever to stand by His own, and will either not permit their chaste bodies to suffer any wrong from the lust of their enemies, or if He permit this, He will not lay sin to their charge in the matter. For when the soul is not defiled by any impurity of consent to such wrong, the body also is thereby protected from all participation in the guilt; and in so far as nothing was committed or permitted by lust on the part of her who suffers, the whole blame lies with him who did the wrong, and all the violence done to the sufferer will be regarded not as implying the baseness of wanton compliance, but as a wound blamelessly endured. For such is the worth of unblemished purity in the soul, that while it remains intact, the body also retains its purity unsullied, even although by violence its members may be overpowered.

I beg your Charity to be satisfied with this letter, which is very long considering my other work (although too short to meet your wishes), and is somewhat hurriedly written, because the bearer is in haste to be gone. The Lord will furnish you with much more abundant consolation if you read attentively His holy word.


[2383] Luke xii. 47, 48. [2384] Rom. viii. 18. [2385] Song of the Three Holy Children, vers. 3-14. [2386] Ezek. xxviii. 3. [2387] Ezek. xiv. 14, 18, 20. [2388] Dan. ix. 3-20. [2389] 2 Macc. vii. 18, 19. [2390] Prov. iii. 12. [2391] Heb. xii. 6. [2392] 1 Cor. xi. 31, 32. [2393] Song of the Three Children, vers. 15-22.

Letter CXV.

(a.d. 410.)

To Fortunatus, My Colleague in the Priesthood, My Lord Most Blessed, and My Brother Beloved with Profound Esteem, and to the Brethren Who are with Thee, Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

Your Holiness is well acquainted with Faventius, a tenant on the estate of the Paratian forest. He, apprehending some injury or other at the hands of the owner of that estate, took refuge in the church at Hippo, and was there, as fugitives are wont to do, waiting till he could get the matter settled through my mediation. Becoming every day, as often happens, less and less alarmed, and in fact completely off his guard, as if his adversary had desisted from his enmity, he was, when leaving the house of a friend after supper, suddenly carried off by one Florentinus, an officer of the Count, who used in this act of violence a band of armed men sufficient for the purpose. When this was made known to me, and as yet it was unknown by whose orders or by whose hands he had been carried off, though suspicion naturally fell on the man from whose apprehended injury he had claimed the protection of the Church, I at once communicated with the tribune who is in command of the coast-guard. He sent out soldiers, but no one could be found. But in the morning we learned in what house he had passed the night, and also that he had left it after cock-crowing, with the man who had him in custody. I sent also to the place to which it was reported that he had been removed: there the officer above-named was found, but refused to allow the presbyter whom I had sent to have even a sight of his prisoner. On the following day I sent a letter requesting that he should be allowed the privilege which the Emperor appointed in cases such as his, namely, that persons summoned to appear to be tried should in the municipal court be interrogated whether they desired to spend thirty days under adequate surveillance in the town, in order to arrange their affairs, or find funds for the expense of their trial, my expectation being that within that period of time we might perhaps bring his matters to some amicable settlement. Already, however, he had gone farther under charge of the officer Florentinus; but my fear is, lest perchance, if he be brought before the tribunal of the magistrate, [2394] he suffer some injustice. For although the integrity of that judge is widely famed as incorruptible, Faventius has for his adversary a man of very great wealth. To secure that money may not prevail in that court, I beg your Holiness, my beloved lord and venerable brother, to have the kindness to give the accompanying letter to the honourable magistrate, a man very much beloved by us, and to read this letter also to him; for I have not thought it necessary to write twice the same statement of the case. I trust that he will delay the hearing of the case, because I do not know whether the man is innocent or guilty. I trust also that he will not overlook the fact that the laws have been violated in his having been suddenly carried off, without being brought, as was enacted by the Emperor, before the municipal court, in order to his being asked whether he wished to accept the benefit of the delay of thirty days, so that in this way we may get the affair settled between him and his adversary.


[2394] Consularis.

Letter CXVI.

(Enclosed in the Foregoing Letter.)

To Generosus, My Noble and Justly Distinguished Lord, My Honoured and Much-Loved Son, Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

Although the praises and favourable report of your administration and your own illustrious good name always give me the greatest pleasure because of the love which we feel due to your merit and to your benevolence, on no occasion have I hitherto been burdensome to your Excellency as an intercessor requesting any favour from you, my much-loved lord and justly-honoured son. When, however, your Excellency has learned from the letters which I have sent to my venerable brother and colleague, Fortunatus, what has occurred in the town in which I serve the Church of God, your kind heart will at once perceive the necessity under which I have been constrained to trespass by this petition on your time, already fully occupied. I am perfectly assured that, cherishing towards us the feeling which, in the name of Christ, we are fully warranted to expect, you will act in this matter as becomes not only an upright, but also a Christian magistrate.

Letter CXVII.

(a.d. 410.)

From Dioscorus to Augustin.

To you, who esteem the substance, not the style of expression, as important, any formal preamble to this letter would be not only unnecessary, but irksome. Therefore, without further preface, I beg your attention. The aged Alypius had often promised, in answer to my request, that he would, with your help, furnish a reply to a very few brief questions of mine in regard to the Dialogues of Cicero; and as he is said to be at present in Mauritania, I ask and earnestly entreat you to condescend to give, without his assistance, those answers which, even had your brother been present, it would doubtless have fallen to you to furnish. What I require is not money, it is not gold; though, if you possessed these, you would, I am sure, be willing to give them to me for any fit object. This request of mine you can grant without effort, by merely speaking. I might importune you at a greater length, and through many of your dear friends; but I know your disposition, that you do not desire to be solicited, but show kindness readily to all, if only there be nothing improper in the thing requested: and there is absolutely nothing improper in what I ask. Be this, however, as it may, I beg you to do me this kindness, for I am on the point of embarking on a voyage. You know how very painful it is to me to be burdensome to any one, and much more to one of your frank disposition; but God alone knows how irresistible is the pressure of the necessity under which I have made this application. For, taking leave of you, and committing myself to divine protection, I am about to undertake a voyage; and you know the ways of men, how prone they are to censure, and you see how any one will be regarded as illiterate and stupid who, when questions are addressed to him, can return no answer. Therefore, I implore you, answer all my queries without delay. Send me not away downcast. I ask this that so I may see my parents; for on this one errand I have sent Cerdo to you, and I now delay only till he return. My brother Zenobius has been appointed imperial remembrancer, [2395] and has sent me a free pass for my journey, with provisions. If I am not worthy of your reply, let at least the fear of my forfeiting these provisions by delay move you to give answers to my little questions. [2396] May the most high God spare you long to us in health! Papas salutes your excellency most cordially.


[2395] This officer, "magister memoriæ," was a private secretary of the emperor, and had, among other privileges of his office, the right of granting liberty to private individuals to travel by the imperial conveyances along the great highways connecting Rome with the remotest boundaries of the provinces. See Suetonitis, Vita Augusti, chap. xlix., and Pliny, Letters, Books x.-xiv., and Codex Justiniani, Book xii. Title 51. [2396] We conjecture from the context that this expresses the force of the obscure words, "saltem timeantur annonæ."

Letter CXVIII.

(a.d. 410.)

Augustin to Dioscorus.

Chap. I.

1. You have sent suddenly upon me a countless multitude of questions, by which you must have purposed to blockade me on every side, or rather bury me completely, even if you were under the impression that I was otherwise unoccupied and at leisure; for how could I, even though wholly at leisure, furnish the solution of so many questions to one in such haste as you are, and, in fact, as you write, on the eve of a journey? I would, indeed, be prevented by the mere number of the questions to be resolved, even if their solution were easy. But they are so perplexingly intricate, and so hard, that even if they were few in number, and engaging me when otherwise wholly at leisure, they would, by the mere time required, exhaust my powers of application, and wear out my strength. I would, however, fain snatch you forcibly away from the midst of those inquiries in which you so much delight, and fix you down among the cares which engage my attention, in order that you may either learn not to be unprofitably curious, or desist from presuming to impose the task of feeding and fostering your curiosity upon men among whose cares one of the greatest is to repress and curb those who are too inquisitive. For if time and pains are devoted to writing anything to you, how much better and more profitably are these employed in endeavours to cut off those vain and treacherous passions (which are to be guarded against with a caution proportioned to the ease with which they impose upon us, by their being disguised and cloaked under the semblance of virtue and the name of liberal studies), rather than in causing them to be, by our service, or rather obsequiousness, so to speak, roused to a more vehement assertion of the despotism under which they so oppress your excellent spirit.

2. For tell me what good purpose is served by the many Dialogues which you have read, if they have in no way helped you towards the discovery and attainment of the end of all your actions? For by your letter you indicate plainly enough what you have proposed to yourself as the end to be attained by all this most ardent study of yours, which is at once useless to yourself and troublesome to me. For when you were in your letter using every means to persuade me to answer the questions which you sent, you wrote these words: "I might importune you at greater length, and through many of your dear friends; but I know your disposition, that you do not desire to be solicited, but show kindness readily to all, if only there be nothing improper in the thing requested: and there is absolutely nothing improper in what I ask. Be this, however, as it may, I beg you to do me this kindness, for I am on the point of embarking on a voyage." In these words of your letter you are indeed right in your opinion as to myself, that I am desirous of showing kindness to all, if only there be nothing improper in the request made; but it is not my opinion that there is nothing improper in what you ask. For when I consider how a bishop is distracted and overwrought by the cares of his office clamouring on every side, it does not seem to me proper for him suddenly, as if deaf, to withdraw himself from all these, and devote himself to the work of expounding to a single student some unimportant questions in the Dialogues of Cicero. The impropriety of this you yourself apprehend, although, carried away with zeal in the pursuit of your studies, you will by no means give heed to it. For what other construction can I put on the fact that, after saying that in this matter there is absolutely nothing improper, you have immediately subjoined: "Be this, however, as it may, I beg you to do me this kindness, for I am on the point of embarking on a voyage"? For this intimates that in your view, at least, there is no impropriety in your request, but that whatever impropriety may be in it, you nevertheless ask me to do what you ask, because you are about to go on a voyage. Now what is the force of this supplementary plea--"I am on the point of embarking on a voyage"? Do you mean that, unless you were in these circumstances, I ought not to do you service in which anything improper may be involved? You think, forsooth, that the impropriety can be washed away by salt water. But even were it so, my share at least of the fault would remain unexpiated, because I do not propose undertaking a voyage.

3. You write, further, that I know how very painful it is to you to be burdensome to any one, and you solemnly protest that God alone knows how irresistible is the necessity under which you make the application. When I came to this statement in your letter, I turned my attention eagerly to learn the nature of the necessity; and, behold, you bring it before me in these words: "You know the ways of men, how prone they are to censure, and how any one will be regarded as illiterate and stupid who, when questions are addressed to him, can return no answer." On reading this sentence, I felt a burning desire to reply to your letter; for, by the morbid weakness of mind which this indicated, you pierced my inmost heart, and forced your way into the midst of my cares, so that I could not refuse to minister to your relief, so far as God might enable me--not by devising a solution of your difficulties, but by breaking the connection between your happiness and the wretched support on which it now insecurely hangs, viz. the opinions of men, and fastening it to a hold which is firm and immovable. Do you not, O Dioscorus, remember an ingenious line of your favourite Persius, in which he not only rebukes your folly, but administers to your boyish head, if you have only sense to feel it, a deserved correction, restraining your vanity with the words, "To know is nothing in your eyes unless another knows that you know"? [2397] You have, as I said before, read so many Dialogues, and devoted your attention to so many discussions of philosophers--tell me which of them has placed the chief end of his actions in the applause of the vulgar, or in the opinion even of good and wise men? But you,--and what should make you the more ashamed,--you, when on the eve of sailing away from Africa, give evidence of your having made signal progress, forsooth, in your studies here, when you affirm that the only reason why you impose the task of expounding Cicero to you upon bishops, who are already oppressed with work and engrossed with matters of a very different nature, is, that you fear that if, when questioned by men prone to censure, you cannot answer, you will be regarded by them as illiterate and stupid. O cause well worthy to occupy the hours which bishops devote to study while other men sleep!

4. You seem to me to be prompted to mental effort night and day by no other motive than ambition to be praised by men for your industry and acquisitions in learning. Although I have ever regarded this as fraught with danger to persons who are striving after the true and the right, I am now, by your case, more convinced of the danger than before. For it is due to no other cause than this same pernicious habit that you have failed to see by what motive we might be induced to grant to you what you asked; for as by a perverted judgment you yourself are urged on to acquire a knowledge of the things about which you put questions, from no other motive than that you may receive praise or escape censure from men, you imagine that we, by a like perversity of judgment, are to be influenced by the considerations alleged in your request. Would that, when we declare to you that by your writing such things concerning yourself we are moved, not to grant your request, but to reprove and correct you, we might be able to effect for you also complete emancipation from the influence of a boon so worthless and deceitful as the applause of men! "It is the manner of men," you say, "to be prone to censure." What then? "Any one who can make no reply when questions are addressed to him," you say, "will be regarded as illiterate and stupid." Behold, then, I ask you a question not concerning something in the books of Cicero, whose meaning, perchance, his readers may not be able to find, but concerning your own letter and the meaning of your own words. My question is: Why did you not say, "Any one who can make no reply will be proved to be illiterate and stupid," but prefer to say, "He will be regarded as illiterate and stupid "? Why, if not for this reason, that you yourself already understand well enough that the person who fails to answer such questions is not in reality, but only in the opinion of some, illiterate and stupid? But I warn you that he who fears to be subjected to the edge of the pruning-hook by the tongues of such men is a sapless log, and is therefore not only regarded as illiterate and stupid, but is actually such, and proved to be so.

5. Perhaps you will say, "But seeing that I am not stupid, and that I am specially earnest in striving not to be stupid, I am reluctant even to be regarded as stupid." And rightly so; but I ask, What is your motive in this reluctance? For in stating why you did not hesitate to burden us with those questions which you wish to have solved and explained, you said that this was the reason, and that this was the end, and an end so necessary in your estimation that you said it was of overwhelming urgency,--lest, forsooth, if you were posed with these questions and gave no answer, you should be regarded as illiterate and stupid by men prone to censure. Now, I ask, is this [jealousy as to your own reputation] the whole reason why you beg this from us, or is it because of some ulterior object that you are unwilling to be thought illiterate and stupid? If this be the whole reason, you see, as I think, that this one thing [the praise of men] is the end pursued by that vehement zeal of yours, by which, as you admit, a burden is imposed on us. But, from Dioscorus, what can be to us a burden, except that burden which Dioscorus himself unconsciously bears,--a burden which he will begin to feel only when he attempts to rise,--a burden of which I would fain believe that it is not so bound to him as to defy his efforts to shake his shoulders free? And this I say not because these questions engage your studies, but because they are studied by you for such an end. For surely you by this time feel that this end is trivial, unsubstantial, and light as air. It is also apt to produce in the soul what may be likened to a dangerous swelling, beneath which lurk the germs of decay, and by it the eye of the mind becomes suffused, so that it cannot discern the riches of truth. Believe this, my Dioscorus, it is true: so shall I enjoy thee in unfeigned longing for truth, and in that essential dignity of truth by the shadow of which you are turned aside. If I have failed to convince you of this by the method which I have now used, I know no other that I can use. For you do not see it; nor can you possibly see it so long as you build your joys on the crumbling foundation of human applause.

6. If, however, this be not the end aimed at in these actions and by this zeal of yours, but there is some other ulterior reason for your unwillingness to be regarded as illiterate and stupid, I ask what that reason is. If it be to remove impediments to the acquisition of temporal riches, or the obtaining of a wife, or the grasping of honours, and other things of that kind which are flowing past with a headlong current, and dragging to the bottom those who fall into them, it is assuredly not our duty to help you towards that end, nay, rather we ought to turn you away from it. For we do not so forbid your fixing the aim of your studies in the precarious possession of renown as to make you leave, as it were, the waters of the Mincius and enter the Eridanus, into which, perchance, the Mincius would carry you even without yourself making the change. For when the vanity of human applause has failed to satisfy the soul, because it furnishes for its nourishment nothing real and substantial, this same eager desire compels the mind to go on to something else as more rich and productive; and if, nevertheless, this also belong to the things which pass away with time, it is as when one river leads us into another, so that there can be no rest from our miseries so long as the end aimed at in our discharge of duty is placed in that which is unstable. We desire, therefore, that in some firm and immutable good you should fix the home of your most stedfast efforts, and the perfectly secure resting-place of all your good and honourable activity. Is it, perchance, your intention, if you succeed by the breath of propitious fame, or even by spreading your sails for its fitful gusts, in reaching that earthly happiness of which I have spoken, to make it subservient to the acquisition of the other--the sure and true and satisfying good? But to me it does not seem probable--and truth itself forbids the supposition--that it should be reached either by such a circuitous way when it is at hand, or at such cost when it is freely given.

7. Perhaps you think that we ought to turn the praise of men itself to good account as an instrument for making others accessible to counsels regarding that which is good and useful; and perhaps you are anxious lest, if men regard you as illiterate and stupid, they think you unworthy to receive their earnest or patient attention, if you were either exhorting any one to do well, or reproving the malice and wickedness of an evil-doer. If, in proposing these questions, you contemplated this righteous and beneficent end, we have certainly been wronged by your not giving the preference to this in your letter as the consideration by which we might be moved either to grant willingly what you asked, or, if declining your request, to do so on the ground of some other cause which might perchance prevent us, but not on the ground of our being ashamed to accept the position of serving or even not resisting the aspirations of your vanity. For, I pray you, consider how much better and more profitable it is for you to receive from us with far more certainty and with less loss of time those principles of truth by which you can for yourself refute all that is false, and by so doing be prevented from cherishing an opinion so false and contemptible as this--that you are learned and intelligent if you have studied with a zeal in which there is more pride than prudence the worn-out errors of many writers of a bygone age. But this opinion I do not suppose you now to hold, for surely I have not in vain spoken so long to Dioscorus things so manifestly true; and from this, as understood, I proceed with my letter.

Chap. II.

8. Wherefore, seeing that you do not consider a man illiterate and stupid merely on the ground of ignorance of these things, but only if he be ignorant of the truth itself, and that, consequently, the opinions of any one who has written or may have written on these subjects are either true, and therefore are already held by you, or false, and therefore you may be content not to know them, and need not be consumed with vain solicitude about knowing the variety of the opinions of other men under the fear of otherwise remaining illiterate and stupid,--seeing, I say, that this is the case, let us now, if you please, consider whether, in the event of other men, who are, as you say, prone to censure, finding you ignorant of these things, and therefore regarding you, though falsely, as an illiterate and stupid person, this mistake of theirs ought to have so much weight with you as to make it not unseemly for you to apply to bishops for instruction in these things. I propose this on the assumption that we now believe you to be seeking this instruction in order that by it you may be helped in recommending the truth to men, and in reclaiming men who, if they supposed you to be illiterate and stupid in regard to those books of Cicero, would regard you as a person from whom they considered it unworthy of them to receive any useful or profitable instruction. Believe me, you are under a mistake.

9. For, in the first place, I do not at all see that, in the countries in which you are so afraid of being esteemed deficient in education and acuteness, there are any persons who will ask you a single question about these matters. Both in this country, to which you came to learn these things, and at Rome, you know by experience how little they are esteemed, and that, in consequence, they are neither taught nor learned; and throughout all Africa, so far are you from being troubled by any such questioner, that you cannot find any one who will be troubled with your questions, and are compelled by the dearth of such persons to send your questions to bishops to be solved by them: as if, indeed, these bishops, although in their youth, under the influence of the same ardour--let me rather say error--which carries you away, they were at pains to learn these things as matters of great moment, permitted them still to remain in memory now that their heads are white with age and they are burdened with the responsibilities of episcopal office; or as if, supposing them to desire to retain these things in memory, greater and graver cares would not in spite of their desire banish them from their hearts; or as if, in the event of some of these things lingering in recollection by the force of long habit, they would not wish rather to bury in utter oblivion what was thus remembered, than to answer senseless questions at a time when, even amidst the comparative leisure enjoyed in the schools and in the lecture-rooms of rhetoricians, they seem to have so lost both voice and vigour that, in order to have instruction imparted concerning them, it is deemed necessary to send from Carthage to Hippo,--a place in which all such things are so unwonted and so wholly foreign, that if, in taking the trouble of writing an answer to your question, I wished to look at any passage to discover the order of thought in the context preceding or following the words requiring exposition, I would be utterly unable to find a manuscript of the works of Cicero. However, these teachers of rhetoric in Carthage who have failed to satisfy you in this matter are not only not blamed, but, on the contrary, commended by me, if, as I suppose, they have not forgotten that the scene of these contests was wont to be, not the Roman forum, but the Greek gymnasia. But when you have applied your mind to these gymnasia, and have found even them to be in such things bare and cold, the church of the Christians of Hippo occurred to you as a place where you might lay down your cares, because the bishop now occupying that see at one time took fees for instructing boys in these things. But, on the one hand, I do not wish you to be still a boy, and, on the other hand, it is not becoming for me, either for a fee or as a favour, to be dealing now in childish things. This, therefore, being the case--seeing, that is to say, that these two great cities, Rome and Carthage, the living centres of Latin literature, neither try your patience by asking you such questions as you speak of, nor care patiently to listen to you when you propound them, I am amazed in a degree beyond all expression that a young man of your good sense should be afraid lest you should be afflicted with any questioner on these subjects in the cities of Greece and of the East. You are much more likely to hear jackdaws [2398] in Africa than this manner of conversation in those lands.

10. Suppose, however, in the next place, that I am wrong, and that perchance some one should arise putting questions like these,--a phenomenon the more unwelcome because in those parts peculiarly absurd,--are you not much more afraid lest far more readily men arise who, being Greeks, and finding you settled in Greece, and acquainted with the Greek language as your mother tongue, may ask you some things in the original works of their philosophers which Cicero may not have put into his treatises? If this happen, what reply will you make? Will you say that you preferred to learn these things from the books of Latin rather than of Greek authors? By such an answer you will, in the first place, put an affront upon Greece; and you know how men of that nation resent this. And in the next place, they being now wounded and angry, how readily will you find what you are too anxious to avoid, that they will count you on the one hand stupid, because you preferred to learn the opinions of the Greek philosophers, or, more properly speaking, some isolated and scattered tenets of their philosophy, in Latin dialogues, rather than to study the complete and connected system of their opinions in the Greek originals, and, on the other hand, illiterate, because, although ignorant of so many things written in your language, you have unsuccessfully laboured to gather some of them together from writings in a foreign tongue. Or will you perhaps reply that you did not despise the Greek writings on these subjects, but that you devoted your attention first to the study of Latin works, and now, proficient in these, are beginning to inquire after Greek learning? If this does not make you blush, to confess that you, being a Greek, have in your boyhood learned Latin, and are now, like a man of some foreign nation, [2399] desirous of studying Greek literature, surely you will not blush to own that in the department of Latin literature you are ignorant of some things, of which you may perceive how many versed in Latin learning are equally ignorant, if you will only consider that, although living in the midst of so many learned men in Carthage, you assure me that it is under the pressure of necessity that you impose this burden on me.

11. Finally, suppose that you, being asked all those questions which you have submitted to me, have been able to answer them all. Behold! you are now spoken of as most learned and most acute; behold! now this insignificant breath of Greek laudation raises you to heaven. Be it yours now to remember your responsibilities and the end for which you coveted these praises, namely, that to men who have been easily won to admire you by these trifles, and who are now hanging most affectionately and eagerly on your lips, you may impart some truly important and wholesome instruction; and I should like to know whether you possess, and can rightly impart to others, that which is truly most important and wholesome. For it is absurd if, after learning many unnecessary things with a view to preparing the ears of men to receive what is necessary, you be found not to possess those necessary things for the reception of which you have by these unnecessary things prepared the way; it is absurd if, while busying yourself with learning things by which you may win men's attention, you refuse to learn that which may be poured into their minds when their attention is secured. But if you reply that you have already learned this, and say that the truth supremely necessary is Christian doctrine, which I know that you esteem above all other things, placing in it alone your hope of everlasting salvation, then surely this does not demand a knowledge of the Dialogues of Cicero, and a collection of the beggarly and divided opinions of other men, in order to your persuading men to give it a hearing. Let your character and manner of life command the attention of those who are to receive any such teaching from you. I would not have you open the way for teaching truth by first teaching what must be afterwards unlearned.

12. For if the knowledge of the discordant and mutually contradictory opinions of others is of any service to him who would obtain an entrance for Christian truth in overthrowing the opposition of error, it is useful only in the way of preventing the assailant of the truth from being at liberty to fix his eye solely on the work of controverting your tenets, while carefully hiding his own from view. For the knowledge of the truth is of itself sufficient both to detect and to subvert all errors, even those which may not have been heard before, if only they are brought forward. If, however, in order to secure not only the demolition of open errors, but also the rooting out of those which lurk in darkness, it is necessary for you to be acquainted with the erroneous opinions which others have advanced, let both eye and ear be wakeful, I beseech you,--look well and listen well whether any of our assailants bring forward a single argument from Anaximenes and from Anaxagoras, when, though the Stoic and Epicurean philosophies were more recent and taught largely, even their ashes are not so warm as that a single spark can be struck out from them against the Christian faith. The din which resounds in the battle-field of controversy now comes from innumerable small companies and cliques of sectaries, some of them easily discomfited, others presuming to make bold resistance,--such as the partisans of Donatus, Maximian, and Manichæus here, or the unruly herds of Arians, Eunomians, Macedonians, and Cataphrygians and other pests which abound in the countries to which you are on your way. If you shrink from the task of acquainting yourself with the errors of all these sects, what occasion have we in defending the Christian religion to inquire after the tenets of Anaximenes, and with idle curiosity to awaken anew controversies which have slept for ages, when already the cavillings and arguments even of some of the heretics who claimed the glory of the Christian name, such as the Marcionites and the Sabellians, and many more, have been put to silence? Nevertheless, if it be necessary, as I have said, to know beforehand some of the opinions which war against the truth, and become thoroughly conversant with these, it is our duty to give a place in such study to the heretics who call themselves Christians, much rather than to Anaxagoras and Democritus.

Chap. III.

13. Again, whoever may put to you the questions which you have propounded to us, let him understand that, under the guidance of deeper erudition and greater wisdom, you are ignorant of things like these. For if Themistocles regarded it as a small matter that he was looked upon as imperfectly educated when he had declined to play on the lyre at a banquet, and at the same time, when, after he had confessed ignorance of this accomplishment, one said, "What, then, do you know?" gave as his reply, "The art of making a small republic great"--are you to hesitate about admitting ignorance in trifles like these, when it is in your power to answer any one who may ask, "What, then, do you know?"--"The secret by which without such knowledge a man may be blessed"? And if you do not yet possess this secret, you act in searching into those other matters with as blind perversity as if, when labouring under some dangerous disease of the body, you eagerly sought after dainties in food and finery in dress, instead of physic and physicians. For this attainment ought not to be put off upon any pretext whatever, and no other knowledge ought, especially in our age, to receive a prior place in your studies. And now see how easily you may have this knowledge if you desire it. He who inquires how he may attain a blessed life is assuredly inquiring after nothing else than this: where is the highest good? in other words, wherein resides man's supreme good, not according to the perverted and hasty opinions of men, but according to the sure and immovable truth? Now its residence is not found by any one except in the body, or in the mind, or in God, or in two of these, or in the three combined. If, then, you have learned that neither the supreme good nor any part whatever of the supreme good is in the body, the remaining alternatives are, that it is in the mind, or in God, or in both combined. And if now you have also learned that what is true of the body in this respect is equally true of the mind, what now remains but God Himself as the One in whom resides man's supreme good?--not that there are no other goods, but that good is called the supreme good to which all others are related. For every one is blessed when he enjoys that for the sake of which he desires to have all other things, seeing that it is loved for its own sake, and not on account of something else. And the supreme good is said to be there because at this point nothing is found towards which the supreme good can go forth, or to which it is related. In it is the resting-place of desire; in it is assured fruition; in it the most tranquil satisfaction of a will morally perfect.

14. Give me a man who sees at once that the body is not the good of the mind, but that the mind is rather the good of the body: with such a man we would, of course, forbear from inquiring whether the highest good of which we speak, or any part of it, is in the body. For that the mind is better than the body is a truth which it would be utter folly to deny. Equally absurd would it be to deny that that which gives a happy life, or any part of a happy life, is better than that which receives the boon. The mind, therefore, does not receive from the body either the supreme good or any part of the supreme good. Men who do not see this have been blinded by that sweetness of carnal pleasures which they do not discern to be a consequence of imperfect health. Now, perfect health of body shall be the consummation of the immortality of the whole man. For God has endowed the soul with a nature so powerful, that from that consummate fulness of joy which is promised to the saints in the end of time, some portion overflows also upon the lower part of our nature, the body,--not the blessedness which is proper to the part which enjoys and understands, but the plenitude of health, that is, the vigour of incorruption. Men who, as I have said, do not see this war with each other in unsatisfactory debates, each maintaining the view which may please his own fancy, but all placing the supreme good of man in the body, and so stir up crowds of disorderly carnal minds, of whom the Epicureans have flourished in pre-eminent estimation with the unlearned multitude.

15. Give me a man who sees at once, moreover, that when the mind is happy, it is happy not by good which belongs to itself, else it would never be unhappy: and with such a man we would, of course, forbear from inquiring whether that highest and, so to speak, bliss-bestowing good, or any part of it, is in the mind. For when the mind is elated with joy in itself, as if in good which belongs to itself, it is proud. But when the mind perceives itself to be mutable,--a fact which may be learned from this, even though nothing else proved it, that the mind from being foolish may be made wise,--and apprehends that wisdom is unchangeable, it must at the same time apprehend that wisdom is superior to its own nature, and that it finds more abundant and abiding joy in the communications and light of wisdom than in itself. Thus desisting and subsiding from boasting and self-conceit, it strives to cling to God, and to be recruited and reformed by Him who is unchangeable; whom it now understands to be the Author not only of every species of all things with which it comes in contact, either by the bodily senses or by intellectual faculties, but also of even the very capacity of taking form before any form has been taken, since the formless is defined to be that which can receive a form. Therefore it feels its own instability more, just in proportion as it clings less to God, whose being is perfect: it discerns also that the perfection of His being is consummate because He is immutable, and therefore neither gains nor loses, but that in itself every change by which it gains capacity for perfect clinging to God is advantageous, but every change by which it loses is pernicious, and further, that all loss tends towards destruction; and although it is not manifest whether any thing is ultimately destroyed, it is manifest to every one that the loss brings destruction so far that the object no longer is what it was. Whence the mind infers that the one reason why things suffer loss, or are liable to suffer loss, is, that they were made out of nothing; so that their property of being, and of permanence, and the arrangement whereby each finds even according to its imperfections its own place in the complex whole, all depend on the goodness and omnipotence of Him whose being is perfect, [2400] and who is the Creator able to make out of nothing not only something, but something great; and that the first sin, i.e. the first voluntary loss, is rejoicing in its own power: for it rejoices in something less than would be the source of its joy if it rejoiced in the power of God, which is unquestionably greater. Not perceiving this, and looking only to the capacities of the human mind, and the great beauty of its achievements in word and deed, some, who would have been ashamed to place man's supreme good in the body, have, by placing it in the mind, assigned to it unquestionably a lower sphere than that assigned to it by unsophisticated reason. Among Greek philosophers who hold these views, the chief place both in number of adherents and in subtlety of disputation has been held by the Stoics, who have, however, in consequence of their opinion that in nature everything is material, succeeded in turning the mind rather from carnal than material objects.

16. Among those, again, who say that our supreme and only good is to enjoy God, by whom both we ourselves and all things were made, the most eminent have been the Platonists, who not unreasonably judged it to belong to their duty to confute the Stoics and Epicureans--the latter especially, and almost exclusively. The Academic School is identical with the Platonists, as is shown plainly enough by the links of unbroken succession connecting the schools. For if you ask who was the predecessor of Arcesilas, the first who, announcing no doctrine of his own, set himself to the one work of refuting the Stoics and Epicureans, you will find that it was Polemo; ask who preceded Polemo, it was Xenocrates; but Xenocrates was Plato's disciple, and by him appointed his successor in the academy. Wherefore, as to this question concerning the supreme good, if we set aside the representatives of conflicting views, and consider the abstract question, you find at once that two errors confront each other as diametrically opposed--the one declaring the body, and the other declaring the mind to be the seat of the supreme good of men. You find also that truly enlightened reason, by which God is perceived to be our supreme good, is opposed to both of these errors, but does not impart the knowledge of what is true until it has first made men unlearn what is false. If now you consider the question in connection with the advocates of different views, you will find the Epicureans and Stoics most keenly contending with each other, and the Platonists, on the other hand, endeavouring to decide the controversy between them, concealing the truth which they held, and devoting themselves only to prove and overthrow the vain confidence with which the others adhered to error.

17. It was not in the power of the Platonists, however, to be so efficient in supporting the side of reason enlightened by truth, as the others were in supporting their own errors. For from them all there was then withheld that example of divine humility, which, in the fullness of time, [2401] was furnished by our Lord Jesus Christ,--that one example before which, even in the mind of the most headstrong and arrogant, all pride bends, breaks, and dies. And therefore the Platonists, not being able by their authority to lead the mass of mankind, blinded by love of earthly things, into faith in things invisible,--although they saw them moved, especially by the arguments of the Epicureans, not only to drink freely the cup of the pleasures of the body to which they were naturally inclined, but even to plead for these, affirming that they constitute man's highest good; although, moreover, they saw that those who were moved to abstinence from these pleasures by the praise of virtue found it easier to regard pleasure as having its true seat in the soul, whence the good actions, concerning which they were able, in some measure, to form an opinion, proceeded,--at the same time, saw that if they attempted to introduce into the minds of men the notion of something divine and supremely immutable, which cannot be reached by any one of the bodily senses, but is apprehensible only by reason, which, nevertheless, surpasses in its nature the mind itself, and were to teach that this is God, set before the human soul to be enjoyed by it when purged from all stains of human desires, in whom alone every longing after happiness finds rest, and in whom alone we ought to find the consummation of all good,--men would not understand them, and would much more readily award the palm to their antagonists, whether Epicureans or Stoics; the result of which would be a thing most disastrous to the human race, namely, that the doctrine, which is true and profitable, would become sullied by the contempt of the uneducated masses. So much in regard to Ethical questions.

18. As to Physics, if the Platonists taught that the originating cause of all natures is immaterial wisdom, and if, on the other hand, the rival sects of philosophers never got above material things, while the beginning of all things was attributed by some to atoms, by others to the four elements, in which fire was of special power in the construction of all things,--who could fail to see to which opinion a favourable verdict would be given, when the great mass of unthinking men are enthralled by material things, and can in no wise comprehend that an immaterial power could form the universe?

19. The department of dialectic questions remains to be discussed; for, as you are aware, all questions in the pursuit of wisdom are classified under three heads,--Ethics, Physics, and Dialectics. When, therefore, the Epicureans said that the senses are never deceived, and, though the Stoics admitted that they sometimes are mistaken, both placed in the senses the standard by which truth is to be comprehended, who would listen to the Platonists when both of these sects opposed them? Who would look upon them as entitled to be esteemed men at all, and much less wise men, if, without hesitation or qualification, they affirmed not only that there is something which cannot be discerned by touch, or smell, or taste, or hearing, or sight, and which cannot be conceived of by any image borrowed from the things with which the senses acquaint us, but that this alone truly exists, and is alone capable of being perceived, because it is alone unchangeable and eternal, but is perceived only by reason, the faculty whereby alone truth, in so far as it can be discovered by us, is found?

20. Seeing, therefore, that the Platonists held opinions which they could not impart to men enthralled by the flesh; seeing also that they were not of such authority among the common people as to persuade them to accept what they ought to believe until the mind should be trained to that condition in which these things can be understood,--they chose to hide their own opinions, and to content themselves with arguing against those who, although they affirmed that the discovery of truth is made through the senses of the body, boasted that they had found the truth. And truly, what occasion have we to inquire as to the nature of their teaching? We know that it was not divine, nor invested with any divine authority. But this one fact merits our attention, that whereas Plato is in many ways most clearly proved by Cicero to have placed both the supreme good and the causes of things, and the certainty of the processes of reason, in Wisdom, not human, but divine, whence in some way the light of human wisdom is derived--in Wisdom which is wholly immutable, and in Truth always consistent with itself; and whereas we also learn from Cicero that the followers of Plato laboured to overthrow the philosophers known as Epicureans and Stoics, who placed the supreme good, the causes of things, and the certainty of the processes of reason, in the nature either of body or of mind,--the controversy had continued rolling on with successive centuries, so that even at the commencement of the Christian era, when the faith of things invisible and eternal was with saving power preached by means of visible miracles to men, who could neither see nor imagine anything beyond things material, these same Epicureans and Stoics are found in the Acts of the Apostles to have opposed themselves to the blessed Apostle Paul, who was beginning to scatter the seeds of that faith among the Gentiles.

21. By which thing it seems to me to be sufficiently proved that the errors of the Gentiles in ethics, physics, and the mode of seeking truth, errors many and manifold, but conspicuously represented in these two schools of philosophy, continued even down to the Christian era, notwithstanding the fact that the learned assailed them most vehemently, and employed both remarkable skill and abundant labour in subverting them. Yet these errors we see in our time to have been already so completely silenced, that now in our schools of rhetoric the question what their opinions were is scarcely ever mentioned; and these controversies have been now so completely eradicated or suppressed in even the Greek gymnasia, notably fond of discussion, that whenever now any school of error lifts up its head against the truth, i.e. against the Church of Christ, it does not venture to leap into the arena except under the shield of the Christian name. Whence it is obvious that the Platonist school of philosophers felt it necessary, having changed those few things in their opinions which Christian teaching condemned, to submit with pious homage to Christ, the only King who is invincible, and to apprehend the Incarnate Word of God, at whose command the truth which they had even feared to publish was immediately believed.

22. To Him, my Dioscorus, I desire you to submit yourself with unreserved piety, and I wish you to prepare for yourself no other way of seizing and holding the truth than that which has been prepared by Him who, as God, saw the weakness of our goings. In that way the first part is humility; the second, humility; the third, humility: and this I would continue to repeat as often as you might ask direction, not that there are no other instructions which may be given, but because, unless humility precede, accompany, and follow every good action which we perform, being at once the object which we keep before our eyes, the support to which we cling, and the monitor by which we are restrained, pride wrests wholly from our hand any good work on which we are congratulating ourselves. [2402] All other vices are to be apprehended when we are doing wrong; but pride is to be feared even when we do right actions, lest those things which are done in a praiseworthy manner be spoiled by the desire for praise itself. Wherefore, as that most illustrious orator, on being asked what seemed to him the first thing to be observed in the art of eloquence, is said to have replied, Delivery; and when he was asked what was the second thing, replied again, Delivery; and when asked what was the third thing, still gave no other reply than this, Delivery; so if you were to ask me, however often you might repeat the question, what are the instructions of the Christian religion, I would be disposed to answer always and only, "Humility," although, perchance, necessity might constrain me to speak also of other things.

Chap. IV.

23. To this most wholesome humility, in which our Lord Jesus Christ is our teacher--having submitted to humiliation that He might instruct us in this--to this humility, I say, the most formidable adversary is a certain kind of most unenlightened knowledge, if I may so call it, in which we congratulate ourselves on knowing what may have been the views of Anaximenes, Anaxagoras, Pythagoras, Democritus, and others of the same kind, imagining that by this we become learned men and scholars, although such attainments are far removed from true learning and erudition. For the man who has learned that God is not extended or diffused through space, either finite or infinite, so as to be greater in one part and less in another, but that He is wholly present everywhere, as the Truth is, of which no one in his senses will affirm that it is partly in one place, partly in another--and the Truth is God Himself--such a man will not be moved by the opinions of any philosopher soever who believes [like Anaximenes] that the infinite air around us is the true God. What matters it to such a man though he be ignorant what bodily form they speak of, since they speak of a form which is bounded on all sides? What matters it to him whether it was only as an Academician, and merely for the purpose of confuting Anaximenes, who had said that God is a material existence,--for air is material,--that Cicero objected that God must have form and beauty? [2403] or himself perceived that truth has immaterial form and beauty, by which the mind itself is moulded, and by which we judge all the deeds of the wise man to be beautiful, and therefore affirmed that God must be of the most perfect beauty, not merely for the purpose of confuting an antagonist, but with profound insight into the fact that nothing is more beautiful than truth itself, which is cognisable by the understanding alone, and is immutable? Moreover, as to the opinion of Anaximenes, who held that the air is generated, and at the same time believed it to be God, it does not in the least move the man who understands that, since the air is certainly not God, there is no likeness between the manner in which the air is generated, that is to say, produced by some cause, and the manner, understood by none except through divine inspiration, in which He was begotten who is the Word of God, God with God. Moreover, who does not see that even in regard to material things he speaks most foolishly in affirming that air is generated, and is at the same time God, while he refuses to give the name of God to that by which the air has been generated,--for it is impossible that it could be generated by no power? Yet once more, his saying that the air is always in motion will have no disturbing influence as proof that the air is God upon the man who knows that all movements of body are of a lower order than movements of the soul, but that even the movements of the soul are infinitely slow compared with His who is supreme and immutable Wisdom.

24. In like manner, if Anaxagoras or any other affirm that the mind is essential truth and wisdom, [2404] what call have I to debate with a man about a word? For it is manifest that mind gives being to the order and mode of all things, and that it may be suitably called infinite with respect not to its extension in space, but to its power, the range of which transcends all human thought. Nor [shall I dispute his assertion] that this essential wisdom is formless; for this is a property of material things, that whatever bodies are infinite are also formless. Cicero, however, from his desire to confute such opinions, as I suppose, in contending with adversaries who believed in nothing immaterial, denies that anything can be annexed to that which is infinite, because in things material there must be a boundary at the part to which anything is annexed. Therefore he says that Anaxagoras "did not see that motion joined to sensation and to it" (i.e. linked to it in unbroken connection) "is impossible in the infinite" (that is, in a substance which is infinite), as if treating of material substances, to which nothing can be joined except at their boundaries. Moreover, in the succeeding words--"and that sensation of which the whole system of nature is not sensible when struck is an impossibility" [2405] --Cicero speaks as if Anaxagoras had said that mind--to which he ascribed the power of ordering and fashioning all things--had sensation such as the soul has by means of the body. For it is manifest that the whole soul has sensation when it feels anything by means of the body; for whatever is perceived by sensation is not concealed from the whole soul. Now, Cicero's design in saying that the whole system of nature must be conscious of every sensation was, that he might, as it were, take from the philosopher that mind which he affirms to be infinite. For how does the whole of nature experience sensation if it be infinite? Bodily sensation begins at some point, and does not pervade the whole of any substance unless it be one in which it can reach an end; but this, of course, cannot be said of that which is infinite. Anaxagoras, however had not said anything about bodily sensation. The word "whole," moreover, is used differently when we speak of that which is immaterial, because it is understood to be without boundaries in space, so that it may be spoken of as a whole and at the same time as infinite--the former because of its completeness, the latter because of its not being limited by boundaries in space.

25. "Furthermore," says Cicero, "if he will affirm that the mind itself is, so to speak, some kind of animal, there must be some principle from within from which it receives the name `animal,'"--so that mind, according to Anaxagoras, is a kind of body, and has within it an animating principle, because of which it is called "animal." Observe how he speaks in language which we are accustomed to apply to things corporeal,--animals being in the ordinary sense of the word visible substances,--adapting himself, as I suppose, to the blunted perceptions of those against whom he argues; and yet he has uttered a thing which, if they could awake to perceive it, might suffice to teach them that everything which presents itself to our minds as a living body must be thought of not as itself a soul, but as an animal having a soul. For having said, "There must be something within from which it receives the name animal," he adds, "But what is deeper within than mind?" The mind, therefore, cannot have any inner soul, by possessing which it is an animal; for it is itself that which is innermost. If, then, it is an animal, let it have some external body in relation to which it may be within; for this is what he means by saying, "It is therefore girt round by an exterior body," as if Anaxagoras had said that mind cannot be otherwise than as belonging to some animal. And yet Anaxagoras held the opinion that essential supreme Wisdom is mind, although it is not the peculiar property of any living being, so to speak, since Truth is near to all souls alike that are able to enjoy it. Observe, therefore, how wittily he concludes the argument: "Since this is not the opinion of Anaxagoras" (i.e. seeing that he does not hold that that mind which he calls God is girt about with an external body, through its relation to which it could be an animal), "we must say that mind pure and simple, without the addition of anything" (i.e. of any body) "through which it may exercise sensation, seems to be beyond the range and conceptions of our intelligence." [2406]

26. Nothing is more certain than that this lies beyond the range and conception of the intelligence of Stoics and Epicureans, who cannot think of anything which is not material. But by the word "our" intelligence he means "human" intelligence; and he very properly does not say, "it lies beyond our intelligence," but "it seems to lie beyond." For their opinion is, that this lies beyond the understanding of all men, and therefore they think that nothing of the kind can be. But there are some whose intelligence apprehends, in so far as this is given to man, the fact that there is pure and simple Wisdom and Truth, which is the peculiar property of no living being, but which imparts wisdom and truth to all souls alike which are susceptible of its influence. If Anaxagoras perceived the existence of this supreme Wisdom, and apprehended it to be God, and called it Mind, it is not by the mere name of this philosopher--with whom, on account of his place in the remote antiquity of erudition, all raw recruits in literature [2407] (to adopt a military phrase) delight to boast an acquaintance--that we are made learned and wise; nor is it even by our having the knowledge through which he knew this truth. For truth ought to be dear to me not merely because it was not unknown to Anaxagoras, but because, even though none of these philosophers had known it, it is the truth.

27. If, therefore, it is unbecoming for us to be elated either by the knowledge of the man who peradventure apprehended the truth, by which knowledge we obtain, as it were, the appearance of learning, or even by the solid possession of the truth itself, whereby we obtain real acquisitions in learning, how much less can the names and tenets of those men who were in error assist us in Christian learning and in making known things obscure? For if we be men, it would be more fitting that we should grieve on account of the errors into which so many famous men fell, if we happen to hear of them, than that we should studiously investigate them, in order that, among men who are ignorant of them, we may enjoy the gratification of a most contemptible conceit of knowledge. For how much better would it be that I should never have heard the name of Democritus, than that I should now with sorrow ponder the fact that a man was highly esteemed in his own age who thought that the gods were images which emanated from solid bodies, but were not solid themselves; and that these, circling this way and that way by their independent motion, and gliding into the minds of men, make the divine power enter into the region of their thoughts, although, certainly, that body from which the image emanated may be rightly judged to surpass the image in excellence and proportion, as it surpasses it in solidity. Hence his opinion wavered, as they say, and oscillated, so that sometimes he said that the deity was some kind of nature from which images emanate, and which nevertheless can be thought of only by means of those images which he pours forth and sends out, that is, which from that nature (which he considered to be something material and eternal, and on this very account divine) were borne as by a kind of evaporation or continuous emanation, and came and entered into our minds, so that we could form the thought of a god or gods. For these philosophers conceive of no cause of thought in our minds, except when images from those bodies which are the object of our thoughts come and enter into our minds; as if, forsooth, there were not many things, yea, more than we can number, which, without any material form, and yet intelligible, are apprehended by those who know how to apprehend such things. Take as an example essential Wisdom and Truth, of which if they can frame no idea, I wonder why they dispute concerning it at all; if, however, they do frame some idea of it in thought, I wish they would tell me either from what body the image of truth comes into their minds, or of what kind it is.

28. Democritus, however, is said to differ here also in his doctrine on physics from Epicurus; for he holds that there is in the concourse of atoms a certain vital and breathing power, by which power (I believe) he affirms that the images themselves (not all images of all things, but images of the gods) are endued with divine attributes, and that the first beginnings of the mind are in those universal elements to which he ascribed divinity, and that the images possess life, inasmuch as they are wont either to benefit or to hurt us. Epicurus, however, does not assume anything in the first beginnings of things but atoms, that is, certain corpuscles, so minute that they cannot be divided or perceived either by sight or by touch; and his doctrine is, that by the fortuitous concourse (clashing) of these atoms, existence is given both to innumerable worlds and to living things, and to the souls which animate them, and to the gods whom, in human form, he has located, not in any world, but outside of the worlds, and in the spaces which separate them; and he will not allow of any object of thought beyond things material. But in order to these becoming an object of thought, he says that from those things which he represents as formed of atoms, images more subtle than those which come to our eyes flow down and enter into the mind. For according to him, the cause of our seeing is to be found in certain images so huge that they embrace the whole outer world. But I suppose that you already understand their opinions regarding these images.

29. I wonder that Democritus was not convinced of the error of his philosophy even by this fact, that such huge images coming into our minds, which are so small (if being, as they affirm, material, the soul is confined within the body's dimensions), could not possibly, in the entirety of their size, come into contact with it. For when a small body is brought into contact with a large one, it cannot in any wise be touched at the same moment by all points of the larger. How, then, are these images at the same moment in their whole extent objects of thought, if they become objects of thought only in so far as, coming and entering into the mind, they touch it, seeing that they cannot in their whole extent either find entrance into so small a body or come in contact with so small a mind? Bear in mind, of course, that I am speaking now after their manner; for I do not hold the mind to be such as they affirm. It is true that Epicurus alone can be assailed with this argument, if Democritus holds that the mind is immaterial; but we may ask him in turn why he did not perceive that it is at once unnecessary and impossible for the mind, being immaterial, to think through the approach and contact of material images. Both philosophers alike are certainly confuted by the facts of vision; for images so great cannot possibly touch in their entirety eyes so small.

30. Moreover, when the question is put to them, how it comes that one image is seen of a body from which images emanate in countless multitudes, their answer is, that just because the images are emanating and passing in such multitudes, the effect produced by their being crowded and massed together is, that out of the many one is seen. The absurdity of this Cicero exposes by saying that their deity cannot be thought of as eternal, for this very reason, that he is thought of through images which are in countless multitudes flowing forth and passing away. And when they say that the forms of the gods are rendered eternal by the innumerable hosts of atoms supplying constant reinforcements, so that other corpuscles immediately take the place of those which depart from the divine substance, and by the same succession prevent the nature of the gods from being dissolved, Cicero replies, "On this ground all things would be eternal as well as the gods," since there is nothing which has not the same boundless store of atoms by which it may repair its perpetual decays. Again, he asks how their god could be otherwise than afraid of coming to destruction, seeing that he is without a moment's intermission beaten and shaken by an unceasing incursion of atoms,--beaten, inasmuch as he is struck by atoms rushing upon him, and shaken, inasmuch as he is penetrated by atoms rushing through him. Nay, more; seeing that from himself there emanate continually images (of which we have said enough), what good ground can he have for persuasion of his own immortality? [2408]

31. As to all these ravings of the men who entertain such opinions, it is especially deplorable that the mere statement of them does not suffice to secure their rejection without any one controverting them in discussion; instead of which, the minds of men most gifted with acuteness have accepted the task of copiously refuting opinions which, as soon as they were enunciated, ought to have been rejected with contempt even by the slowest intellects. For even granting that there are atoms, and that these strike and shake each other by clashing together as chance may guide them, is it lawful for us to grant also that atoms thus meeting in fortuitous concourse can so make anything as to fashion its distinctive forms, determine its figure, polish its surface, enliven it with color, or quicken it by imparting to it a spirit?--all which things every one sees to be accomplished in no other way than by the providence of God, if only he loves to see with the mind rather than with the eye alone, and asks this faculty of intelligent perception from the Author of his being. Nay, more; we are not at liberty even to grant the existence of atoms themselves, for, without discussing the subtle theories of the learned as to the divisibility of matter, observe how easily the absurdity of atoms may be proved from their own opinions. For they, as is well known, affirm that there is nothing else in nature but bodies and empty space, and the accidents of these, by which I believe that they mean motion and striking, and the forms which result from these. Let them tell us, then, under which category they reckon the images which they suppose to flow from the more solid bodies, but which, if indeed they are bodies, possess so little solidity that they are not discernible except by their contact with the eyes when we see them, and with the mind when we think of them. For the opinion of these philosophers is, that these images can proceed from the material object and come to the eyes or to the mind, which, nevertheless, they affirm to be material. Now, I ask, do these images flow from atoms themselves? If they do, how can these be atoms from which some bodily particles are in this process separated? If they do not, either something can be the object of thought without such images, which they vehemently deny, or we ask, whence have they acquired a knowledge of atoms, seeing that they can in nowise become objects of thought to us? But I blush to have even thus far refuted these opinions, although they did not blush to hold them. When, however, I consider that they have even dared to defend them, I blush not on their account, but for the race of mankind itself whose ears could tolerate such nonsense.

Chap. V.

32. Wherefore, seeing that the minds of men are, through the pollution of sin and the lust of the flesh, so blinded that even these monstrous errors could waste in discussion concerning them the leisure of learned men, will you, Dioscorus, or will any man of an servant mind, hesitate to affirm that in no way could better provision have been made for the pursuit of truth by mankind than that a Man, assumed into ineffable and miraculous union by the Truth Himself, and being the manifestation of His Person on the earth, should by perfect teaching and divine acts move men to saving faith in that which could not as yet be intellectually apprehended? To the glory of Him who has done this we give our service; and we exhort you to believe immoveably and stedfastly in Him through whom it has come to pass that not a select few, but whole peoples, unable to discern these things by reason, do accept them in faith, until, upheld by instruction in saving truth, they escape from these perplexities into the atmosphere of perfectly pure and simple truth. It becomes us, moreover, to yield submission to His authority all the more unreservedly, when we see that in our day no error dares to lift up itself to rally round it the uninstructed crowd without seeking the shelter of the Christian name, and that of all who, belonging to an earlier age, now remain outside of the Christian name, those alone continue to have in their obscure assemblies a considerable attendance who retain the Scriptures by which, however they may pretend not to see or understand it, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself was prophetically announced. Moreover, those who, though they are not within the Catholic unity and communion, boast of the name of Christians, are compelled to oppose them that believe, and presume to mislead the ignorant by a pretence of appealing to reason, since the Lord came with this remedy above all others, that He enjoined on the nations the duty of faith. But they are compelled, as I have said, to adopt this policy because they feel themselves most miserably overthrown if their authority is compared with the Catholic authority. They attempt, accordingly, to prevail against the firmly-settled authority of the immoveable Church by the name and the promises of a pretended appeal to reason. This kind of effrontery is, we may say, characteristic of all heretics. But He who is the most merciful Lord of faith has both secured the Church in the citadel of authority by most famous oecumenical Councils and the Apostolic sees themselves, and furnished her with the abundant armour of equally invincible reason by means of a few men of pious erudition and unfeigned spirituality. The perfection of method in training disciples is, that those who are weak be encouraged to the utmost to enter the citadel of authority, in order that when they have been safely placed there, the conflict necessary for their defence may be maintained with the most strenuous use of reason.

33. The Platonists, however, who, amidst the errors of false philosophies assailing them at that time on all sides, rather concealed their own doctrine to be searched for than brought it into the light to be vilified, as they had no divine personage to command faith, began to exhibit and unfold the doctrines of Plato after the name of Christ had become widely known to the wondering and troubled kingdoms of this world. Then flourished at Rome the school of Plotinus, which had as scholars many men of great acuteness and ability. But some of them were corrupted by curious inquiries into magic, and others, recognising in the Lord Jesus Christ the impersonation of that essential and immutable Truth and Wisdom which they were endeavouring to reach, passed into His service. Thus the whole supremacy of authority and light of reason for regenerating and reforming the human race has been made to reside in the one saving Name, and in His one Church.

34. I do not at all regret that I have stated these things at great length in this letter, although perhaps you would have preferred that I had taken another course; for the more progress that you make in the truth, the more will you approve what I have written, and you will then approve of my counsel, though now you do not think it helpful to your studies. At the same time, I have, to the best of my ability, given answers to your questions,--to some of them in this letter, and to almost all the rest by brief annotations on the parchments on which you had sent them. If in these answers you think I have done too little, or done something else than you expected, you do not duly consider, my Dioscorus, to whom you addressed your questions. I have passed without reply all the questions concerning the orator and the books of Cicero de Oratore. I would have seemed to myself a contemptible trifler if I had entered on the exposition of these topics. For I might with propriety be questioned on all the other subjects, if any one desired me to handle and expound them, not in connection with the works of Cicero, but by themselves; but in these questions the subjects themselves are not in harmony with my profession now. I would not, however, have done all that I have done in this letter had I not removed from Hippo for a time after the illness under which I laboured when your messenger came to me. Even in these days I have been visited again with interruption of health and with fever, on which account there has been more delay than might otherwise have been in sending these to you. I earnestly beg you to write and let me know how you receive them.


[2397] "Scire tuum nihil est nisi te scire hoc sciat alter."--Persius, Sat. i. 27. [2398] Corniculas. The lapse of centuries may have introduced into the north of Africa birds unknown in Augustin's time. The translator has seen these birds in Egypt. [2399] Barbarum. [2400] Qui summe est. [2401] Opportunissimo tempore. [2402] We give the original of this exquisite sentence, both for its intrinsic value, and because it is a good example of that antithetic style of writing which makes the exact and felicitous rendering of Augustin's words into any other language peculiarly difficult: Nisi humilitas omnia quæcumque bene facimus et præcesserit, et comitetur, et consecuta fuerit, et proposita quam intueamur, et apposita cui adhæreamus, et imposita qua reprimamur, jam nobis de aliquo bono facto gaudentibus totum extorquet de manu superbia. [2403] The words of Cicero are: "Post, Anaximenes æra Deum statuit, eumque gigni, esseque immensum, et infinitum, et semper in motu: quasi aut ær sine ulla forma Deus esse possit, cum præsertim Deum non modo aliqua sed pulcherrima specie esse deceat: aut non omne quod ortum sit mortalitas consequatur."--De Natura Deorum, Book 1. [2404] Ipsam veritatem atque sapientiam. [2405] The words of Cicero are these: "Nec vidit neque motum sensui junctum et continentem in infinito ullum esse posse, neque sensum omnino quo non tota natura pulsa sentiret." Augustin, quoting probably from memory (see 9), gives infinto as the dative of possession instead of in infinito. [2406] Cicero, de Natura Deorum, lib. 1. [2407] Litteriones ut militariter loquar. [2408] Cicero, de Natura Deorum, lib. I.

Letter CXXII.

(a.d. 410.)

To His Well-Beloved Brethren the Clergy, and to the Whole People [of Hippo], Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

1. In the first place, I beseech you, my friends, and implore you, for Christ's sake, not to let my bodily absence grieve you. For I suppose you do not imagine that I could by any means be separated in spirit and in unfeigned love from you, although perchance it is even a greater grief to me than to you that my weakness unfits me for bearing all the cares which are laid on me by those members of Christ to whose service both fear of Him and love to them constrain me to devote myself. For you know this, my beloved, that I have never absented myself from you through self-indulgent taking of ease, but only when compelled by such duties as have made it necessary for some of my holy colleagues and brethren to endure, both on the sea and in countries beyond the sea, labours from which I was exempted, not because of reluctance of spirit, but by reason of imperfect bodily health. Wherefore, my dearly-beloved brethren, act so that, as the apostle says, "whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." [2409] If any vexation pertaining to time causes you distress, this itself ought the more to remind you how you should occupy your thoughts with that life in which you may live without any burden, escaping not the annoying hardships of this short life, but the dread flames of eternal fire. For if ye strive with so much anxiety, so much earnestness, and so much labour, to save yourselves from falling into some transient sufferings in this world, how solicitous ought you to be to escape everlasting misery! And if the death which puts an end to the labours of time is so feared, how ought we to fear the death which ushers men into eternal pain! And if the short-lived and sordid pleasures of this world are so loved, with how much greater earnestness ought we to seek the pure and infinite joys of the world to come! Meditating upon these things, be not slothful in good works, that ye may come in due season to reap what you have sown.

2. It has been reported to me that you have forgotten your custom of providing raiment for the poor, to which work of charity I exhorted you when I was present with you; and I now exhort you not to allow yourselves to be overcome and made slothful by the tribulation of this world, which you see now visited with such calamities as were foretold by our Lord and Redeemer, who cannot lie. You ought in present circumstances not to be less diligent in works of charity, but rather to be more abundant in these than you were wont to be. For as men betake themselves in greater haste to a place of greater security when they see in the shaking of their walls the ruin of their house impending, so ought Christians, the more that they perceive, from the increasing frequency of their afflictions, that the destruction of this world is at hand, to be the more prompt and active in transferring to the treasury of heaven the goods which they were proposing to store up on earth, in order that, if any accident common to the lot of men occur, he may rejoice who has escaped from a dwelling doomed to ruin; and if, on the other hand, nothing of this kind happen, he may be exempt from painful solicitude who, die when he may, has committed his possessions to the keeping of the ever-living Lord, to whom he is about to go. Wherefore, my dearly-beloved brethren, let every one of you, according to his ability, of which he himself is the best judge, do with a portion of his substance as ye were wont to do; do it also with a more willing mind than ye were wont; and amid all the vexations of this life bear in your hearts the apostolic exhortation: "The Lord is at hand: be careful for nothing." [2410] Let such things be reported to me concerning you as may make me understand that it is not through my presence with you, but from obedience to the precept of God, who is never absent, that you follow that good practice which for many years while I was with you, and for some time after my departure, you observed.

May the Lord preserve you in peace! And, dearly-beloved brethren, pray for us.


[2409] Phil. i. 27. [2410] Phil. iv. 5, 6.

Letter CXXIII.

(a.d. 410.)

[From Jerome to Augustin.]

There are many who go halting upon both feet, and refuse to bend their heads even when their necks are broken, persisting in adherence to their former errors, even though they have not their former liberty of proclaiming them.

Respectful salutations are sent to you by the holy brethren who are with your humble servant, and especially by your pious and venerable daughters. [2411] I beg your Excellency to salute in my name your brethren my lord Alypius and my lord Evodius. Jerusalem is held captive by Nebuchadnezzar, and refuses to listen to the counsels of Jeremiah, preferring to look wistfully towards Egypt, that it may die in Tahpanhes, and perish there in eternal bondage. [2412]


[2411] Paula, Eustochium, and other recluses of Bethlehem. [2412] Two opinions have been advanced as to the signification of this enigmatical allusion to the events recorded in Jeremiah, chap. xliii. Some think that Jerome refers to Rome, then occupied by the Goths. Others find here a reference to the state of the Church at Jerusalem at the time; perhaps under the name of Nebuchadnezzar some heretical bishop is designed.

Third Division.

Letters Which Were Written by Augustin After The Time of The Conference With The Donatists And The Rise of The Pelagian Heresy in Africa; i.e., During The Last Twenty Years of His Life (A.D. 411-430).

Letter CXXIV.

(a.d. 411.)

To Albina, Pinianus, and Melania, [2413] Honoured in the Lord, Beloved in Holiness and Longed for in Brotherly Affection, Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

1. I Am, whether through present infirmity or by natural temperament, very susceptible of cold; nevertheless, it would not be possible for me to suffer greater heat than I have done throughout this exceptionally dreadful winter, having been kept in a fever by distress because I have been unable, I do not say to hasten, but to fly to you (to visit whom it would have been fitting for me to fly across the seas), after you had been settled so near to me, and had come from so remote a land to see me. It may be, also, that you have supposed the rigorous weather of this winter to be the only cause of my suffering this disappointment; I pray you, beloved, give no place to this thought. For what inconvenience, hardship, or even danger, can these heavy rains bring, which I would not have encountered and endured in order to make my way to you, who are such comforters to us in our great calamities, and who, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, are lights kindled into vehement flame by the Supreme Light, raised aloft by lowliness of spirit, and deriving more glorious lustre from the glory which you have despised? Moreover, I would have enjoyed participation in the spiritual felicity vouchsafed to my earthly birthplace, in that it has been permitted to have you present, of whom when absent its citizens had heard much--so much, indeed, that although giving charitable credence to the report of what you were by nature and had become by grace, they feared, perchance, to repeat it to others, lest it should be disbelieved.

2. I shall therefore tell you the reason why I have not come, and the trials by which I have been kept back from so great a privilege, that I may obtain not only your forgiveness, but also, through your prayers, the mercy of Him who so works in you that ye live to Him. The congregation of Hippo, whom the Lord has ordained me to serve, is in great measure, and almost wholly, of a constitution so infirm, that the pressure of even a comparatively light affliction might seriously endanger its well-being; at present, however, it is smitten with tribulation so overwhelming, that, even were it strong, it could scarcely survive the imposition of the burden. Moreover, when I returned to it recently, I found it offended to a most dangerous degree by my absence; and you, over whose spiritual strength we rejoice in the Lord, can with healthful taste relish and approve the saying of Paul: "Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?" [2414] I feel this especially because there are many here who by disparaging us attempt to excite against us the minds of the others by whom we seem to be loved, in order that they may make room in them for the devil. But when those whose salvation is our care are angry with us, their strong determination to take vengeance on us is only an unreasonable desire for bringing death to themselves,--not the death of the body, but of the soul, in which the fact of death discovers itself mysteriously by the odour of corruption before it is possible for our care to foresee and provide against it.

Doubtless you will readily excuse this anxiety on my part, especially because, if you were displeased and wished to punish me, you could perhaps invent no severer pain than what I already suffer in not seeing you at Thagaste. I trust, however, that, assisted by your prayers, I may be permitted when the present hindrance has been removed with all speed to come to you, in whatsoever part of Africa you may be, if this town in which I labour is not worthy (and I do not presume to pronounce it worthy) to be along with us made joyful by your presence.


[2413] The name Melania, though now almost as little known to the world at large as the fossil univalve molluscs to which palæontologists have assigned the designation, was in the time of Augustin highly esteemed throughout Christendom. The elder Melania, a lady of rank and affluence, left Rome when it was threatened by Alaric, and spent thirty-seven years in the East, returning to the city in 445 A.D. Her daughter-in-law, Albina, and her grand-daughter, the younger Melania (whose husband was the Pinianus mentioned here and in the two following letters), left Rome with her in 408 A.D., and after spending two years in Sicily, passed over into Africa, and fixed their residence at Thagaste, the native town of St. Augustin. A visit which they paid to him at Hippo was the occasion of the extraordinary proceedings referred to in Letters CXXV. and CXXVI. [2414] 2 Cor. xi. 29.

Letter CXXV.

(a.d. 411.)

To Alypius, My Lord Most Blessed and Brother Beloved with All Reverence, and My Partner in the Priestly Office, and to the Brethren Who are with Him, Augustin and the Brethren Who are with Him Send Greeting in the Lord.

1. We are deeply grieved, and can by no means regard it as a small matter, that the people of Hippo clamorously said so much to the disparagement of your Holiness; but, my good brother, their clamorous utterance of these things is not so great a cause for grief as the fact that we are, without open accusation, deemed guilty of similar things. For when we are believed to be actuated in retaining God's servants among us, not by love of righteousness, but by love of money, is it not to be desired that persons who believe this concerning us should with their voices avow what is hidden in their hearts, and so obtain, if possible, remedies great in proportion to the disease, rather than silently perish under the venom of these fatal suspicions? Wherefore it ought to be a greater care to us (and for this reason we conferred together before this happened) to provide how men to whom we are commanded to be examples in good works may be convinced that there is no ground for suspicions which they cherish, than to provide how those may be rebuked who in words give definite utterance to their suspicions.

2. Wherefore I am not angry with the pious Albina, nor do I judge her to deserve rebuke; but I think she requires to be cured of such suspicions. It is true that she has not pointed at myself the words to which I refer, but has complained of the people of Hippo, as it were, alleging that their covetousness has been brought to light, and that in desiring to retain among them a man of wealth who was known to despise money, and to give it away freely, they were moved, not by his fitness for the office, but by regard to his ample means; nevertheless, she almost said openly that she had the same suspicion of myself, and not she only, but also her pious son-in-law and daughter, who, on that very day, said the same thing in the apse of the church. [2415] In my opinion, it is more necessary that the suspicions of these persons should be removed than that their utterance of them should be rebuked. For where can immunity and rest from such thorns be provided and given to us, if they can sprout forth against us even in the hearts of intimate friends, so pious and so much beloved by us? It is by the ignorant multitude that such things have been thought concerning you, but I am the victim of similar suspicions from those who are the lights of the Church; you may see, therefore, which of us has the greater cause for grief. It seems to me that both cases call, not for invectives, but for remedial measures; for they are men, and their suspicions are of men, and therefore such things as they suspect, though they may be false, are not incredible. Persons such as these are of course not so foolish as to believe that the people are coveting their money, especially after their experience that the people of Thagaste obtained none of their money, from which it was certain that the people of Hippo would also obtain none. Nay, all the violence of this odium comes against the clergy alone, and especially against the bishops, whose authority is visibly pre-eminent, and who are supposed to use and enjoy as owners and lords the property of the Church. My dear Alypius, let not the weak be encouraged through our example to cherish this pernicious and fatal covetousness. Call to mind what we said to each other before the occurrence of this temptation, which makes the duty all the more urgent. Let us rather by God's help endeavour to have this difficulty removed by friendly conference, and let us not count it sufficient to be guided by our own conscience alone; for this is not one of the cases in which its voice alone is sufficient for our direction. For if we be not unworthy servants of our God, if there live in us a spark of that charity which seeketh not her own, we are bound by all means to provide things honest, not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of men, lest while drinking untroubled waters in our own conscience, we be chargeable with treading with incautious feet, and so making the Lord's flock drink from a turbid stream.

3. For as to the proposal in your letter that we should discuss together the obligation of an oath which has been extorted by force, I beseech you, let not the method of our discussion involve in obscurity things which are perfectly clear. For if inevitable death were threatened in order to compel a servant of God to swear that he would do something forbidden by laws both human and divine, it would be his duty to prefer death to such an oath, lest he should be guilty of a crime in fulfilling his oath. But in this case, in which the determined clamour of the people, and only this, was forcing the man, not to a crime, but to that which if it were done would be lawfully done; when, moreover, there was indeed apprehension lest some reckless men, such as are mixed with a multitude even of good men, should through love of rioting break out into some wicked deeds of violence, if they found a pretext for disturbance and for plausibly justifiable indignation, but there was no certainty of this fear being realized,--who will affirm that it is lawful to commit a deliberate act of perjury in order to escape from uncertain consequences, involving, I shall not say loss or bodily injury, but even death itself? Regulus had not heard anything from the Holy Scriptures concerning the impiety of perjury, he had never heard of the flying roll of Zechariah, [2416] and he confirmed his oath to the Carthaginians, not by the sacraments of Christ, but by the abominations of false gods; and yet in the face of inevitable tortures, and a death of unprecedented horror, he was not moved by fear so as to swear under constraint, but, because he had given his oath, he of his own free will submitted to these, lest he should be guilty of perjury. In that age, also, the Roman censors refused to inscribe in the roll, not of saints inheriting heavenly glory, but of senators received into the curia of Rome, not only men who, through fear of death and of cruel tortures, had chosen rather to commit manifest perjury than to return to merciless enemies, but also one who had believed himself clear of the guilt of perjury, because, after giving his oath, he had under the pretext of alleged necessity violated it by returning; in which we see that those who expelled him from the senate took into consideration, not what he himself had in his mind when he gave his oath, but what those to whom he pledged his word expected from him. Yet they had never read what we sing continually in the Psalm: "He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not." [2417] We are wont to speak of these instances of virtue with the highest admiration, although they are found in men who were strangers to the grace and to the name of Christ; and yet do we seriously imagine that the question whether perjury is occasionally lawful is one for an answer to which we should search the divine books, in which, to prevent us from falling into this sin by inconsiderate oaths, this prohibition is written: "Swear not at all"?

4. I by no means dispute the perfect correctness of the maxim, that good faith requires an oath to be kept, not according to the mere words of him who gives it, but according to that which the person giving the oath knows to be the expectation of the person to whom he swears. For it is very difficult to define in words, especially in few words, the promise in regard to which security is exacted from him who gives his oath. They, therefore, are guilty of perjury, who, while adhering to the letter of their promise, disappoint the known expectation of those to whom their oath was given; and they are not guilty of perjury, who, even though departing from the letter of the promise, fulfil that which was expected of them when they gave their oath. Wherefore, seeing that the people of Hippo desired to have the holy Pinianus, not as a prisoner who had forfeited liberty, but as a much-loved resident in their town, the limits of that which they expected from him, though it could not be adequately embraced in the words of his promise, are nevertheless so obvious that the fact of his being at this moment absent, after giving his oath to remain among them, does not disturb any one who may have heard that he was to leave this place for a definite purpose, and with the intention of returning. Accordingly, he will not be guilty of perjury, nor will he be regarded by them as violating his oath, unless he disappoint their expectation; and he will not disappoint their expectation, unless he either abandon his purpose of residing among them, or at some future time depart from them without intending to return. May God forbid that he should so depart from the holiness and fidelity which he owes to Christ and to the Church! For, not to speak of the dread judgment of God upon perjurers, which you know as well as myself, I am perfectly certain that henceforth we shall have no right to be displeased with any one who may refuse to believe what we attest by an oath, if we are found to think that perjury in such a man as Pinianus is to be not only tolerated without indignation, but actually defended. From this may we be saved by the mercy of Him who delivers from temptation those who put their trust in Him! Let Pinianus, therefore, as you have written in your communication, fulfil the promise by which he bound himself not to depart from Hippo, just as I myself and the other inhabitants of the town do not depart from it, having, of course, full freedom in going and returning at any time; the only difference being, that those who are not bound by any oath to reside here have it also in their power at any time, without being chargeable with perjury, to depart with no purpose of coming back again.

5. As to our clergy and the brethren settled in our monastery, I do not know that it can be proved that they either aided or abetted in the reproaches which were made against you. For when I inquired into this, I was informed that only one from our monastery, a man of Carthage, had taken part in the clamour of the people; and this was not when they were uttering insults against you, but when they were demanding Pinianus as presbyter.

I have annexed to this letter a copy of the promise given to him, taken from the very paper which he subscribed and corrected under my own inspection.


[2415] The "absis" was a chapel or recess in the choir, where the bishop was accustomed to stand surrounded by his clergy. [2416] Zech. v. 4. Augustin calls it "Zachariæ falx," translating, as the LXX. have done: drepanon. [2417] Ps. xv. 4.

Letter CXXVI.

(a.d. 411.)

To the Holy Lady and Venerable Handmaid of God Albina, Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

1. As to the sorrow of your spirit, which you describe as inexpressible, it becomes me to assuage rather than to augment its bitterness, endeavouring if possible to remove your suspicions, instead of increasing the agitation of one so venerable and so devoted to God by giving vent to indignation because of that which I have suffered in this matter. Nothing was done to our holy brother, your son-in-law Pinianus, by the people of Hippo which might justly awaken in him the fear of death, although, perchance, he himself had such fears. Indeed, we also were apprehensive lest some of the reckless characters who are often secretly banded together for mischief in a crowd might break out into bold acts of violence, finding occasion for beginning a riot with some plausible pretext for passionate excitement. Nothing of this nature, however, was either spoken of or attempted by any one, as I have since had opportunity to ascertain; but against my brother Alypius the people did clamorously utter many opprobrious and unworthy reproaches, for which great sin I desire that they may obtain pardon in answer to his prayers. For my own part, after their outcries began, when I had told them how I was precluded by promise from ordaining him against his will, adding that, if they obtained him as their presbyter through my breaking my word, they could not retain me as their bishop, I left the multitude, and returned to my own seat. [2418] Thereupon, they being made for a little while to pause and waver by my unexpected reply, like a flame driven back for a moment by the wind, began to be much more warmly excited, imagining that possibly a violation of my promise might be extorted from me, or that, in the event of my abiding by my promise, he might be ordained by another bishop. To all to whom I could address myself, namely, to the more venerable and aged men who had come up to me in the apse, I stated that I could not be moved to break my word, and that in the church committed to my care he could not be ordained by any other bishop except with my consent asked and obtained, in granting which I should be no less guilty of a breach of faith. I said, moreover, that if he were ordained against his own will, the people were only wishing him to depart from us as soon as he was ordained. They did not believe that this was possible. But the crowd having gathered in front of the steps, and persisting in the same determination with terrible and incessant clamour and shouting, made them irresolute and perplexed. At that time unworthy reproaches were loudly uttered against my brother Alypius: at that time, also, more serious consequences were apprehended by us.

2. But although I was much disturbed by so great a commotion among the people, and such trepidation among the office-bearers of the church, I did not say to that mob anything else than that I could not ordain him against his own will; nor after all that had passed was I influenced to do what I had also promised not to do, namely, to advise him in any way to accept the office of presbyter, which had I been able to persuade him to do, his ordination would have been with his consent. I remained faithful to both the promises which I had made,--not only to the one which I had shortly before intimated to the people, but also to the one in regard to which I was bound, so far as men were concerned, by only one witness. I was faithful, I say, not to an oath, but to my bare promise, even in the face of such danger. It is true that the fears of danger were, as we afterwards ascertained, without foundation; but whatever the danger might be, it was shared by us all alike. The fear was also shared by all; and I myself had thoughts of retiring, being alarmed chiefly for the safety of the building in which we were assembled. But there was reason to apprehend that if I were absent some disaster might be more likely to occur, as the people would then be more exasperated by disappointment, and less restrained by reverential sentiments. Again, if I had gone through the dense mob along with Alypius, I had reason to fear lest some one should dare to lay violent hands on him; if, on the other hand, I had gone without him, what would have been the most natural opinion for men to have formed, if any accident had befallen Alypius, and I appeared to have deserted him in order to hand him over to the power of an infuriated people?

3. In the midst of this excitement and great distress, when, being at our wit's end, we could not, so to speak, take breath, behold our pious son Pinianus, suddenly and quite unexpectedly, sends to me a servant of God, to tell me that he wished to swear to the people, that if he were ordained against his will he would leave Africa altogether, thinking, I believe, that the people, knowing that of course he could not violate his oath, would not continue their outcry, seeing that by perseverance they could gain nothing, but only drive from among us a man whom we ought at least to retain as a neighbour, if he was to be no more. As it seemed to me, however, that it was to be feared that the vehemence of the people's grief would be increased by his taking an oath of this kind, I was silent in regard to it; and as he had by the same messenger begged me to come to him, I went without delay. When he had said to me again what he had stated by the messenger, he immediately added to the same oath what he had sent another messenger to intimate to me while I was hastening towards him, namely, that he would consent to reside in Hippo if no one compelled him to accept against his will the burden of the clerical office. On this, being comforted in my perplexities as by a breath of air when in danger of suffocation, I made no reply, but went with quickened pace to my brother Alypius, and told him what Pinianus had said. But he, being careful, I suppose, lest anything should be done with his sanction by which he thought you might be offended, said, "Let no one ask my opinion on this subject." Having heard this, I hastened to the noisy crowd, and having obtained silence, declared to them what had been promised, along with the proffered guarantee of an oath. The people, however, having no other thought or desire than that he should be their presbyter, did not receive the proposal as I had expected they would, but, after talking in an under-tone among themselves, made the request that to this promise and oath a clause might be added, that if at any time he should be pleased to consent to accept the clerical office, he should do so in no other church than that of Hippo. I reported this to him: without hesitation he agreed to it. I returned to them with his answer; they were filled with joy, and presently demanded the promised oath.

4. I came back to your son-in-law, and found him at a loss as to the words in which his promise, confirmed by oath, could be expressed, because of various kinds of necessity which might emerge and might make it necessary for him to leave Hippo. He stated at the time what he feared, namely, that a hostile incursion of barbarians might occur, to avoid which it would be necessary to leave the place. The holy Melania wished to add also, as a possible reason for departure, the unhealthiness of the climate; but she was kept from this by his reply. I said, however, that he had brought forward an important reason deserving consideration, and one which, if it occurred, would compel the citizens themselves to abandon the place; but that, if this reason were stated to the people, we might justly fear lest they should regard us as prophesying evil, and, on the other hand, if a pretext for withdrawing from the promise were put under the general name of necessity, it might be thought that the necessity was only covering an intention to deceive. It seemed good to him, therefore, that we should test the feeling of the people in regard to this, and we found the result exactly as I had expected. For when the words which he had dictated were read by the deacon, and had been received with approbation, as soon as the clause concerning necessity which might hinder the fulfilment of his promise fell upon their ears, there arose at once a shout of remonstrance, and the promise was rejected; and the tumult began to break out again, the people thinking that these negotiations had no other object than to deceive them. When our pious son saw this, he ordered the clause regarding necessity to be struck out, and the people recovered their cheerfulness once more.

5. I would gladly have excused myself on the ground of fatigue, but he would not go to the people unless I accompanied him; so we went together. He told them that he had himself dictated what they had heard from the deacon, that he had confirmed the promise by an oath, and would do the things promised, after which he forthwith rehearsed all in the words which he had dictated. The response of the people was, "Thanks be unto God!" and they begged that all which was written should be subscribed. We dismissed the catechumens, and he adhibited his signature to the document at once. Then we [Alypius and myself] began to be urged, not by the voices of the crowd, but by faithful men of good report as their representatives, that we also as bishops should subscribe the writing. But when I began to do this, the pious Melania protested against it. I wondered why she did this so late, as if we could make his promise and oath void by forbearing from appending our names to it; I obeyed, however, and so my signature remained incomplete, and no one thought it necessary to insist further upon our subscription.

6. I have been at pains to communicate to your Holiness, so far as I thought sufficient, what were the feelings, or rather the remarks, of the people on the following day, when they heard that he had left the town. Whoever, therefore, may have told you anything contradicting what I stated, is either intentionally or through his own mistake misleading you. For I am aware that I passed over some things which seemed to me irrelevant, but I know that I said nothing but the truth. It is therefore true that our holy son Pinianus took his oath in my presence and with my permission, but it is not true that he did it in obedience to any command from me. He himself knows this: it is also known to those servants of God whom he sent to me, the first being the pious Barnabas, the second Timasius, by whom also he sent me the promise of his remaining in Hippo. As for the people themselves, moreover, they were urging him by their cries to accept the office of presbyter. They did not ask for his oath, but they did not refuse it when offered, because they hoped that if he remained amongst us, there might be produced in him a willingness to consent to ordination, while they feared lest, if ordained against his will, he should, according to his oath, leave Africa. And therefore they also were actuated in their clamorous procedure by regard to God's work (for surely the consecration of a presbyter is a work of God); and inasmuch as they did not feel satisfied with his promise of remaining in Hippo, unless it were also promised that, in the event of his at any time accepting the clerical office, he should do it nowhere else than among them, it is perfectly manifest what they hoped for from his dwelling among them, and that they did not abandon their zeal for the work of God.

7. On what ground, then, do you allege that the people did this out of a base desire for money? In the first place, the people who were so clamorous have nothing whatever of this kind to gain; for as the people of Thagaste derive from the gifts which you have bestowed on their church no profit but the joy of seeing your good work, it will be the same in the case of the people of Hippo, or of any other place in which you have obeyed or may yet obey the law of your Lord concerning the "mammon of unrighteousness." The people, therefore, in most vehemently insisting upon guiding the procedure of their church in regard to so great a man, did not ask from you a pecuniary advantage, but testified their admiration for your contempt of money. For if in my own case, because they had heard that, despising my patrimony, which consisted of only a few small fields, I had consecrated myself to the liberty of serving God, they loved this disinterestedness, and did not grudge this gift to the church of my birthplace, Thagaste, but, when it had not imposed upon me the clerical office, made me by force, so to speak, their own, how much more ardently might they love in our Pinianus his overcoming and treading under foot with such remarkable decision riches so great and hopes so bright, and a strong natural capacity for enjoying this world! I indeed seem, in the opinion of many, who compare themselves with themselves, to have rather found than forsaken wealth. For my patrimony can scarcely be considered a twentieth part of the ecclesiastical property which I am now supposed to possess as master. But in whatever church, especially in Africa, our Pinianus might be ordained (I do not say a presbyter, but) a bishop, he would be still in deep poverty compared with his former affluence, even if he were using the church's revenues in the spirit of one lording it over God's heritage. Christian poverty is much more clearly and certainly loved in the case of one in whom there is no room for suspecting a desire for acquiring an accession to his wealth. It was this admiration which kindled the minds of the people, and roused them to such violence of persevering clamour. Let us therefore not charge them gratuitously with base covetousness, but rather, without imputing unworthy motives, allow them at least to love in others that good thing which they do not themselves possess. For although there may have mixed in the crowd some who are indigent or beggars, who helped to increase the clamour, and were actuated by the hope of some relief to their wants out of your honourable affluence, even this is not, in my opinion, base covetousness.

8. It remains, therefore, that the reproach of disgraceful covetousness must be levelled indirectly at the clergy, and especially at the bishop. For we are supposed to act as lords of the church's property; we are supposed to enjoy its revenues. In short, whatever money we have received for the church either is still in our possession or has been spent according to our judgment; and of it we have given nothing to any of the people besides the clergy and the brethren in the monastery, excepting only a very few indigent persons. I do not mean by this to say that the things which were said by you must necessarily have been said specially against us, but that, if said against any others than ourselves, they must have been incredible. What, then, shall we do? If it be not possible to clear ourselves before enemies, by what means may we at least clear ourselves before you? The matter is one pertaining to the soul; it is within us, hidden from the eyes of men, and known to God alone. What, then, remains for us but to call to witness God, to whom it is known? When, therefore, you harbour these suspicions concerning us, you do not command but absolutely compel us to give our oath,--a much more grievous wrong than the commanding of an oath, which you have thought proper in your letter to censure as highly culpable in me; you compel us, I say, not by menacing death to the body, as the people of Hippo were supposed to have done, but by menacing death to our good name, which deserves to be regarded by us as more precious than life itself, for the sake of those weak brethren to whom we endeavour in all circumstances to exhibit ourselves as ensamples in good works.

9. We, however, are not indignant against you who compel us to this oath, as you are indignant against the people of Hippo. For you believe, as men judging of other men, things which, though not actually existing in us, might possibly have existed. Your suspicions we must labour not so much to reprove as to remove; and since our conscience is clear in the sight of God, we must seek to clear our character in your sight. It may be, as Alypius and I said to each other before this trial occurred, that God will grant that not only you, our much-beloved fellow-members of Christ's body, but even our most implacable enemies, may be thoroughly satisfied that we are not defiled by any love of money in our administration of ecclesiastical affairs. Until this be done (if the Lord, answering our prayer, permit it to be done), hear in the meantime what we are compelled to do, rather than put off for any length of time the healing of your heart. God is my witness that, as for the whole management of those ecclesiastical revenues over which we are supposed to love to exercise lordship, I only bear it as a burden which is imposed on me by love to the brethren and fear of God: I do not love it; nay, if I could, without unfaithfulness to my office, I would desire to be rid of it. God also is my witness that I believe the sentiments of Alypius to be the same as mine in this matter. Nevertheless, on the one hand, the people, and what is worse, the people of Hippo, have hastily done Alypius great wrong by entertaining another opinion of his character; and on the other hand, you who are saints of God and full of unfeigned compassion have, through believing such things concerning us, thought proper to touch and admonish us while nominally censuring the same people of Hippo, who have no part whatever in the guilt of the alleged covetousness. You have desired unquestionably to correct us, and that without hating us (this be far from you!); wherefore I ought not to be angry with you, but to thank you, because it was not possible for you to have combined modesty and freedom more happily than when, instead of stating your sentiments as an offensive accusation against the bishop, you left them to be discovered by indirect inferences.

10. Let not the fact that I have thought it necessary thus to confirm my statements by oath cause you vexation by making you think that you are treated with harshness. There was no hardness or lack of kindly feeling in the apostle towards those to whom he wrote: "Neither used we at any time flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness." [2419] In the thing which was opened to men's observation he appealed to their own testimony, but in regard to that which was hidden, to whom could he appeal but to God? If, therefore, fear lest the ignorance of men should make them entertain some such thoughts concerning him was reasonably felt even by Paul, whose labours, as all men knew, were such that except in extreme necessity he never took anything for his own benefit from the communities to which he dispensed the grace of Christ, obtaining in all other cases the necessary provision for his support by working with his own hands, how much more pains must be taken to establish confidence in our disinterestedness by us, who are, both in the merit of holiness and in strength of mind, so far behind him, and who are not only unable to do anything by the work of our hands to support ourselves, but also precluded from this, even if we could work, by an accumulation of duties from which I believe that the apostles were exempt! Let the charge, therefore, of most base covetousness be brought no more in this matter against the Christian people--that is, the Church of Christ. For it is more tolerable that this charge be alleged against us, on whom the suspicion, though groundless, might fall without being utterly improbable, than on the people, of whom it is certainly known that they could not either cherish the covetous desire or be reasonably suspected of entertaining it.

11. For persons possessing any faith--and how much more the Christian faith!--to be unfaithful to their oath, I do not say by doing something contrary to it, but by hesitating at all as to its fulfilment, is utterly wrong. What my judgment is on this question I have with sufficient fulness declared in the letter which I sent to my brother Alypius. Your Holiness wrote asking me "whether I or the people of Hippo consider any one under obligation to fulfil an oath which has been extorted by violence." But what is your opinion? Do you think that even if death, which in this case was feared without reason, were certainly imminent, a Christian might use the name of his Lord to confirm a lie, and call his God to be witness to a falsehood? For assuredly a Christian, if urged by the menace of instant death to perjure himself by false testimony, ought to fear the loss of honour more than the loss of life. Hostile armies confront each other in the battle-field with mutual menaces of death, about which there can be no uncertainty; and yet, when they pledge themselves to each other by oath, we praise those who are faithful to their engagement, and we justly abhor those who are unfaithful. Now what was the motive leading them to swear to each other, but the fear on both sides of being killed or taken prisoners? And by this promise even such men hold themselves bound, lest they be guilty of sacrilege and perjury if they did not fulfil the oath extorted by the fear of death or captivity, and broke the promise given in such circumstances: they are more afraid of breaking their oath than of taking a man's life. And do we propose to discuss as a debatable question whether an oath must be fulfilled which has been given under fear of harm by servants of God, who are under pre-eminent obligations to holiness, by monks who are running the race towards Christian perfection, by distributing their property according to Christ's command?

12. Tell me, I beseech you, what hardship deserving the name of exile, or transportation, or banishment, is involved in his promise to reside here? I suppose that the office of presbyter is not exile. Would our Pinianus prefer exile to that office? Far be it from us to find such apology for one who is a saint of God and very dear to us: God forbid, I say, that it should be said of him that he preferred exile to the office of presbyter, and preferred to perjure himself rather than submit to exile. This I would say even if it were true that the oath by which he promised to reside among us had been extorted from him but the fact is that, instead of being extorted in spite of his refusal, it was accepted when he had proffered it himself. It was accepted, moreover, as I have already said, because of the hope, which was encouraged by his remaining here, that he might also consent to comply with our desire that he should accept the clerical office. In fine, whatever opinion may be entertained concerning us or concerning the people of Hippo, the case of those who may have compelled him to take the oath is very different from that of those who may have--I do not say compelled, but at least--counselled him to break the oath. I trust, also, that Pinianus himself will not refuse to consider seriously whether it is worse to swear under the pressure of fear, however great, or, in the absence of all alarm, to commit deliberate perjury.

13. God be thanked that the men of Hippo regard his promise of residence here as kept fully, if only he come with the intention of making this town his home, and in going whithersoever necessity may call him, go with the intention of coming back to us again. For if they were to exact literal fulfilment of the words of the promise, it would be the duty of a servant of God to adhere to every sentence of it rather than forswear himself. But as it would be a crime for them so to bind any one, much more such a man as he is, so they have themselves proved that they had no such unreasonable expectation; for on hearing that he had gone away with the intention of returning, they expressed their satisfaction; and fidelity to an oath requires no more than the performance of what was expected by those to whom it was given. Let me ask, moreover, what is meant by saying that he, in giving the oath with his own lips, mentioned the possibility of necessity preventing his fulfilment of the promise? The truth is, that with his own lips he ordered the qualifying clause to be removed. If he put it in, it would be when he himself spoke to the people; but if he had done so, they assuredly would not have answered, "Thanks be unto God," but would have renewed the protestations which they made when it was read with the qualifying clause by the deacon. And what difference does it really make whether this plea of necessity for departing from the promise was or was not inserted? Nothing more than we have stated above was expected from him; but he who disappoints the known expectation of those to whom his oath is given, cannot but be a perjured person.

14. Wherefore, let his promise be fulfilled, and let the hearts of the weak be healed, lest, on the one hand, those who approve of it be taught by such a conspicuous example to imitate an act of perjury, and lest, on the other hand, those who condemn it have just grounds for saying that none of us is worthy to be believed, not only when we make promises, but even when we give our oath. Let us especially guard against giving occasion in this to the tongues of enemies, which are used by the great Enemy as darts wherewith to slay the weak. But God forbid that we should expect from a man like Pinianus anything else than what the fear of God inspires, and the superior excellence of his own piety approves. As for myself, whom you blame for not interfering to forbid his oath, I admit that I could not bring myself to believe that, in circumstances so disorderly and scandalous, I ought rather to allow the church which I serve to be overthrown, than accept the deliverance which was offered to us by such a man.


[2418] Ad nostra subsellia. [2419] 1 Thess. ii. 5.

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