Writings of Augustine. On Two Souls, Against the Manichæans.

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St. Augustin,

On Two Souls, Against the Manichæans.

[de duabus animabus contra manichæos].

A.D. 391. [190]

translated by Albert H. Newman, D.D., LL.D., Professor of Church History and Comparative Religion, in Toronto Baptist (Theological) College, Toronto, Canada.

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

One Book.


Chapter 1.--By What Course of Reasoning the Error of the Manichæans Concerning Two Souls, One of Which is Not from God, is Refuted. Every Soul, Inasmuch as It is a Certain Life, Can Have Its Existence Only from God the Source of Life.

1. Through the assisting mercy of God, the snares of the Manichæans having been broken to pieces and left behind, having been restored at length to the bosom of the Catholic Church, I am disposed now at least to consider and to deplore my recent wretchedness. For there were many things that I ought to have done to prevent the seeds of the most true religion wholesomely implanted in me from boyhood, from being banished from my mind, having been uprooted by the error and fraud of false and deceitful men. For, in the first place, if I had soberly and diligently considered, with prayerful and pious mind, those two kinds of souls to which they attributed natures and properties so distinct that they wished one to be regarded as of the very substance of God, but were not even willing that God should be accepted as the author of the other; perhaps it would have appeared to me, intent on learning, that there is no life whatsoever, which, by the very fact of its being life and in so far as it is life at all, does not pertain to the supreme source and beginning of life, [191] which we must acknowledge to be nothing else than the supreme and only and true God. Wherefore there is no reason why we should not confess, that those souls which the Manichæans call evil are either devoid of life and so not souls, neither will anything positively or negatively, neither follow after nor flee from anything; or, if they live so that they can be souls, and act as the Manichæans suppose, in no way do they live unless by life, and if it be an established fact, as it is, that Christ has said: "I am the life," [192] that all souls seeing that they cannot be souls except by living were created and fashioned by Christ, that is, by the Life.

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Footnotes

[190] Scarcely any one of his earlier treatises was more unsatisfactory to Augustin in his later Anti-Pelagian years than that Concerning Two Souls. In his Retractations, Book I., chapter xv., he recognizes the rashness of some of his statements and points out the sense in which they are tenable or the reverse. As regards the occasion of the writing, the following may be quoted: "After this book [De Utilitate Credendi] I wrote, while still a presbyter, against the Manichæans Concerning Two Souls, of which they say that one part is of God, the other from the race of darkness, which God did not found, and which is coeternal with God, and they rave about both these souls, the one good, the other evil, being in one man, saying forsooth that the evil soul on the one hand belongs to the flesh, which flesh also they say is of the race of darkness; but that the good soul is from the part of God that came forth, combated the race of darkness, and mingled with the latter; and they attribute all good things in man to that good soul, and all evil things to that evil soul."--A.H.N.] [191] In his Retractations, Augustin explains this proposition as follows: "I said this in the sense in which the creature is known to pertain to the Creator, but not in the sense that it is of Him, so as to be regarded as part of Him."--A.H.N. [192] John xiv. 6.


Chapter 2.--If the Light that is Perceived by Sense Has God for Its Author, as the Manichæans Acknowledge, Much More The Soul Which is Perceived by Intellect Alone.

2. But if at that time [193] my thought was not able to bear and sustain the question concerning life and partaking of life, which is truly a great question, and one that requires much calm discussion among the learned, I might perchance have had power to discover that which to every man considering himself, without a study of the individual parts, is perfectly evident, namely, that everything we are said to know and to understand, we comprehend either by bodily sense or by mental operation. That the five bodily senses are commonly enumerated as sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, than all of which intellect is immeasurably more noble and excellent, who would have been so ungrateful and impious as not to concede to me; which being established and confirmed, we should have seen how it follows, that whatsoever things are perceived by touch or sight or in any bodily manner at all, are by so much inferior to those things that we comprehend intellectually as the senses are inferior to the intellect. Wherefore, since all life, and so every soul, can be perceived by no bodily sense, but by the intellect alone, whereas while yonder sun and moon and every luminary that is beheld by these mortal eyes, the Manichæans themselves also say must be attributed to the true and good God, it is the height of madness to claim that that belongs to God which we observe bodily; but, on the other hand, to think that what we receive not only by the mind, but by the highest form of mind, [194] namely, reason and intellect, [195] that is life, whatsoever it may be called, nevertheless life, should be deprived and bereft of the same God as its author. For if having invoked God, I had asked myself what living is, how inscrutable it is to every bodily sense, how absolutely incorporeal it is, could not I have answered? Or would not the Manichæans also confess not only that the souls they detest live, but that they live also immortally? and that Christ's saying: "Send the dead to bury their dead," [196] was uttered not with reference to those not living at all, but with reference to sinners, which is the only death of the immortal soul; as when Paul writes: "The widow that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth," [197] he says that she at the same time is dead, and alive. Wherefore I should have directed attention not to the great degree of contamination in which the sinful soul lives, but only to the fact itself that it lives. But if I cannot perceive except by an act of intelligence, I believe it would have come into the mind, that by as much as any mind whatever is to be preferred to the light which we see through these eyes, by so much we should give to intellect the preference over the eyes themselves.

Footnotes

[193] It will aid the reader in following the thread of Augustin's argument, if he will bear in mind that throughout this treatise the writer considers the points of antagonism between Manichæism and Catholicism from the point of view of his early entanglement in Manichæan error. Considering the opportunities that he had for knowing the truth, the helps to have been expected from God in answer to prayer, the capacities of the unperverted intellect to arrive at truth, he inquires how he should have guarded himself from the insinuation of Manichæan error, how he should have defended the truth, and how he should have been the means of liberating others.--A.H.N. [194] Sublimitate animi. [195] Mente atque intelligentia. [196] Matt. viii. 22. [197] 1 Tim. v. 6.


Chapter 3.--How It is Proved that Every Body Also is from God. That the Soul Which is Called Evil by the Manichæans is Better Than Light.

They also affirm that the light is from the Father of Christ: should I then have doubted that every soul is from Him? But not even then, as a man forsooth so inexperienced and so youthful as I was, should I have been in doubt as to the derivation not only of the soul, but also of the body, nay of everything whatsoever, from Him, if I had reverently and cautiously reflected on what form is, or what has been formed, what shape is and what has been endued with shape.

3. But not to speak at present concerning the body, I lament concerning the soul, concerning spontaneous and vivid movement, concerning action, concerning life, concerning immortality; in fine, I lament that I, miserable, should have believed that anything could have all these properties apart from the goodness of God, which properties, great as they are, I sadly neglected to consider; this I think, should be to me a matter of groaning and of weeping. I should have inwardly pondered these things, I should have discussed them with myself, I should have referred them to others, I should have propounded the inquiry, what the power of knowing is, seeing there is nothing in man that we can compare to this excellency? And as men, if only they had been men, would have granted me this, I should have inquired whether seeing with these eyes is knowing? In case they had answered negatively, I should first have concluded, that mental intelligence is vastly inferior to ocular sensation; then I should have added, that what we perceive by means of a better thing must needs be judged to be itself better. Who would not grant this? I should have gone on to inquire, whether that soul which they call evil is an object of ocular sensation or of mental intelligence? They would have acknowledged that the latter is the case. All which things having been agreed upon and confirmed between us, I should have shown how it follows, that that soul forsooth which they execrate, is better than that light which they venerate, since the former is an object of mental knowledge, the latter an object of corporeal sense perception. But here perhaps they would have halted, and would have refused to follow the lead of reason, so great is the power of inveterate opinion and of falsehood long defended and believed. But I should have pressed yet more upon them halting, not harshly, not in puerile fashion, not obstinately; I should have repeated the things that had been conceded, and have shown how they must be conceded. I should have exhorted that they consult in common, that they may see clearly what must be denied to us; whether they think it false that intellectual perception is to be preferred to these carnal organs of sight, or that what is known by means of the excellency of the mind is more excellent than what is known by vile corporeal sensation; whether they would be unwilling to confess that those souls which they think heterogenous, can be known only by intellectual perception, that is, by the excellency itself of the mind; whether they would wish to deny that the sun and the moon are made known to us only by means of these eyes. But if they had replied that no one of these things could be denied otherwise than most absurdly and most impudently, I should have urged that they ought not to doubt but that the light whose worthiness of worship they proclaim, is viler than that soul which they admonish men to flee.


Chapter 4.--Even the Soul of a Fly is More Excellent Than the Light.

4. And here, if perchance in their confusion they had inquired of me whether I thought that the soul even of a fly [198] surpasses that light, I should have replied, yes, nor should it have troubled me that the fly is little, but it should have confirmed me that it is alive. For it is inquired, what causes those members so diminutive to grow, what leads so minute a body here and there according to its natural appetite, what moves its feet in numerical order when it is running, what regulates and gives vibration to its wings when flying? This thing whatever it is in so small a creature towers up so prominently to one well considering, that it excels any lightning flashing upon the eyes.

Footnotes

[198] Neither Augustin nor the Manichæans seem to have recognized the distinction in kind between the human soul and animal life.--A.H.N.


Chapter 5.--How Vicious Souls, However Worthy of Condemnation They May Be, Excel the Light Which is Praiseworthy in Its Kind.

Certainly nobody doubts that whatever is an object of intellectual perception, by virtue of divine laws surpasses in excellence every sensible object and consequently also this light. For what, I ask, do we perceive by thought, if not that it is one thing to know with the mind, and another thing to experience bodily sensations, and that the former is incomparably more sublime than the latter, and so that intelligible things must needs be preferred to sensible things, since the intellect itself is so highly exalted above the senses?

5. Hence this also I should perchance have known, which manifestly follows, since injustice and intemperance and other vices of the mind are not objects of sense, but of intellect, how it comes about that these too which we detest and consider condemnable, yet in as much as they are objects of intellect, can outrank this light however praiseworthy it may be in its kind. For it is borne in upon the mind subjecting itself well to God, that, first of all, not everything that we praise is to be preferred to everything that we find fault with. For in praising the purest lead, I do not therefore put a higher value upon it than upon the gold that I find fault with. For everything must be considered in its kind. I disapprove of a lawyer ignorant of many statutes, yet I so prefer him to the most approved tailor, that I should think him incomparably superior. But I praise the tailor because he is thoroughly skilled in his own craft, while I rightly blame the lawyer because he imperfectly fulfills the functions of his profession. Wherefore I should have found out that the light which in its own kind is perfect, is rightly to be praised; yet because it is included in the number of sensible things, which class must needs yield to the class of intelligible things, it must be ranked below unjust and intemperate souls, since these are intelligible; although we may without injustice judge these to be most worthy of condemnation. For in the case of these we ask that they be reconciled to God, not that they be preferred to that lightning. Wherefore, if any one had contended that this luminary is from God, I should not have opposed; but rather I should have said, that souls, even vicious ones, not in so far as they are vicious, but in so far as they are souls, must be acknowledged to be creatures of God.


Chapter 6.--Whether Even Vices Themselves as Objects of Intellectual Apprehension are to Be Preferred to Light as an Object of Sense Perception, and are to Be Attributed to God as Their Author. Vice of the Mind and Certain Defects are Not Rightly to Be Counted Among Intelligible Things. Defects Themselves Even If They Should Be Counted Among Intelligible Things Should Never Be Put Before Sensible Things. If Light is Visible by God, Much More is the Soul, Even If Vicious, Which in So Far as It Lives is an Intelligible Thing. Passages of Scripture are Adduced by the Manichæans to the Contrary.

At this point, in case some one of them, cautious and watchful, now also more studious than pertinacious, had admonished me that the inquiry is not about vicious souls but about vices themselves, which, seeing that they are not known by corporeal sense, and yet are known, can only be received as objects of intellectual apprehension, which if they excel all objects of sense, why can we not agree in attributing light to God as its author, but only a sacrilegious person would say that God is the author of vices; I should have replied to the man, if either on the spur of the moment, as is customary to the worshippers of the good God, a solution of this question had darted like lightning from on high, or a solution had been previously prepared. If I had not deserved or was unable to avail myself of either of these methods, I should have deferred the undertaking, and should have confessed that the thing propounded was difficult to discern and arduous. I should have withdrawn to myself, prostrated myself before God, groaned aloud asking Him not to suffer me to halt in mid space, when I should have moved forward with assured arguments, asking Him that I might not be compelled by a doubtful question either to subordinate intelligible things to sensible, and to yield, or to call Himself the author of vices; since either of these alternatives would have been absolutely full of falsehood and impiety. I can by no means suppose that He would have deserted me in such a frame of mind. Rather, in His own ineffable way, He would have admonished me to consider again and again whether vices of mind concerning which I was so troubled should be reckoned among intelligible things. But that I might find out, on account of the weakness of my inner eye, which rightly befell me on account of my sins, I should have devised some sort of stage for gazing upon spiritual things in visible things themselves, of which we have by no means a surer knowledge, but a more confident familiarity. Therefore I should straightway have inquired, what properly pertains to the sensation of the eyes. I should have found that it is the color, the dominion of which the light holds. For these are the things that no other sense touches, for the motions and magnitudes and intervals and figures of bodies, although they also can be perceived by the eyes, yet to perceive such is not their peculiar function, but belongs also to touch. Whence I should have gathered that by as much as yonder light excels other corporeal and sensible things, by so much is sight more noble than the other senses. The light therefore having been selected from all the things that are perceived by bodily sense, by this [light] I should have striven, and in this of necessity I should have placed that stage of my inquiry. I should have gone on to consider what might be done in this way, and thus I should have reasoned with myself: If yonder sun, conspicuous by its brightness and sufficing for day by its light, should little by little decline in our sight into the likeness of the moon, would we perceive anything else with our eyes than light however refulgent, yet seeking light by reason of not seeing what had been, and using it for seeing what was present? Therefore we should not see the decline, but the light that should survive the decline. But since we should not see, we should not perceive; for whatever we perceive by sight must necessarily be seen; wherefore if that decline were perceived neither by sight nor by any other sense, it cannot be reckoned among objects of sense. For nothing is an object of sense that cannot be perceived by sense. Let us apply now the consideration to virtue, by whose intellectual light we most fittingly say the mind shines. Again, a certain decline from this light of virtue, not destroying the soul, but obscuring it, is called vice. Therefore also vice can by no means be reckoned among objects of intellectual perception, as that decline of light is rightly excluded from the number of objects of sense perception. Yet what remains of soul, that is that which lives and is soul is just as much an object of intellectual perception as that is an object of sense perception which should shine in this visible luminary after any imaginable degree of decline. And so the soul, in so far as it is soul and partakes of life, without which it can in no way be soul, is most correctly to be preferred to all objects of sense perception. Wherefore it is most erroneous to say that any soul is not from God, from whom you boast that the sun and moon have their existence.

7. But if now it should be thought fit to designate as objects of sense perception not only all those things that we perceive by the senses, but also all those things that though not perceiving by the senses we judge of by means of the body, as of darkness through the eyes, of silence through the ears,--for not by seeing darkness and not by hearing silence do we know of their existence,--and again, in the case of objects of intellectual perception, not those things only which we see illuminated by the mind, as is wisdom itself, but also those things which by the illumination itself we avoid, such as foolishness, which I might fittingly designate mental darkness; I should have made no controversy about a word, but should have dissolved the whole question by an easy division, and straightway I should have proved to those giving good attention, that by the divine law of truth intelligible subsistences are to be preferred to sensible subsistences, not the decline of these subsistences, even though we should choose to call these intelligible, those sensible. Wherefore, that those who acknowledge that these visible luminaries and those intelligible souls are subsistences, are in every way compelled to grant and to attribute the sublimer part to souls; but that defects of either kind cannot be preferred the one to the other, for they are only privative and indicate nonexistence, and therefore have precisely the same force as negations themselves. For when we say, It is not gold, and, It is not virtue, although there is the greatest possible difference between gold and virtue, yet there is no difference between the negations that we adjoin to them. But that it is worse indeed not to be virtue than not to be gold, no sane man doubts. Who does not know that the difference lies not in the negations themselves, but in the things to which they are adjoined? For by as much as virtue is more excellent than gold, by so much is it more wretched to be in want of virtue than of gold. Wherefore, since intelligible things excel sensible things, we rightly feel greater repugnance towards defect in intelligible than in sensible things, esteeming not the defects, but the things that are deficient more or less precious. From which now it appears, that defect of light, which is intelligible, is far more wretched than defect of the sensible light, because, forsooth, life which is known is by far more precious than yonder light which is seen.

8. This being the case, who will dare, while attributing sun and moon, and whatever is refulgent in the stars, nay in this fire of ours and in this visible earthly life, to God, to decline to grant that any souls whatsoever, which are not souls except by the fact of their being perfectly alive, since in this fact alone life has the precedence of light, are from God. And since he speaks truth who says, In as far as a thing shines it is from God, would I speak falsely, mighty God, if I should say, In so far as a thing lives it is from God? Let not, I beseech thee, blindness of intellect and perversions of mind be increased to such an extent that men may fail to know these things. But however great their error and pertinacity might have been, trusting in these arguments and armed therewith, I believe that when I should have laid the matter before them thus considered and canvassed, and should have calmly conferred with them, I should have feared lest any one of them should have seemed to me to be of any consequence, should he endeavor to subordinate or even to compare to bodily sense, or to those things that pertain to bodily sense as objects of knowledge, either intellect or those things that are perceived (not by way of defect) by the intellect. Which point having been settled, how would he or any other have dared to deny that such souls as he would consider evil, yet since they are souls, are to be reckoned in the number of intelligible things, nor are objects of intellectual perception by way of defect? This is on the supposition that souls are souls only by being alive. For if they were intellectually perceived as vicious through defect, being vicious by lack of virtue, yet they are perceived as souls not through defect, for they are souls by reason of being alive. Nor can it be maintained that presence of life is a cause of defect, for by as much as anything is defective, by so much is it severed from life.

9. Since therefore it would have been every way evident that no souls can be separated from that Author from whom yonder light is not separated, whatever they might have now adduced I should not have accepted, and should rather have admonished them that they should choose with me to follow those who maintain that whatever is, since it is, and in whatever degree it is, has its existence from the one God.


Chapter 7.--How Evil Men are of God, and Not of God.

They might have cited against me those words of the gospel: "Ye therefore do not hear, because ye are not of God;" "Ye are of your father the devil." [199]I also should have cited: "All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made," [200] and this of the Apostle: "One God of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ through whom are all things," [201] and again from the same Apostle: "Of whom are all things, through whom are all things, in whom are all things, to Him be glory." [202]I should have exhorted those men (if indeed I had found them men), that we should presume upon nothing as if we had found it out, but should rather inquire of the masters who would demonstrate the agreement and harmony of those passages that seem to be discordant. For when in one and the same Scriptural authority we read: "All things are of God," [203] and elsewhere: "Ye are not of God," since it is wrong rashly to condemn books of Scripture, who would not have seen that a skilled teacher should be found who would know a solution of this problem, from whom assuredly if endowed with good intellectual powers, and a "spiritual man," as is said by divine inspiration [204] (for he would necessarily have favored the true arguments concerning the intelligible and sensible nature, which, as far as I can, I have conducted and handled, nay he would have disclosed them far better and more convincingly); we should have heard nothing else concerning this problem, except, as might happen, that there is no class of souls but has its existence from God, and that it is yet rightly said to sinners and unbelievers: "Ye are not of God." For we also, perchance, Divine aid having been implored, should have been able easily to see, that it is one thing to live and another to sin, and (although life in sin may be called death in comparison with just life, [205] and while in one man it may be found, that he is at the same time alive and a sinner) that so far as he is alive, he is of God, so far as he is a sinner he is not of God. In which division we use that alternative that suits our sentiment; so that when we wish to insist upon the omnipotence of God as Creator, we may say even to sinners that they are of God. For we are speaking to those who are contained in some class, we are speaking to those having animal life, we are speaking to rational beings, we are speaking lastly--and this applies especially to the matter in hand--to living beings, all which things are essentially divine functions. But when our purpose is to convict evil men, we rightly say: "Ye are not of God." For we speak to them as averse to truth, unbelieving, criminal, infamous, and, to sum up all in one term--sinners, all of which things are undoubtedly not of God. Therefore what wonder is it, if Christ says to sinners, convicting them of this very thing that they were sinners and did not believe in Him: "Ye are not of God;" and on the other hand, without prejudice to the former statement: "All things were made through Him," and "All things are of God?" For if not to believe Christ, to repudiate Christ's advent, not to accept Christ, was a sure mark of souls that are not of God; and so it was said: "Ye therefore hear not, because ye are not of God;" how would that saying of the apostle be true that occurs in the memorable beginning of the gospel: "He came unto his own things, and his own people did not receive him?" [206]Whence his own if they did not receive him; or whence therefore not his own because they did not receive him, unless that sinners by virtue of being men belong to God, but by virtue of being sinners belong to the devil? He who says: "His own people received him not" had reference to nature; but he who says: "Ye are not of God." had reference to will; for the evangelist was commending the works of God, Christ was censuring the sins of men.

Footnotes

[199] John viii. 47 and 44. [200] John i. 3. [201] 1 Cor. viii. 6. [202] Rom. xi. 36. [203] 1 Cor. xi. 12. [204] 1 Cor. ii. 15. [205] 1 Tim. v. 6. [206] John i. 11.


Chapter 8.--The Manichæans Inquire Whence is Evil and by This Question Think They Have Triumphed. Let Them First Know, Which is Most Easy to Do, that Nothing Can Live Without God. Consummate Evil Cannot Be Known Except by the Knowledge of Consummate Good, Which is God.

Here perchance some one may say: Whence are sins themselves, and whence is evil in general? If from man, whence is man? if from an angel, whence is the angel? When it is said, however truly and rightly, that these are from God, it nevertheless seems to those unskillful and possessed of little power to look into recondite matters, that evils and sins are thereby connected, as by a sort of chain, to God. By this question they think themselves triumphant, as if forsooth to ask were to know;--would it were so, for in that case no one would be more knowing than myself. Yet very often in controversy the propounder of a great question, while impersonating the great teacher, is himself more ignorant in the matter concerning which he would frighten his opponent, than he whom he would frighten.

These therefore suppose that they are superior to the common run, because the former ask questions that the latter cannot answer. If therefore when I most unfortunately was associated with them, not in the position in which I have now for some time been, they had raised these objections when I had brought forward this argument, I should have said: I ask that you meanwhile agree with me, which is most easy, that if nothing can shine without God, much less can anything live without God. Let us not persist in such monstrous opinions as to maintain that any souls whatsoever have life apart from God. For perchance it may so happen that with me you are ignorant as to this thing, namely whence is evil, let us then learn either simultaneously or in any order, I care not what. For what if knowledge of the perfection of evil is impossible to man without knowledge of the perfection of good? For we should not know darkness if we were always in darkness. But the notion of light does not allow its opposite to be unknown. But the highest good is that than which there is nothing higher. But God is good and than Him nothing can be higher. God therefore is the highest good. Let us therefore together so recognize God, and thus what we seek too hastily will not be hidden from us. Do you suppose then that the knowledge of God is a matter of small account or desert. For what other reward is there for us than life eternal, which is to know God? For God the Master says: "But this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only and true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." [207]For the soul, although it is immortal, yet because aversion from the knowledge of God is rightly called its death, when it is converted to God, the reward of eternal life to be attained is that knowledge; so that this is, as has been said, eternal life. But no one can be converted to God, except he turn himself away from this world. This for myself I feel to be arduous and exceedingly difficult, whether it is easy to you, God Himself would have seen. I should have been inclined to think it easy to you, had I not been moved by the fact, that, since the world from which we are commanded to turn away is visible, and the apostle says: "The things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal," [208] you ascribe more importance to the judgment of these eyes than to that of the mind, asserting and believing as you do that there is no shining feather that does not shine from God; and that there are living souls that do not live from God. These and like things I should either have said to them or considered with myself, for even then, supplicating God with all my bowels, so to speak, and examining as attentively as possible the Scriptures, I should perchance have been able either to say such things or to think them, so far as was necessary for my salvation.

Footnotes

[207] John xvii. 3. [208] 2 Cor. iv. 18.


Chapter 9.--Augustin Deceived by Familiarity with the Manichæans, and by the Succession of Victories Over Ignorant Christians Reported by Them. The Manichæans are Likewise Easily Refuted from the Knowledge of Sin and the Will.

But two things especially, which easily lay hold upon that unwary age, urged me through wonderful circuits. One of these was familiarity, suddenly, by a certain false semblance of goodness, wrapped many times around my neck as a certain sinuous chain. The other was, that I was almost always noxiously victorious in arguing with ignorant Christians who yet eagerly attempted, each as he could, to defend their faith. [209]By which frequent success the ardor of youth was kindled, and by its own impulse rashly verged upon the great evil of stubbornness. For this kind of wrangling, after I had become an auditor among them, whatever I was able to do either by my own genius, such as it was, or by reading the works of others, I most gladly devoted to them alone. Accordingly from their speeches ardor in disputations was daily increased, from success in disputations love for them [the Manichæans]. Whence it resulted that whatever they said, as if affected by certain strange disorders, I approved of as true, not because I knew it to be true, but because I wished it to be. So it came about that, however slowly and cautiously, yet for a long time I followed men that preferred a sleek straw to a living soul.

12. So be it, I was not able at that time to distinguish and discern sensible from intelligible things, carnal forsooth from spiritual. It did not belong to age, nor to discipline, nor even to any habit, nor, finally, to any deserts; for it is a matter of no small joy and felicitation: had I not thus been able at length even to grasp that which in the judgment of all men nature itself by the laws of the most High God has established?

Footnotes

[209] Nothing is more certain than that Christianity has suffered more at the hands of injudicious and ignorant defenders than from its most astute and determined foes. Little attention would be paid to the blatant infidels of the present day were it not for the interest aroused and sustained by weak attempts to refute their arguments. And as the youthful, ardent Augustin was encouraged and confirmed in his errors by the inability of his opponents, so are errors confirmed at the present day. The philosophical defence of Christianity is a matter of the utmost delicacy, and should be undertaken with fear and trembling.--A.H.N.


Chapter 10.--Sin is Only from the Will. His Own Life and Will Best Known to Each Individual. What Will is.

For let any men whatever, if only no madness has broken them loose from the common sense of the human race, bring whatever zeal they like for judging, whatever ignorance, nay whatever slowness of mind, I should like to find out what they would have replied to me had I asked, whether a man would seem to them to have sinned by whose hand while he was asleep another should have written something disgraceful? Who doubts that they would have denied that it is a sin, and have exclaimed against it so vehemently that they might perchance have been enraged that I should have thought them proper objects of such a question? Of whom reconciled and restored to equanimity, as best I could do it, I should have begged that they would not take it amiss if I asked them another thing just as manifest, just as completely within the knowledge of all. Then I should have asked, if some stronger person had done some evil thing by the hand of one not sleeping but conscious, yet with the rest of his members bound and in constraint, whether because he knew it, though absolutely unwilling, he should be held guilty of any sin? And here all marvelling that I should ask such questions, would reply without hesitation, that he had absolutely not sinned at all. Why so? Because whoever has done anything evil by means of one unconscious or unable to resist, the latter can by no means be justly condemned. And precisely why this is so, if I should inquire of the human nature in these men, I should easily bring out the desired answer, by asking in this manner: Suppose that the sleeper already knew what the other would do with his hand, and of purpose aforethought, having drunk so much as would prevent his being awakened, should go to sleep, in order to deceive some one with an oath. Would any amount of sleep suffice to prove his innocence? What else than a guilty man would one pronounce him? But if he has also willingly been bound that he may deceive some one by this pretext, in what respect then would those chains profit as a means of relieving him of sin? Although bound by these he was really not able to resist, as in the other case the sleeper was absolutely ignorant of what he was then doing. Is there therefore any possibility of doubting that both should be judged to have sinned? Which things having been conceded, I should have argued, that sin is indeed nowhere but in the will, [210] since this consideration also would have helped me, that justice holds guilty those sinning by evil will alone, although they may have been unable to accomplish what they willed.

13. For who could have said that, in adducing these considerations, I was dwelling upon obscure and recondite things, where on account of the fewness of those able to understand, either fraud or suspicion of ostentation is accustomed to arise? Let that distinction between intelligible and sensible things withdraw for a little: let me not be found fault with for following up slow minds with the stimuli of subtle disputations. Permit me to know that I live, permit me to know that I will to live. If in this the human race agrees, as our life is known to us, so also is our will. Nor when we become possessed of this knowledge, is there any occasion to fear lest any one should convince us that we may be deceived; for no one can be deceived as to whether he does not live, or wishes nothing. I do not think that I have adduced anything obscure, and my concern is rather lest some should find fault with me for dwelling on things that are too manifest. But let us consider the bearing of these things.

14. Sinning therefore takes place only by exercise of will. But our will is very well known to us; for neither should I know that I will, if I did not know what will itself is. Accordingly, it is thus defined: will is a movement of mind, no one compelling, either for not losing or for obtaining something. [211]Why therefore could not I have so defined it then? Was it difficult to see that one unwilling is contrary to one willing, just as the left hand is contrary to the right, not as black to white? For the same thing cannot be at the same time black and white. But whoever is placed between two men is on the left hand with reference to one, on the right with reference to the other. One man is both on the right hand and on the left hand at the same time, but by no means both to the one man. So indeed one mind may be at the same time unwilling and willing, but it cannot be at the same time unwilling and willing with reference to one and the same thing. For when any one unwillingly does anything; if you ask him whether he wished to do it, he says that he did not. Likewise if you ask whether he wished not to do it, he replies that he did. So you will find him unwilling with reference to doing, willing with reference to not doing, that is to say, one mind at the same time having both attitudes, but each referring to different things. Why do I say this? Because if we should again ask wherefore though unwilling he does this, he will say that he is compelled. For every one also who does a thing unwillingly is compelled, and every one who is compelled, if he does a thing, does it only unwillingly. It follows that he that is willing is free from compulsion, even if any one thinks himself compelled. And in this manner every one who willingly does a thing is not compelled, and whoever is not compelled, either does it willingly or not at all. Since nature itself proclaims these things in all men whom we can interrogate without absurdity, from the boy even to the old man, from literary sport even to the throne of the wise, why then should I not have seen that in the definition of will should be put, "no one compelling," which now as if with greater experience most cautiously I have done. But if this is everywhere manifest, and promptly occurs to all not by instruction but by nature, what is there left that seems obscure, unless perchance it be concealed from some one, that when we wish for something, we will, and our mind is moved towards it, and we either have it or do not have it, and if we have it we will to retain it, if we have it not, to acquire it? Wherefore everyone who wills, wills either not to lose something or to obtain it. Hence if all these things are clearer than day, as they are, nor are they given to my conception alone, but by the liberality of truth itself to the whole human race, why could I not have said even at that time: Will is a movement of the mind, no one compelling, either for not losing or for obtaining something?

Footnotes

[210] The Pelagians used this statement with considerable effect in their polemics against its author. In his Retractations Augustin has this to say by way of explanation: "The Pelagians may think that thus was said in their interest, on account of young children whose sin which is remitted to them in baptism they deny on the ground that they do not yet use the power of will. As if indeed the sin, which we say they derive originally from Adam, that is, that they are implicated in his guilt and on this account are held obnoxious to punishment, could ever be otherwise than in will, by which will it was committed when the transgression of the divine precept was accomplished. Our statement, that `there is never sin but in will,' may be thought false for the reason that the apostle says: `If what I will not this I do, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.' For this sin is to such an extent involuntary, that he says: `What I will not this I do.' How, therefore, is there never sin but in the will? But this sin concerning which the apostle has spoken is called sin, because by sin it was done, and it is the penalty of sin; since this is said concerning carnal concupiscence, which he discloses in what follows saying: `I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good; for to will is present to me, but to accomplish that which is good, is not.' (Rom. vii. 16-18). Since the perfection of good is, that not even the concupiscence of sin should be in man, to which indeed when one lives well the will does not consent; nevertheless man does not accomplish the good because as yet concupiscence is in him, to which the will is antagonistic, the guilt of which concupiscence is loosed by baptism, but the infirmity remains, against which until it is healed every believer who advances well most earnestly struggles. But sin, which is never but in will, must especially be known as that which is followed by just condemnation. For this through one man entered into the world; although that sin also by which consent is yielded to concupiscence is not committed but by will. Wherefore also in another place I have said: `Not therefore except by will is sin committed.'"--A.H.N. On this matter Augustin's still earlier treatise De Libero Arbitrio, and his interesting Retractations on the same, should be compared. The reader of these earlier treatises in comparison with the Anti-Pelagian treatises can hardly fail to recognize a marked change of base on Augustin's part. His efforts to show the consistency of his earlier with his later modes of thought are to be pronounced only partially successful. The fact is, that in the Anti-Manichæan time he went too far in maintaining the absolute freedom of the will and the impossibility of sin apart from personal will in the sinner; while in the Anti-Pelagian time he ventured too near to the fatalism that he so earnestly combated in the Manichæans.--A.H.N. [211] This dictum also Augustin thought it needful to explain: "This was said that by this definition a willing person might be distinguished from one not willing, and so the intention might be referred to those who first in Paradise were the origin of evil to the human race, by sinning no one compelling, that is by sinning with free will, because also knowingly they sinned against the command, and the tempters persuaded, did not compel, that this should be done. For he who ignorantly sinned may not incongruously be said to have sinned unwillingly, although not knowing what he did, yet willingly he did it. So not even the sin of such a one could be without will, which will assuredly, as it has been defined, was a `movement of the mind, no one compelling, either for not losing or for obtaining something.' For he was not compelled to do what if he had been unwilling he would not have done. Because he willed, therefore he did it, even if he did not sin because he willed, being ignorant that what he did is sin. So not even such a sin could be without will, but by will of deed not by will of sin, which deed was yet sin; for this deed is what ought not to have taken place. But whoever knowingly sins, if he can without sin resist the one compelling him to sin, yet resists not, assuredly sins willingly. For he who can resist is not compelled to yield. But he who cannot by good will resist cogent covetousness, and therefore does what is contrary to the precepts of righteousness, this now is sin in the sense of being the penalty of sin. Wherefore it is most true that sin cannot be apart from will." It is needless to say that such reasoning would not have answered Augustin's purpose in writing against the Manichæans.--A.H.N.


Chapter 11.--What Sin is.

Some one will say: What assistance would this have furnished you against the Manichæans? Wait a moment; permit me first also to define sin, which, every mind reads divinely written in itself, cannot exist apart from will. Sin therefore is the will to retain and follow after what justice forbids, and from which it is free to abstain. [212] Although if it be not free, it is not will. But I have preferred to define more roughly than precisely. Should I not also have carefully examined those obscure books, whence I might have learned that no one is worthy of blame or punishment who either wills what justice does not prohibit him from willing, or does not do what he is not able to do? Do not shepherds on mountains, poets in theatres, unlearned in social intercourse, learned in libraries, masters in schools, priests in consecrated places, and the human race throughout the whole world, sing out these things? But if no one is worthy of blame and condemnation, who either does not act against the prohibition of justice, or who does not do what he cannot do, yet every sin is blameworthy and condemnable, who doubts then that it is sin, when willing is unjust, and not willing is free. And hence that definition is both true and easy to understand, and not only now but then also could have been spoken by me: Sin is the will of retaining or of obtaining, what justice forbids, and whence it is free to abstain?

Footnotes

[212] Here also Augustin guards himself in his Retractations: "The definition is true, inasmuch as that is defined which is only sin, and not also that which is the penalty of sin."--A.H.N.


Chapter 12.--From the Definitions Given of Sin and Will, He Overthrows the Entire Heresy of the Manichæans. Likewise from the Just Condemnation of Evil Souls It Follows that They are Evil Not by Nature But by Will. That Souls are Good By Nature, to Which the Pardon of Sins is Granted.

16. Come now, let us see in what respect these things would have aided us. Much every way, so that I should have desired nothing more; for they end the whole cause; for whoever consulting in the inner mind, where they are more pronounced and assured, the secrets of his own conscience, and the divine laws absolutely imposed upon nature, grants that these two definitions of will and sin are true, condemns without any hesitation by the fewest and the briefest, but plainly the most invincible reasons, the whole heresy of the Manichæans. Which can be thus considered. They say that there are two kinds of souls, the one good, which is in such a way from God, that it is said not to have been made by Him out of any material or out of nothing, but to have proceeded as a certain part from the very substance itself of God; the other evil, which they believe and strive to get others to believe pertains to God in no way whatever; and so they maintain that the one is the perfection of good, but the other the perfection of evil, and that these two classes were at one time distinct but are now commingled. The character and the cause of this commingling I had not yet heard; but nevertheless I could have inquired whether that evil kind of souls, before it was mingled with the good, had any will. For if not, it was without sin and innocent, and so by no means evil. [213]But if evil in such a way, that though without will, as fire, yet if it should touch the good it would violate and corrupt it; how impious it is to believe that the nature of evil is powerful enough to change any part of God, and that the Highest Good is corruptible and violable! But if the will was present, assuredly there was present, no one compelling, a movement of the mind either towards not losing something or obtaining something. But this something was either good, or was thought to be good, for not otherwise could it be earnestly desired. But in supreme evil, before the commingling which they maintain, there never was any good. Whence then could there be in it either the knowledge or the thought of good? Did they wish for nothing that was in themselves, and earnestly desire that true good which was without? That will must truly be declared worthy of distinguished and great praise by which is earnestly desired the supreme and true good. Whence then in supreme evil was this movement of mind most worthy of so great praise? Did they seek it for the sake of injuring it? In the first place, the argument comes to the same thing. For he who wishes to injure, wishes to deprive another of some good for the sake of some good of his own. There was therefore in them either a knowledge of good or an opinion of good, which ought by no means to belong to supreme evil. In the second place, whence had they known, that good placed outside of themselves, which they designed to injure, existed at all. If they had intellectually perceived it, what is more excellent than such a mind? Is there anything else for which the whole energy of good men is put forth except the knowledge of that supreme and sincere good? What therefore is now scarcely conceded to a few good and just men, was mere evil, no good assisting, then able to accomplish? But if those souls bore bodies and saw the supreme good with their eyes, what tongues, what hearts, what intellects suffice for lauding and proclaiming those eyes, with which the minds of just men can scarcely be compared? How great good things we find in supreme evil! For if to see God is evil, God is not a good; but God is a good; therefore to see God is good; and I know not what can be compared to this good. Since to see anything is good, whence can it be made out that to be able to see is evil? Therefore whatever in those eyes or in those minds brought it about, that the divine essence could be seen by them, brought about a great thing and a good thing most worthy of ineffable praise. But if it was not brought about, but it was such in itself and eternal, it is difficult to find anything better than this evil.

17. Lastly, that these souls may have nothing of these praiseworthy things which by the reasonings of the Manichæans they are compelled to have, I should have asked, whether God condemns any or no souls. If none, there is no judgment of rewards and punishments, no providence, and the world is administered by chance rather than by reason, or rather is not administered at all. For the name administration must not be given to chances. But if it is impious for all those that are bound by any religion to believe this, it remains either that there is condemnation of some souls, or that there are no sins. But if there are no sins, neither is there any evil. Which if the Manichæans should say, they would slay their heresy with a single blow. Therefore they and I agree that some souls are condemned by divine law and judgment. But if these souls are good, what is that justice? If evil, are they so by nature, or by will? But by nature souls can in no way be evil. Whence do we teach this. From the above definitions of will and sin. For to speak of souls, and that they are evil, and that they do not sin, is full of madness; but to say that they sin without will, is great craziness, and to hold any one guilty of sin for not doing what he could not do, belongs to the height of iniquity and insanity. Wherefore whatever these souls do, if they do it by nature not by will, that is, if they are wanting in a movement of mind free both for doing and not doing, if finally no power of abstaining from their work is conceded to them; we cannot hold that the sin is theirs. [214]But all confess both that evil souls are justly, and souls that have not sinned are unjustly condemned; therefore they confess that those souls are evil that sin. But these, as reason teaches, do not sin. Therefore the extraneous class of evil souls of the Manichæans, whatever it may be, is a non-entity.

18. Let us now look at that good class of souls, which again they exalt to such a degree as to say that it is the very substance of God. But how much better it is that each one should recognize his own rank and merit, nor be so puffed up with sacrilegious pride as to believe that as often as he experiences a change in himself it is the substance of that supreme good, which devout reason holds and teaches to be unchangeable! For behold! since it is manifest that souls do not sin in not being such as they cannot be; it follows that these supposititious souls, whatever they may be, do not sin at all, and moreover that they are absolutely non-existent; it remains that since there are sins, they find none to whom to attribute them except the good class of souls and the substance of God. But especially are they pressed by Christian authority; for never have they denied that forgiveness of sins is granted when any one has been converted to God; never have they said (as they have said of many other passages) that some corrupter has interpolated this into the divine Scriptures. To whom then are sins attributed? If to those evil souls of the alien class, these also can become good, can possess the kingdom of God with Christ. Which denying, they [the Manichæans] have no other class except those souls which they maintain are of the substance of God. It remains that they acknowledge that not only these latter also, but these alone sin. But I make no contention about their being alone in sinning; yet they sin. But are they compelled to sin by being commingled with evil? If so compelled that there was no power of resisting, they do not sin. If it is in their power to resist, and they voluntarily consent, we are compelled to find out through their [the Manichæan] teaching, why so great good things in supreme evil, why this evil in supreme good, unless it be that neither is that which they bring into suspicion evil, nor is that which they pervert by superstition supreme good?

Footnotes

[213] In his Retractations, Augustin replies to the Pelagian denial of the sinfulness of infants, in support of which they had quoted the above sentence. "They [infants] are held guilty not by propriety of will but by origin. For what is every earthly man in origin but Adam?" The will of the whole human race was in Adam, and when Adam sinned the whole race voluntarily sinned, seems to be his meaning.--A.H.N. [214] In his Retractations, Augustin explains that by nature is to be understood the state in which we were created without vice. He transfers the entire argument from the actual condition of man to the primitive Adamic condition. It is evident, however, that this was not his meaning when he combated the Manichæans. The question of infant sinfulness arises here also, and is discussed in the usual Anti-Pelagian way.--A.H.N.


Chapter 13.--From Deliberation on the Evil and on the Good Part It Results that Two Classes of Souls are Not to Be Held to. A Class of Souls Enticing to Shameful Deeds Having Been Conceded, It Does Not Follow that These are Evil by Nature, that the Others are Supreme Good.

19. But if I had taught, or at any rate had myself learned, that they rave and err regarding those two classes of souls, why should I have thenceforth thought them worthy of being heard or consulted about anything? That I might learn hence, that these two kinds of souls are pointed out, which in the course of deliberation assent puts now on the evil side, now on the good? Why is not this rather the sign of one soul which by free will can be borne here and there, swayed hither and thither? For it was my own experience to feel that I am one, considering evil and good and choosing one or the other, but for the most part the one pleases, the other is fitting, placed in the midst of which we fluctuate. Nor is it to be wondered at, for we are now so constituted that through the flesh we can be affected by sensual pleasure, and through the spirit by honorable considerations. Am I not therefore compelled to acknowledge two souls? Nay, we can better and with far less difficulty recognize two classes of good things, of which neither is alien from God as its author, one soul acted upon from diverse directions, the lower and the higher, or to speak more correctly, the external and the internal. These are the two classes which a little while ago we considered under the names sensible and intelligible, which we now prefer to call more familiarly carnal and spiritual. But it has been made difficult for us to abstain from carnal things, since our truest bread is spiritual. For with great labor we now eat this bread. For neither without punishment for the sin of transgression have we been changed from immortal into mortal. So it happens, that when we strive after better things, habit formed by connection with the flesh and our sins in some way begin to militate against us and to put obstacles in our way, some foolish persons with most obtuse superstition suspect that there is another kind of souls which is not of God.

20. However even if it be conceded to them that we are enticed to shameful deeds by another inferior kind of souls, they do not thence make it evident that those enticing are evil by nature, or those enticed, supremely good. For it may be, the former of their own will, by striving after what was not lawful, that is, by sinning, from being good have become evil; and again they may be made good, but in such manner that for a long time they remain in sin, and by a certain occult suasion traduce to themselves other souls. Then, they may not be absolutely evil, but in their own kind, however inferior, they may exercise their own functions without any sin. But those superior souls to whom justice, the directress of things, has assigned a far more excellent activity, if they should wish to follow and to imitate those inferior ones, become evil, not because they imitate evil souls, but because they imitate in an evil way. By the evil souls is done what is proper to them, by the good what is alien to them is striven after. Hence the former remain in their own grade, the latter are plunged into a lower. It is as when men copy after beasts. For the four-footed horse walks beautifully, but if a man on all fours should imitate him, who would think him worthy even of chaff for food? Rightly therefore we generally disapprove of one who imitates, while we approve of him whom he imitates. But we disapprove not because he has not succeeded, but for wishing to succeed at all. For in the horse we approve of that to which by as much as we prefer man, by so much are we offended that he copies after inferior creatures. So among men, however well the crier may do in sending forth his voice, would not the senator be insane, if he should do it even more clearly and better than the crier? Take an illustration from the heavenly bodies: The moon when shining is praised, and by its course and its changes is quite pleasing to those that pay attention to such things. But if the sun should wish to imitate it (for we may feign that it has desires of this sort [215] ), who would not be greatly and rightly displeased. From which illustrations I wish it to be understood, that even if there are souls (which meanwhile is left an open question [216] ) devoted to bodily offices not by sin but by nature, and even if they are related to us, however inferior they may be, by some inner affinity, they should not be esteemed evil simply because we are evil ourselves in following them and in loving corporeal things. For we sin by loving corporeal things, because by justice we are required and by nature we are able to love spiritual things, and when we do this we are, in our kind, the best and the happiest. [217]

21. Wherefore what proof does deliberation, violently urged in both directions, now prone to sin, now borne on toward right conduct, furnish, that we are compelled to accept two kinds of souls, the nature of one of which is from God, of the other not; when we are free to conjecture so many other causes of alternating states of mind? But that these things are obscure and are to no purpose pried into by blear-eyed minds, whoever is a good judge of things sees. Wherefore those things rather which have been said regarding the will and sin, those things, I say, that supreme justice permits no man using his reason to be ignorant of, those things which if they were taken from us, there is nothing whence the discipline of virtue may begin, nothing whence it may rise from the death of vices, those things I say considered again and again with sufficient clearness and lucidity convince us that the heresy of the Manichæans is false.

Footnotes

[215] Augustin's carefulness to explain that he is only indulging in personification is doubtless due to the fact that with the Manichæans the sun and the moon were objects of worship.--A.H.N. [216] In his Retractations, Augustin explains that he did not really regard this as an open question, but speaks of it as such only so far as this particular discussion is concerned. He simply declines to enter upon a consideration of it in this connection.--A.H.N. [217] Here also the use of the word "nature" gave Augustin trouble in his later years. He claims in the Retractations that he uses the word in the sense of "nature that has been healed" and that "cannot be vitiated," and seeks to show that he did not mean to exclude divine grace.--A.H.N.


Chapter 14.--Again It is Shown from the Utility of Repenting that Souls are Not by Nature Evil. So Sure a Demonstration is Not Contradicted Except from the Habit of Erring.

22. Like the foregoing considerations is what I shall now say about repenting. For as among all sane people it is agreed, and this the Manichæans themselves not only confess but also teach, that to repent of sin is useful. Why shall I now, in this matter, collect the testimonies of the divine Scriptures, which are scattered throughout their pages? It is also the voice of nature; notice of this thing has escaped no fool. We should be undone, if this were not deeply imbedded in our nature. Some one may say that he does not sin; but no barbarity will dare to say, that if one sins he should not repent of it. This being the case, I ask to which of the two kinds of souls does repenting pertain? I know indeed that it can pertain neither to him who does ill nor to him who cannot do well. Wherefore, that I may use the words of the Manichæans, if a soul of darkness repent of sin, it is not of the substance of supreme evil, if a soul of light, it is not of the substance of supreme good; that disposition of repenting which is profitable testifies alike that the penitent has done ill, and that he could have done well. How, therefore, is there from me nothing of evil, if I have acted unadvisedly, or how can I rightly repent if I have not so done? Hear the other part. How is there from me nothing of good, if in me there is good will, or how do I rightly repent if there is not? Wherefore, either let them deny that there is great utility in repenting, so that they may be driven not only from the Christian name, but from every even imaginary argument for their views, or let them cease to say and to teach that there are two kinds of souls, one of which has nothing of evil, the other nothing of good; for that whole sect is propped up by this two-headed [218] or rather headlong [219] variety of souls.

23. And to me indeed it is sufficient thus to know that the Manichæans err, that I know that sin must be repented of; and yet if now by right of friendship I should accost some one of my friends who still thinks that they are worthy of being listened to, and should say to him: Do you not know that it is useful, when any one has sinned, to repent? Without hesitation he will swear that he knows. If then I shall have convinced you that Manichæism is false, will you not desire anything more? Let him reply what more he can desire in this matter. Very well, so far. But when I shall have begun to show the sure and necessary arguments which, bound to it with adamantine chains, as the saying is, follow that proposition, and shall have conducted to its conclusion the whole process by which that sect is overthrown, he will deny perhaps that he knows the utility of repenting, which no learned man, no unlearned, is ignorant of, and will rather contend, when we hesitate and deliberate, that two souls in us furnish each its own proper help to the solution of the different parts of the question. O habit of sin! O accompanying penalty of sin! Then you turned me away from the consideration of things so manifest, but you injured me when I did not discern. But now, among my most familiar acquaintances who do not discern, you wound and torment me discerning.

Footnotes

[218] Bicipiti. [219] Præcipiti.


Chapter 15.--He Prays for His Friends Whom He Has Had as Associates in Error.

24. Give heed to these things, I beseech you, dearly beloved. Your dispositions I have well known. If you now concede to me the mind and the reason of any sort of man, these things are far more certain than the things that we seemed to learn or rather were compelled to believe. Great God, God omnipotent, God of supreme goodness, whose right it is to be believed and known to be inviolable and unchangeable. Trinal Unity, whom the Catholic Church worships, as one who have experienced in myself Thy mercy, I supplicate Thee, that Thou wilt not permit those with whom from boyhood I have lived most harmoniously in every relation to dissent from me in Thy worship. I see how it was especially to be expected in this place that I should either even then have defended the Catholic Scriptures attacked by the Manichæans, if as I say, I had been cautious; or I should now show that they can be defended. But in other volumes God will aid my purpose, for the moderate length of this, as I suppose, already asks to be spared. [220]

Footnotes

[220] This purpose Augustin accomplished in several works. See especially Contra Adimantum, and Contra Faustum Manichæum. On Augustin's defense of the Old Testament Scriptures, see Mozley's Ruling Ideas in Early Ages, last chapter.--A.H.N.


. St. Augustin,

Acts or Disputation Against Fortunatus the Manichæan.

[acta seu disputatio contra fortunatum manichæum].

A.D. 392. [221]

translated by Albert H. Newman, D.D., LL.D., Professor of Church History and Comparative Religion, in Toronto Baptist (Theological) College, Toronto, Canada.

.


Disputation of the First Day.

On the fifth of September, the most renowned men Arcadius Augustus (the second time) and Rufinus being consuls, a disputation against Fortunatus, an elder of the Manichæans, was held in the city of Hippo Regius, in the baths of Sossius, in the presence of the people.

1. Augustin said: I now regard as error what formerly I regarded as truth. I desire to hear from you who are present whether my supposition is correct. First of all I regard it as the height of error to believe that Almighty God, in whom is our one hope, is in any part either violable, or contaminable, or corruptible. This I know your heresy affirms, not indeed in the words that I now use; for when you are questioned you confess that God is incorruptible, and absolutely inviolable, and incontaminable; but when you begin to expound the rest of your system, we are compelled to declare Him corruptible, penetrable, contaminable. For you say that another race of darkness, whatever it may be, has rebelled against the kingdom of God; but that Almighty God, when He saw what ruin and desolation threatened his domains, unless he should make some opposition to the adverse race and resist it, sent this virtue, from whose commingling with evil and the race of darkness the world was framed. Hence it is that here good souls labor, serve, err, are corrupted: that they may see the need of a liberator, who should purge them from error, loose them from this commingling with evil, and liberate them from servitude. I think it impious to believe that Almighty God ever feared any adverse race, or was under necessity to precipitate us into afflictions.

Fortunatus said: Because I know that you have been in our midst, that is, have lived as an adherent among the Manichæans, these are the principles of our faith. The matter now to be considered is our mode of living, the falsely alleged crimes for which we are maltreated. Therefore let the good men present hear from you whether these things with which we are charged and which we have thrown in our teeth are true or false. For from your instruction, and from your exposition and explanation, they will have been able to gain more correct information about our mode of life, if it shall have been set forth by you.

2. Augustin said: I was among you, but faith and morals are different questions. I proposed to discuss faith. But if those present prefer to hear about morals, I do not decline that question.

Fortunatus said: I wish first to purge myself in your conscience in which we are polluted, by the testimony of a competent man, (who even now is competent for me), and in view of the future examination of Christ, the just judge, whether he saw in us, or himself practiced by imitation, the things that are now thrown in our teeth?

3. Augustin said: You call me to something else, when I had proposed to discuss faith, but concerning your morals only those who are your Elect can fully know. But you know that I was not your Elect, but an Auditor. Hence though I was present at your prayer meetings, [222] as you have asked (whether separately among yourselves you have any prayer meetings, God alone and yourselves can know); yet in your prayer meetings where I have been present I have seen nothing shameful take place; but only that the faith that I afterwards learned and approved is denounced, and that you perform your services facing the sun. Besides this I found out nothing new in your meetings, but whoever raises any question of morals against you, raises it against your Elect. But what you who are Elect do among yourselves, I have no means of knowing. For I have often heard from you that you receive the Eucharist. But since the time of receiving it was concealed from me, how could I know what you receive? [223]So keep the question about morals, if you please, for discussion among your Elect, if it can be discussed. You gave me a faith that I today disapprove. This I proposed to discuss. Let a response be made to my proposition.

Fortunatus said: And our profession is this very thing: that God is incorruptible, lucid, unapproachable, intenible, impassible, that He inhabits His own eternal lights, that nothing corruptible proceeds from Him, neither darkness, demons, Satan, nor anything adverse can be found in His kingdom. But that He sent forth a Saviour like Himself; that the Word born from the foundation of the world, when He had formed the world, after the formation of the world came among men; that He has chosen souls worthy of Himself according to His own holy will, sanctified by celestial command, imbued with the faith and reason of celestial things; that under His leadership those souls will return hence again to the kingdom of God according to the holy promise of Him who said: "I am the way, the truth, and the door;" [224] and "No one can come unto the Father, except through me." These things we believe because otherwise, that is, through another mediator, souls cannot return to the kingdom of God, unless they find Him as the way, the truth, and the door. For Himself said: "He that hath seen me, hath seen my Father also;" [225] and "whosoever shall have believed on me shall not taste death forever, but has passed from death unto life, and shall not come into judgment." [226]These things we believe and this is the reason of our faith, and according to the strength of our mind we endeavor to act according to His commandments, following after the one faith of this Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Spirit. [227]

4. Augustin said: What was the cause of those souls being precipitated into death, whom you confess come through Christ from death to life?

Fortunatus said: Hence now deign to go on and to contradict, if there is nothing besides God.

5. Augustin said: Nay, do you deign to answer the question put to you: What cause has given these souls to death?

Fortunatus said: Nay but do you deign to say whether there is anything besides God, or all things are in God.

6. Augustin said: This I can reply, that the Lord wished me to know that God cannot suffer any necessity, nor be violated or corrupted in any part. Which, since you also acknowledge, I ask by what necessity He sent hither souls that you say return through Christ?

Fortunatus said: What you have said: that thus far God has revealed to you, that He is incorruptible, as He has also revealed to me; the reason must be sought, how and wherefore souls have come into this world, so that now of right God should liberate them from this world through his Son only begotten and like Himself, if besides Himself there is nothing?

7. Augustin said: We ought not to disappoint those present, being men of note, and from the question proposed for discussion go to another. So we both confess, so we concede to ourselves, that God is incorruptible and inviolable, and could have in no way suffered. From which it follows, that your heresy is false, which says that God, when He saw desolation and ruin threaten His kingdom, sent forth a power that should do battle with the race of darkness, and that out of this commingling our souls are laboring. My argument is brief, and as I suppose, perfectly clear to any one. If God could have suffered nothing from the race of darkness because He is inviolable, without cause He sent us hither that we might here suffer distress. But if anything can suffer, it is not inviolable, and you deceive those to whom you say that God is inviolable. For this your heresy denies when you expound the rest of it.

Fortunatussaid: We are of that mind in which the Apostle Paul instructs us, who says: "Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who when He had been constituted in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but emptied Himself receiving the form of a servant, having been made in the likeness of men, and having been found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and was made obedient even unto death." [228]We have this mind therefore about ourselves, which we have also about Christ, who when He was constituted in the form of God, was made obedient even unto death that He might show the similitude of our souls. And like as He showed in Himself the similitude of death, and having been raised from the midst of the dead showed that He was from the Father, in the same manner we think it will be with our souls, because through Him we shall have been able to be freed from this death, which is either alien from God, or if it belongs to God, His mercy ceases, and the name of liberator, and the works of Him who liberates. [229]

8. Augustin said: I ask how we came into death, and you tell how we may be liberated from death.

Fortunatus said: So the apostle said that we ought to have that mind concerning ourselves which Christ has shown us. If Christ was in suffering and death, so also are we.

9. Augustin said: It is known to all that the Catholic faith is to the effect that our Lord, that is the Power and Wisdom of God, [230] and the Word through whom all things have been made and without whom was not anything made, [231] took upon Himself man to liberate us. In the man whom He took upon Himself, He demonstrated those things that you spoke of. But we now ask concerning the substance of God Himself and of Unspeakable Majesty, whether anything can injure it or not. For if anything can injure it, He is not inviolable. If nothing can injure the substance of God, what was the race of darkness about to do to it, against which you say war was waged by God before the foundation of the world; in which war you assert that we, that is souls that are now manifestly in need of a liberator, have been commingled with every evil and implicated in death. For I return to that very brief statement: If He could be injured, He is not inviolable; if He could not, He acted cruelly in sending us hither to suffer these things.

Fortunatus said: Does the soul belong to God, or not?

10. Augustin said: If it is just that you should fail to respond to my questions, and that I should be questioned, I will reply.

Fortunatus said: Does the soul act independently? This I ask of you.

11. Augustin said: I indeed will tell what you have asked; only remember this, that while you have refused to respond to my questions, I have responded to yours. If you ask whether the soul descended from God, it is indeed a great question; but whether it descends from God or not, I make this reply concerning the soul, that it is not God; that God is one thing, the soul another. That God is inviolable, incorruptible, and impenetrable, and incontaminable, who also could be corrupted in no part and to whom no injury can be done in any part. But we see also that the soul is sinful, and is conversant with misery, and seeks the truth, and is in want of a liberator. This changing condition of the soul shows me that the soul is not God. For if the soul is the substance of God, the substance of God errs, the substance of God is corrupted, the substance of God is violated, the substance of God is deceived; which it is impious to say.

Fortunatus said: Therefore you have denied that the soul is of God, so long as it serves sins, and vices, and earthly things, and is led by error, because it cannot happen that either God or His substance should suffer this thing. For God is incorruptible and His substance immaculate and holy. But here it is inquired of you whether the soul is of God, or not? Which we confess, and show from the advent of the Saviour, from His holy preaching, from His election; while He pitied souls, and the soul is said to have come according to His will, that He might free it from death and might bring it to eternal glory, and restore it to the Father. But what do you say and hope concerning the soul; is it from God or not? Can the substance of God, from which you deny that the soul has its being, be subject to no passions?

12. Augustin said: I have denied that the soul is the substance of God in the sense of its being God; but yet I hold that it is from God as its author, because it was made by God. The Maker is one thing, the thing made is another. He who made cannot be corruptible at all, but what He made cannot be at all equal to Him who made it.

Fortunatus said: Nor have I said that the soul is like God. But because you have said that the soul is an artificial thing, and that there is nothing besides God, I ask whence then God invented the substance of the soul?

13. Augustin said: Only bear in mind that I reply to your interrogations, but that you do not reply to mine. I say that the soul was made by God as all other things that were made by God; and that among the things that God Almighty made the principal place was given to the soul. But if you ask whence God made the soul, remember that you and I agree in confessing that God is almighty. But he is not almighty who seeks the assistance of any material whence he may make what he will. From which it follows, that according to our faith, all things that God made through His Word and Wisdom, He made out of nothing. For so we read: "He ordered and they were made; He commanded and they were created." [232]

Fortunatus said: Do all things have their existence from God's command?

14. Augustin said: So I believe, but all things which were made.

Fortunatus said: As things made they agree, but because they are unsuitable to themselves, therefore on this account it follows, that there is not one substance, although from the same order of the One they came to the composition and fashioning of this world. But it is plain in the things themselves that there is no similarity between darkness and light, truth and falsehood, death and life, soul and body, and other similar things which differ from each other both in names and appearances. And for good reason did our Lord say: "The tree which my heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up and cast into the fire, because it brings not forth good fruit:" [233] and that the tree has been rooted up. Hence truly it follows from the reason of things that there are two substances in this world which agree in forms and in names, of which one belongs to corporeal natures, but the other is the eternal substance of the omnipotent Father, which we believe to be God's substance.

15. Augustin said: Those contrary things that move you so that we think adversely, have happened on account of our sin, that is, on account of the sin of man. For God made all things good, and ordered them well; but He did not make sin, and our voluntary sin is the only thing that is called evil. There is another kind of evil, which is the penalty of sin. Since therefore there are two kinds of evil, sin and the penalty of sin, sin does not pertain to God; the penalty of sin pertains to the avenger. For as God is good who constituted all things, so He is just in taking vengeance on sin. Since therefore all things are ordered in the best possible way, which seem to us now to be adverse, it has deservedly happened to fallen man who was unwilling to keep the law of God. For God gave free will to the rational soul which is in man. For thus it would have been possible to have merit, if we should be good voluntarily and not of necessity. Since therefore it behooves us to be good not of necessity but voluntarily, it behooved God to give to the soul free will. But to this soul obeying His laws, He subjected all things without adversity, so that the rest of the things that God made should serve it, if also the soul itself had willed to serve God. But if it should refuse to serve God, those things that served it should be converted into its punishment. Wherefore if all things are rightly ordered by God, and are good, neither does God suffer evil.

Fortunatus said: He does not suffer, but prevents evil.

16. Augustin said: From whom then was He about to suffer it?

Fortunatus said: This is my point, that He wished to prevent it, not rashly, but by power and prescience. But deny evil to be apart from God, when other precepts can be shown which are done apart from His will. A precept is not introduced, unless where there is contrariety. The free faculty of living is not given except where there is a fall according to the argument of the apostle who says: "And you did he quicken, when ye were dead in your trespasses and sins, wherein aforetime ye walked according to the rulership of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the souls of disobedience; among whom we also all once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the counsels of the flesh, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest: but God, who is rich in all mercy, had mercy on us. And when we were dead by sins, quickened us together in Christ, by whose grace ye have been saved; and at the same time also raised us up, and made us to sit with Him in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, for it is a gift of God; not of works, lest any one should glory. For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God prepared that we should walk in them. Wherefore remember, that aforetime ye were Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision, by that which is called circumcision in flesh made by hands, because ye were at that time without Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers of the covenant, having no hope of the promise, and without God in this world. But now in Christ Jesus, ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who made both one, and breaking down the middle wall of partition, the enmities in His flesh, making void by His decrees the law of commandments, that in Himself He might unite the two into one new man, making peace, that He might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, slaying the enmities in Himself. And He came and preached peace unto you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh. For through Him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father." [234]

17. Augustin said: This passage from the apostle, which you have thought fit to recite, if I mistake not, makes very strongly for my faith and against yours. In the first place, because free will itself, on which I have said that the possibility of the soul's sinning depends, is here sufficiently expressed, when sins are mentioned, and it is said that our reconciliation with God takes place through Jesus Christ. For by sinning we were brought into opposition to God; but by holding to the precepts of Christ we are reconciled to God; so that we who were dead in sins may be made alive by keeping His precepts, and may have peace with Him in one Spirit, from whom we were alienated, by failure to keep His precepts; as is set forth in our faith concerning the man who was first created. I ask of you, therefore, according to that passage which has been read, how can we have sins if contrary nature compels us to do what we do? For he who is compelled by nature to do anything, does not sin. But he who sins, sins by free will. Wherefore would repentance be enjoined upon us, if we have done nothing evil, but only the race of darkness? Likewise, I ask, to whom is forgiveness of sins granted, to us or to the race of darkness? If to the race of darkness, their race will also reign with Him, receiving the forgiveness of sin; but if to us it is manifest that we have sinned voluntarily. For it is the height of folly for him to be pardoned who has done no evil. But he has done no evil, who has done nothing of his own will. Therefore the soul that today promises itself forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to God, if it should cease to sin, and repent of past sins: if it should answer according to your faith and should say: In what have I sinned? In what am I guilty? Why hast Thou expelled me from Thy domains, that I might do battle with some sort of race? I have been trodden under foot, I have been mixed up, I have been corrupted, I am worn out, [235] my free will has not been preserved. Thou knowest the necessity by which I am preserved: Why dost Thou impute to me the wounds that I have received? Wherefore dost Thou compel me to repentance when Thou art the cause of my wounds; when Thou knowest what I have suffered, what the race of darkness has done against me, Thou being the author who couldst suffer no harm and yet wishing to save the domains which nothing could injure, Thou didst thrust me down into these miseries. If indeed I am a part of Thee, who have proceeded from Thy bowels, if I am from Thy kingdom and Thy mouth, I ought not to suffer anything in this race of darkness, so that I being uncorrupted that race should be subjected, if I was a part of the Lord. But now since it cannot be controlled except by my corruption, how can I either be said to be a part of Thee, or Thou remain inviolable, or not be cruel in wishing me to suffer for those domains, that could in no way be injured by that race of darkness? Respond to this if you please, and deign also to explain to me how it was said by the apostle, "We were by nature children of wrath," who, he says, have been reconciled to God. If therefore they were by nature children of wrath, how do you say that the soul is by nature a daughter and portion of God?

Fortunatussaid: If with regard to the soul the apostle had said that we are by nature children of wrath, the soul would have been alienated by the mouth of the apostle from God. From this argument you only show that the soul does not belong to God, because, the apostle says, "We are by nature children of wrath." But if it is said in view of the fact that the apostle [236] was held by the law, descending as he himself testifies, from the seed of Abraham, it follows that he has said corporeally, that we [i.e., Jews] were children of wrath even as the rest of mankind. But he shows that the substance of the soul is of God, and that the soul cannot otherwise be reconciled to God than through the Master, who is Christ Jesus. For the enmity having been slain, the soul seemed to God unworthy to have existed. But that it was sent, this we confess, by God yet omnipotent, both deriving its origin from Him and sent for the sealing of His will. In the same way we believe also that Christ the Saviour came from heaven to fulfill the will of the Father. Which will of the Father was this, to free our souls from the same enmity, this enmity having been slain, which if it had not been opposed to God could neither be called enmity where there was unity, nor could slaying be spoken of or take place where there was life.

18. Augustin said: Remember that the apostle said that we are alienated from God by our manner of life.

Fortunatus said: I submit, that there were two substances. In the substance of light, as we have above said, God is to be held incorruptible; but that there was a contrary nature of darkness, that which I also today confess is vanquished by the power of God, and that Christ has been sent forth as a Saviour for my restoration, as previously the same apostle says.

19. Augustin said: That we should discuss on rational grounds the belief in two natures, has been made obligatory by those who are hearing us. But inasmuch as you have again betaken yourself to the Scriptures, I descend to them, and demand that nothing be passed by, lest using certain statements we should bring confusion into the minds of those to whom the Scriptures are not well known. Let us therefore consider a statement that the apostle has in his epistle to the Romans. For on the first page is what is strongly against you. For he says: "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, which He promised aforetime by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was made unto Him of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was predestinated to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness from the resurrection from the dead of our Lord Jesus Christ." [237] We see that the apostle teaches us concerning our Lord Jesus Christ that before the flesh he was predestinated by the power of God, and according to the flesh was made unto Him of the seed of David. Since you have always denied and always will deny this, how do you so earnestly demand the Scriptures that we should discuss rather according to them.

Fortunatussaid: You assert that according to the flesh Christ was of the seed of David, when it should be asserted that he was born of a virgin, [238] and should be magnified as Son of God. For this cannot be, unless as what is from spirit may be held to be spirit, so also what is from flesh may be known to be flesh. [239]Against which is the authority of the Gospel in which it is said, that "flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God, neither shall corruption inherit incorruption." [240]

Here a clamor was made by the audience who wished the argument to be conducted on rational grounds, because they saw that Fortunatus was not willing to receive all things that are written in the Codex of the apostle. Then little discussions began to be held here and there by all, until Fortunatus said that the Word of God has been fettered in the race of darkness. At which, when those present had expressed their horror, the meeting was closed. [241]

Footnotes

[221] This Disputation seems to have occurred shortly after the writing of the preceding treatise. It appears from the Retractations that Fortunatus had lived for a considerable time at Hippo, and had secured so large a number of followers that it was a delight to him to dwell there. The Disputation is supposed to be a verbatim report of what Augustin and Fortunatus said during a two days' discussion. The subject is the origin of evil. Augustin maintains that evil, so far as man is concerned, has arisen from a free exercise of the will on man's part; Fortunatus, on the other hand, maintains that the nature of evil is co-eternal with God. Fortunatus shows considerable knowledge of the New Testament, but no remarkable dialectic powers. He appears at great disadvantage beside his great antagonist. In fact, he is far from saying the best that can be said in favor of dualism. We may say that he was fairly vanquished in the argument, and at the close confessed himself at a loss what to say, and expressed an intention of more carefully examining the problems discussed, in view of what Augustin had said. Augustin is more guarded in this treatise than in the preceding in his statements about free will. He found little occasion here, therefore, to retract or explain. Fortunatus often expresses himself vaguely and obscurely. If some sentences are difficult to understand in the translation, they will be found equally so in the Latin.--A.H.N. [222] The word used is oratio, by which is evidently meant the religious services to which Auditors were admitted, prayer (oratio) being the prominent feature.--A.H.N. [223] The allusion here is doubtless to the probably slanderous charge that the Manichæans were accustomed to partake of human semen as a Eucharist. The Manichæan view of the relation of the substance mentioned to the light, and their well-known opposition to procreation, give a slight plausibility to the charge. Compare the Morals of the Manichæans, ch. xviii., where Augustin expresses his suspicions of Manichæan shamelessness. See also further references in the Introduction.--A.H.N. [224] This is, of course, a mixture of two passages of Scripture.--A.H.N. [225] John xiv. 8, 9. [226] John v. 24. [227] As remarked in the Introduction, the Manichæans of the West, in Augustin's time, sustained a far more intimate relation to Christianity than did Mani and his immediate followers. Far as Fortunatus may have been from using the above language in the ordinary Christian sense, yet he held, by profession at least, enough of Christian truth to beguile the unwary.--A.H.N. [228] Philipp. ii. 5-8. [229] Fortunatus could not surely have used this language with any proper conception of its meaning. He seems, against Mani, to have identified in some sense the Jesus that suffered with Christ. Yet even in this statement his docetism is manifest.--A.H.N. [230] 1 Cor. i. 24. [231] John i. 3. [232] Ps. cxlviii. 5. [233] Matt. xv. 13, and iii. 10. [234] Eph. ii. 1-18. There are several somewhat important variations from the Greek text in this long extract. The attentive reader can get a good idea of the nature of the variations by comparing this literal translation with the revised English version.--A.H.N. [235] There are three readings here, "wearied out," "deceived," and "worn out." The latter is preferred by the Benedictine editors.--A.H.N. [236] Rom. xi. 1. [237] Rom. i. 1-4. [238] Isa. vii. 14. [239] John iii. 6. [240] 1 Cor. xv. 50. [241] This little side remark lends reality to the discussion, and enables us to form a vivid conception of what doctrinal debates were in the age of Augustin.--A.H.N. .


Disputation of the Second Day.

The next day, a notary having again been summoned, the discussion was conducted as follows:

Fortunatus said: I say that God Almighty brings forth from Himself nothing evil, and that the things that are His remain incorrupt, having sprung and being born from an inviolable source; but other contrary things which have their being in this world, do not flow from God nor have appeared in this world with God as their author; that is to say, they do not derive their origin from God. These things therefore we have received in the belief that evil things are foreign to God.

20. Augustin said: And our faith is this, that God is not the progenitor of evil things, neither has He made any evil nature. But since both of us agree that God is incorruptible and incontaminable, it is the part of the prudent and faithful to consider, which faith is purer and worthier of the majesty of God; that in which it is asserted that either the power of God, or some part of God, or the Word of God, can be changed, violated, corrupted, fettered; or that in which it is said that Almighty God and His entire nature and substance can never be corrupted in any part, but that evils have their being by the voluntary sin of the soul, to which God gave free will. Which free will if God had not given, there could be no just penal judgment, nor merit of righteous conduct, nor divine instruction to repent of sins, nor the forgiveness of sins itself which God has bestowed upon us through our Lord Jesus Christ. Because he who sins not voluntarily, sins not at all. This I suppose to be open and perspicuous to all. Wherefore it ought not to trouble us if according to our deserts we suffer some inconveniences in the things God has made. For as He is good, that He should constitute all things; so He is just, that He may not spare sins, which sins, as I have said, unless free will were in us, would not be sins. For if any one, so to speak, should be bound by some one in his other members, and with his hand something false should be written without his own will, I ask whether if this were laid open before a judge, he could condemn this one for the crime of falsehood. Wherefore, if it is manifest that there is no sin where there is not free exercise of will, [242] I wish to hear what evil the soul which you call either part, or power, or word, or something else, of God, has done, that it should be punished by God, or repent of sin, or merit forgiveness, since it has in no way sinned?

Fortunatus said: I proposed concerning substances, that God is to be regarded as creator only of good things, but as the avenger of evil things, for the reason that evil things are not of Him. Therefore for good reason I think this, and that God avenges evil things because they are not of Himself. But if they were from Him, either He would give them license to sin, as you say that God has given free will, He would be already found a participator in my fault, because He would be the author of my fault; or ignorant what I should be, he left me whom he did not constitute worthy of Himself. This therefore is proposed by me, and what I ask now is, whether God instituted evil or not? and whether He Himself instituted the end of evils. For it appears from these things, and the evangelical faith teaches, that the things which we have said were made by God Himself as God the Creator, as having been created and begotten by Him, are to be esteemed incorruptible. These things I also proposed which belong to our belief, and which can be confirmed by you in that profession of ours, without prejudice to the authority of the Christian faith. And because I can in no way show that I rightly believe, unless I should confirm that belief by the authority of the Scriptures, this is therefore what I have insinuated, what I have said. Either if evil things have appeared in the world with God as their author, deign to say so yourself; or if it is right to believe that evil things are not of God, this also the contemplation of those present ought to honor and receive. I have spoken about substances, not about sin that dwells in us. For if what we think to make faults had no origin, we should not be compelled to come to sin or to fault. For because we sinned unwillingly, and are compelled by a substance contrary and hostile to ourselves, therefore we follow the knowledge of things. By which knowledge the soul admonished and restored to pristine memory, recognizes the source from which it derives its existence, in what evil it dwells, by what good works emending again that in which unwillingly it sinned, it may be able through the emendation of its faults, for the sake of good works, to secure for itself the merit of reconciliation with God, our Saviour being the author of it, who teaches us also to practice good things and to flee from evil. For you ask us to believe that not by some contrary nature, but by his own choice, man either serves righteousness or becomes involved in sins; since, no contrary race existing, if the soul, to which as you say God has given free will, having been constituted in the body, dwells alone, it would be without sin, nor would it become involved in sins.

21. Augustin said: I say it is not sin, if it be not committed by one's own will; hence also there is reward, because of our own will we do right. Or if he who sins unwillingly deserves punishment, he who unwillingly does well ought to deserve reward. But who doubts that reward is only bestowed upon him who does something of good will? From which we know that punishment also is inflicted upon him who does something of ill will. But since you recall me to primordial natures and substances, my faith is that God Almighty--which must especially be attended to and fixed in the mind--that God Almighty has made good things. But the things made by Him cannot be such as is He who made them. For it is unjust and foolish to believe that works are equal to the workman, things made to the maker. Wherefore if it is reverential to believe that God made all good things, than which nevertheless He is by far more excellent and by far more pre-eminent; the origin and head of evil is sin, as the apostle said: "Covetousness is the root of all evils; which some following after have made shipwreck of the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows." [243] For if you seek the root of all evils, you have the apostle saying that covetousness is the root of all evils. But the root of a root I cannot seek. Or if there is another evil, whose root covetousness is not, covetousness will not be the root of all evils. But if it is true that covetousness is the root of all evils, in vain do we seek some other kind of evil. But as regards that contrary nature of yours which you introduce, since I have responded to your objections, I ask that you deign to tell me whether it is wholly evil, whether there can be no sin apart from it, whether by this alone punishment is deserved, not by the soul by which no sin has been committed. But if you say that this contrary nature alone deserves punishment, and not the soul, I ask to which is repentance, which is commanded, vouchsafed. If the soul is commanded to repent, sin is from the soul, and the soul has sinned voluntarily. For if the soul is compelled to do evil, that which it does is not evil. Is it not foolish and most absurd to say that the race of darkness has sinned and that I repent of the sins. Is it not most absurd to say that the race of darkness has sinned and that forgiveness of sins is vouchsafed to me, who according to your faith may well say: What have I done? What have I committed? I was with Thee, I was in a state of integrity, I was contaminated with no pollution. Thou didst send me hither, Thou didst suffer necessity, Thou didst protect Thy domains when great pollution and desolation threatened them. Since therefore Thou knowest the necessity by which I have been here oppressed, by reason of which I could not breathe, which I could not resist; why dost Thou accuse me as if sinning? or why dost Thou promise forgiveness of sins? Reply to this without evasion, if you please, as I have replied to you.

Fortunatussaid: We say this, that the soul is compelled by contrary nature to transgress, for which transgression you maintain there is no root save the evil that dwells in us; for it is certain that apart from our bodies evil things dwell in the whole world. For not those things alone that we have in our bodies, dwell in the whole world, and are known by their names as good; an evil root also inheres. For your dignity said that this covetousness that dwells in our bodies is the root of evils; since therefore there is no desire of evil out of our bodies, from that source contrary nature dwells in the whole world. For the apostle designated that, namely covetousness, as the root of evils, not one evil which you have called the root of all evils. But not in one manner is covetousness, which you have said is the root of all evils, understood, as if of that which dwells in our bodies alone; for it is certain that this evil which dwells in us descends from an evil author and that this root as you call it is a small portion of evil, so that it is not the root itself, but is a small portion of evil, of that evil which dwells everywhere. Which root and tree our Lord called evil, as never bearing good fruit, which his Father did not plant, and which is deservedly rooted up and cast into the fire. [244]For as you say, that sin ought to be imputed to the contrary nature, that nature belongs to evil; and that this is sin of the soul, if after the warning of our Saviour and his wholesome instruction, the soul shall have segregated itself from its contrary and hostile race, adorning itself also with purer things; that otherwise it cannot be restored to its own substance. For it is said: "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin. But now that I have come and spoken, and they have refused to believe me, they shall have no excuse for their sin." [245] Whence it is perfectly plain, that repentance has been given after the Saviour's advent, and after this knowledge of things, by which the soul can, as if washed in a divine fountain from the filth and vices as well of the whole world as of the bodies in which the same soul dwells, be restored to the kingdom of God whence it has gone forth. For it is said by the apostle, that "the mind of the flesh is hostile to God; is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." [246]Therefore it is evident from these things that the good soul seems to sin not voluntarily, but by the doing of that which is not subject to the law of God. For it likewise follows that "the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; so that ye may not do the things that ye will." [247]Again: "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive in the law of sin and of death. Therefore I am a miserable man; who shall deliver me from the body of this death, unless it be the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ," [248] "through whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world?" [249]

22. Augustin said: I recognize and embrace the testimonies of the divine Scriptures, and I will show in a few words, as God may deign to grant, how they are consistent with my faith. I say that there was free exercise of will in that man who was first formed. He was so made that absolutely nothing could resist his will, if he had willed to keep the precepts of God. But after he voluntarily sinned, we who have descended from his stock were plunged into necessity. But each one of us can by a little consideration find that what I say is true. For today in our actions before we are implicated by any habit, we have free choice of doing anything or not doing it. But when by that liberty we have done something and the pernicious sweetness and pleasure of that deed has taken hold upon the mind, by its own habit the mind is so implicated that afterwards it cannot conquer what by sinning it has fashioned for itself. We see many who do not wish to swear, but because the tongue has already become habituated, they are not able to prevent those things from going forth from the mouth which we cannot but ascribe to the root of evil. For that I may discuss with you those words, which as they do not withdraw from your mouth so may they be understood by your heart: you swear by the Paraclete. If therefore you wish to find out experimentally whether what I say is true, determine not to swear. You will see, that that habit is borne along as it has become accustomed to be. And this is what wars against the soul, habit formed in the flesh. This is indeed the mind of the flesh, which, as long as it cannot thus be subject to the law of God, so long is it the mind of the flesh; but when the soul has been illuminated it ceases to be the mind of the flesh. For thus it is said the mind of the flesh cannot be subject to the law of God, just as if it were said, that snow cannot be warm. For so long as it is snow, it can in no way be warm. But as the snow is melted by heat, so that it may become warm, so the mind of the flesh, that is, habit formed with the flesh, when our mind has become illuminated, that is, when God has subjected for Himself the whole man to the choice of the divine law, instead of the evil habit of the soul, makes a good habit. Accordingly it is most truly said by the Lord of the two trees, the one good and the other evil, which you have called to mind, that they have their own fruits; that is, neither can the good tree yield evil fruit, nor the evil tree good fruit, but so long as it is evil. Let us take two men, a good and a bad. As long as he is good he cannot yield evil fruit; as long as he is bad he cannot yield good fruit. But that you may know that those two trees are so placed by the Lord, that free choice may be there signified, that these two trees are not natures but our wills, He Himself says in the gospel: "Either make the tree good, or make the tree evil." [250]Who is it that can make nature? If therefore we are commanded to make a tree either good or evil, it is ours to choose what we will. Therefore concerning that sin of man and concerning that habit of soul formed with the flesh the apostle says: "Let no one seduce you;" [251] "Every creature that has been made by God is good." [252]The same apostle whom you also have cited says: "As through the disobedience of the one the many were constituted sinners; so also through the obedience of the one the many are constituted righteous." [253] "Since through man is death, through man also is resurrection of the dead." As long therefore as we bear the image of the earthly man, [254] that is, as long as we live according to the flesh, which is also called the old man, we have the necessity of our habit, so that we may not do what we will. But when the grace of God has breathed the divine love into us and has made us subject to His will, to us it is said: "Ye are called for freedom," [255] and "the grace of God has made me free from the law of sin and of death." [256]But the law of sin is that whoever has sinned shall die. From this law we are freed when we have begun to be righteous. The law of death is that by which it was said to man: "Earth thou art and into earth thou shalt go." [257]For from this very fact we are all so born, because we are earth, and from the fact that we are all so born because we are earth, we shall all go into earth on account of the desert of the sins of the first man. But on account of the grace of God, which frees us from the law of sin and of death, having been converted to righteousness we are freed; so that afterwards this same flesh tortures us with its punishment so long as we remain in sins, is subjected to us in resurrection, and shakes us by no adversity from keeping the law of God and His precepts. Whence, since I have replied to your questions, deign to reply as I desire, how it can happen, that if nature is contrary to God, sin should be imputed to us, who were sent into that nature not voluntarily, but by God Himself, whom nothing could injure?

Fortunatussaid: Just as also the Lord said to His disciples: "Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves." [258]Hence it must be known that not with hostile intent did our Saviour send forth His lambs, that is His disciples, into the midst of wolves, unless there had been some contrariety, which He would indicate by the similitude of wolves, where also He had sent His disciples; that the souls which perchance might be deceived in the midst of wolves might be recalled to their proper substance. Hence also may appear the antiquity of our times to which we return, and of our years, that before the foundation of the world souls were sent in this way against the contrary nature, that subjecting the same by their passion, victory might be restored to God. For the same apostle said, that not only there should be a struggle against flesh and blood, but also against principalities and powers, and the spiritual things of wickedness, and the domination of darkness." [259]If therefore in both places evils dwell and are esteemed wickednesses, not only now is evil in our bodies, but in the whole world, where souls appear to dwell, which dwell beneath yonder heaven and are fettered.

23. Augustin said: The Lord sent His lambs into the midst of wolves, that is, just men into the midst of sinners for the preaching of the gospel received in the time of man from the inestimable divine Wisdom, that He might call us from sin to righteousness. But what the apostle says, that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, and the other things that have been quoted, this signifies that the devil and his angels, as also we, have fallen and lapsed by sin, and have secured possession of earthly things, that is, sinful men, who, as long as we are sinners, are under their yoke, just as when we shall be righteous, we shall be under the yoke of righteousness; and against them we have a struggle, that passing over to righteousness we may be freed from their dominion. Do you also therefore deign to reply to the one question that I ask: Could God suffer injury, or not? But I ask you to reply: He could not.

Fortunatus said: He could not suffer injury.

24. Augustin said: Wherefore then did He send us hither, according to your faith?

Fortunatus said: My profession is this, that God could not be injured, and that He directed us hither. But since this is contrary to your view, do you tell how you account for the soul being here, which our God desires to liberate both by His commandments and by His own Son whom He has sent.

25. Augustin said: Since I see that you cannot answer my inquiries, and wish to ask me something, behold I satisfy you, provided only that you bear in mind that you have not replied to my question. Why the soul is here in this world involved in miseries has been explained by me not just now, but again and again a little while ago. The soul sinned, and therefore is miserable. It accepted free choice, used free choice, as it willed; it fell, was cast out from blessedness, was implicated in miseries. As bearing upon this I recited to you the testimony of the apostle who says: "As through one man death, so also through one man came the resurrection of the dead." What more do you ask? Hence do you reply, wherefore did He, who could not suffer injury, send us hither?

Fortunatus said: The cause must be sought, why the soul came hither, or wherefore God desires hence to liberate the soul that lives in the midst of evils?

26. Augustin said: This cause I ask of you, that is, if God could not suffer injury, wherefore He sent us hither?

Fortunatus said: It is inquired of us, if evil cannot injure God, wherefore the soul was sent hither, or for what reason was it mingled with the world? Which is manifest in what the apostle says: "Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why hast thou formed me thus?" [260]If therefore this cause must be pleaded, He must be asked, why He sent the soul, no necessity compelling Him. But if there was necessity for sending the soul, of right is there also the will of liberating it.

27. Augustin said: Then God is pressed by necessity, is He?

Fortunatus said: Now this is it. Do not seek to bring odium upon what has been said because we do not make God subject to necessity, but to have voluntarily sent the soul.

28. Augustin said: Recall what was said above. And it runs: "But if there was necessity for sending the soul, of right is there also the will of liberating it. Augustin said: We have heard: But if there was necessity for sending the soul, of right is there also the will of liberating it." You, therefore, said that there was necessity for sending the soul. But if you only wish to say "a will to send," I add this also: He who could suffer no injury, had the cruel will to send the soul to so great miseries. Because I speak for the sake of refuting this statement, I ask pardon from the mercy of that One in whom we have hope of liberation from all the errors of heretics.

Fortunatus said: You asseverate that we say that God is cruel in sending the soul, but that God made man, breathed into him a soul which assuredly He foreknew to be involved in future misery, and not to be able by reason of evils to be restored to its inheritance. This belongs either to one who is ignorant, or who gives the soul up to these aforesaid evils. This I have cited because you said not long since, that God adopted the soul, not that it is from Him; for to adopt is a different matter.

29. Augustin said: Concerning adoption I remember that I spoke some days ago according to the testimony of the apostle, who says that we have been called into the adoption of sons. [261]This was not my reply, therefore, but the apostle's, concerning which thing, that is, that adoption, we may inquire, if we please, in its own time; and concerning that I will reply without delay, when you shall have answered my objections.

Fortunatus said: I say that there was a going forth of the soul against a contrary nature, which nature could not injure God.

30. Augustin said: What need was there for that going forth, when God whom nothing could injure had nothing to protect?

Fortunatus said: Do you conscientiously hold that Christ came from God?

31. Augustin said: Again you are questioning me. Reply to my inquiries.

Fortunatus said: So I have received in faith, that by the will of God He came hither.

32. Augustin said: And I say: Why did God, omnipotent, inviolable, immutable, whom nothing could injure, send hither the soul, to miseries, to error, to those things that we suffer?

Fortunatussaid: For it has been said: "I have power to lay down my soul and I have power to take it again." [262]Now He said that by the will of God the soul went forth.

33. Augustin said: I ask for the reason why God, when He can in no way suffer injury, sent the soul hither?

Fortunatus said: We have already said that God can in no way suffer injury, and we have said that the soul is in a contrary nature, therefore that it imposes a limit on the contrary nature. The restraint having been imposed on the contrary nature, God takes the same. For He Himself said, "I have power to lay down my soul and power to take it." The Father gave to me the power of laying down my soul, and of taking it. To what soul, therefore, did God who spoke in the Son refer? Evidently our soul, which is held in these bodies,which came of His will, and of His will is again taken up.

34. Augustin said: Why our Lord said: "I have power to lay down my soul and power to take it," is known to all; because He was about to suffer and to rise again. But I ask of you again and again, If God could in no way suffer injury, why did he send souls hither?

Fortunatus said: To impose a limit on contrary nature.

35. Augustin said: And did God omnipotent, merciful and supreme, that He might impose a restraint on contrary nature, wish it to be limited so that He might make us unrestrained?

Fortunatus said: But so He calls us back to Himself.

36. Augustin said: If He recalls to Himself from an unrestrained state, if from sin, from error, from misery, what need was there for the soul to suffer so great evils through so long a time till the world ends? since God by whom you say it was sent could in no way suffer injury.

Fortunatus said: What then am I to say?

37. Augustin said: I know that you have nothing to say, and that I, when I was among you, never found anything to say on this question, and that I was thus admonished from on high to leave that error and to be converted to the Catholic faith or rather to recall it, by the indulgence of Him who did not permit me to inhere forever in this fallacy. But if you confess that you have nothing to reply, I will expound the Catholic faith to all those hearing and investigating, seeing that they are believers, if they permit and wish.

Fortunatus said: Without prejudice to my profession I might say: when I shall have reconsidered with my superiors the things that have been opposed by you, if they fail to respond to this question of mine, which is now in like manner proposed to me by you, it will be in my contemplation (since I desire my soul to be liberated by an assured faith) to come to the investigation of this thing that you have proposed to me and that you promise you will show.

Augustin said: Thanks be to God.

Footnotes

[242] Liberum voluntatis arbitrium. [243] 1 Tim. vi. 10. [244] Matt. xv. 13, and iii. 10. [245] John xv. 22. [246] Rom. viii. 7. [247] Gal. v. 17. [248] Rom. vii. 23-25. [249] Gal. v. 14. [250] Matt. xii. 35. [251] Eph. v. 6. [252] 1 Tim. iv. 4. [253] Rom. v. 19. [254] 1 Cor. xv. 21, 49. [255] Gal. v. 13. [256] Rom. viii. 2. [257] Gen. iii. 19. [258] Matt. x. 16. [259] Eph. v. 12. [260] Rom. ix. 20. [261] Eph. i. 5. [262] John x. 18. .


St. Augustin,

Against the Epistle of Manichæus, called Fundamental.

[contra epistolam manichæi quam vocant fundamentum]. [263]

A.D. 397.

translated by Rev. Richard Stothert, M.A., Bombay


Chapter 1.--To Heal Heretics is Better Than to Destroy Them.

1. My prayer to the one true, almighty God, of whom, and through whom, and in whom are all things, has been, and is now, that in opposing and refuting the heresy of you Manichæans, as you may after all be heretics more from thoughtlessness than from malice, He would give me a mind calm and composed, and aiming at your recovery rather than at your discomfiture. For while the Lord, by His servants, overthrows the kingdoms of error, His will concerning erring men, as far as they are men, is that they should be amended rather than destroyed. And in every case where, previous to the final judgment, God inflicts punishment, whether through the wicked or the righteous, whether through the unintelligent or through the intelligent, whether in secret or openly, we must believe that the designed effect is the healing of men, and not their ruin; while there is a preparation for the final doom in the case of those who reject the means of recovery. Thus, as the universe contains some things which serve for bodily punishment, as fire, poison, disease, and the rest, and other things, in which the mind is punished, not by bodily distress, but by the entanglements of its own passions, such as loss, exile, bereavement, reproach, and the like; while other things, again, without tormenting are fitted to comfort and soothe the languishing, as, for example, consolations, exhortations, discussions, and such things; in all these the supreme justice of God makes use sometimes even of wicked men, acting in ignorance, and sometimes of good men, acting intelligently. It is ours, accordingly, to desire in preference the better part, that we might attain our end in your correction, not by contention, and strife, and persecutions, but by kindly consolation, by friendly exhortation, by quiet discussion; as it is written, "The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle toward all men, apt to teach, patient; in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves." [264] It is ours, I say, to desire to obtain this part in the work; it belongs to God to give what is good to those who desire it and ask for it.

Footnotes

[263] Written about the year 397. In his Retractations (ii. 2) Augustin says: "The book against the Epistle of Manichæus, called Fundamental, refutes only its commencement; but on the other parts of the epistle I have made notes, as required, refuting the whole, and sufficient to recall the argument, had I ever had leisure to write against the whole." [The Fundamental Epistle seems to have been a sort of hand-book for Manichæan catechumens or Auditors. In making this document the basis of his attack, Augustin felt that he had selected the best-known and most generally accepted standard of the Manichæan faith. The tone of the work is conciliatory, yet some very sharp thrusts are made at Manichæan error. The claims of Mani to be the Paraclete are set aside, and the absurd cosmological fancies of Mani are ruthlessly exposed. Dualism is combated with substantially the same weapons as in the treatise Concerning Two Souls. We could wish that the author had found time to finish the treatise, and had thus preserved for us more of the Fundamental Epistle itself. This work was written after the author had become Bishop of Hippo.--A.H.N.] [264] 2 Tim. ii. 24, 25.


Chapter 2.--Why the Manichæans Should Be More Gently Dealt with.

2. Let those rage against you who know not with what labor the truth is to be found and with what difficulty error is to be avoided. Let those rage against you who know not how rare and hard it is to overcome the fancies of the flesh by the serenity of a pious disposition. Let those rage against you who know not the difficulty of curing the eye of the inner man that he may gaze upon his Sun,--not that sun which you worship, and which shines with the brilliance of a heavenly body in the eyes of carnal men and of beasts,--but that of which it is written through the prophet, "The Sun of righteousness has arisen upon me;" [265] and of which it is said in the gospel, "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." [266]Let those rage against you who know not with what sighs and groans the least particle of the knowledge of God is obtained. And, last of all, let those rage against you who have never been led astray in the same way that they see that you are.

Footnotes

[265] Mal. iv. 2. [266] John i. 9.


Chapter 3.--Augustin Once a Manichæan.

3. For my part, I,--who, after much and long-continued bewilderment, attained at last, to the discovery of the simple truth, which is learned without being recorded in any fanciful legend; who, unhappy that I was, barely succeeded, by God's help, in refuting the vain imaginations of my mind, gathered from theories and errors of various kinds; who so late sought the cure of my mental obscuration, in compliance with the call and the tender persuasion of the all-merciful Physician; who long wept that the immutable and inviolable Existence would vouchsafe to convince me inwardly of Himself, in harmony with the testimony of the sacred books; by whom, in fine, all those fictions which have such a firm hold on you, from your long familiarity with them, were diligently examined, and attentively heard, and too easily believed, and commended at every opportunity to the belief of others, and defended against opponents with determination and boldness,--I can on no account rage against you; for I must bear with you now as formerly I had to bear with myself, and I must be as patient towards you as my associates were with me, when I went madly and blindly astray in your beliefs.

4. On the other hand, all must allow that you owe it to me, in return, to lay aside all arrogance on your part too, that so you may be the more disposed to gentleness, and may not oppose me in a hostile spirit, to your own hurt. Let neither of us assert that he has found truth; let us seek it as if it were unknown to us both. For truth can be sought with zeal and unanimity if by no rash presumption it is believed to have been already found and ascertained. But if I cannot induce you to grant me this, at least allow me to suppose myself a stranger now for the first time hearing you, for the first time examining your doctrines. I think my demand a just one. And it must be laid down as an understood thing that I am not to join you in your prayers, or in holding conventicles, or in taking the name of Manichæus, unless you give me a clear explanation, without any obscurity, of all matters touching the salvation of the soul.


Chapter 4.--Proofs of the Catholic Faith.

5. For in the Catholic Church, not to speak of the purest wisdom, to the knowledge of which a few spiritual men attain in this life, so as to know it, in the scantiest measure, indeed, because they are but men, still without any uncertainty (since the rest of the multitude derive their entire security not from acuteness of intellect, but from simplicity of faith,)--not to speak of this wisdom, which you do not believe to be in the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should, though from the slowness of our understanding, or the small attainment of our life, the truth may not yet fully disclose itself. But with you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me, the promise of truth is the only thing that comes into play. Now if the truth is so clearly proved as to leave no possibility of doubt, it must be set before all the things that keep me in the Catholic Church; but if there is only a promise without any fulfillment, no one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion.


Chapter 5.--Against the Title of the Epistle of Manichæus.

6. Let us see then what Manichæus teaches me; and particularly let us examine that treatise which he calls the Fundamental Epistle, in which almost all that you believe is contained. For in that unhappy time when we read it we were in your opinion enlightened. The epistle begins thus:--"Manichæus, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the providence of God the Father. These are wholesome words from the perennial and living fountain." Now, if you please, patiently give heed to my inquiry. I do not believe Manichæus to be an apostle of Christ. Do not, I beg of you, be enraged and begin to curse. For you know that it is my rule to believe none of your statements without consideration. Therefore I ask, who is this Manichæus? You will reply, An apostle of Christ. I do not believe it. Now you are at a loss what to say or do; for you promised to give knowledge of the truth, and here you are forcing me to believe what I have no knowledge of. Perhaps you will read the gospel to me, and will attempt to find there a testimony to Manichæus. But should you meet with a person not yet believing the gospel, how would you reply to him were he to say, I do not believe? For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church. [267]So when those on whose authority I have consented to believe in the gospel tell me not to believe in Manichæus, how can I but consent? Take your choice. If you say, Believe the Catholics: their advice to me is to put no faith in you; so that, believing them, I am precluded from believing you;--If you say, Do not believe the Catholics: you cannot fairly use the gospel in bringing me to faith in Manichæus; for it was at the command of the Catholics that I believed the gospel;--Again, if you say, You were right in believing the Catholics when they praised the gospel, but wrong in believing their vituperation of Manichæus: do you think me such a fool as to believe or not to believe as you like or dislike, without any reason? It is therefore fairer and safer by far for me, having in one instance put faith in the Catholics, not to go over to you, till, instead of bidding me believe, you make me understand something in the clearest and most open manner. To convince me, then, you must put aside the gospel. If you keep to the gospel, I will keep to those who commanded me to believe the gospel; and, in obedience to them, I will not believe you at all. But if haply you should succeed in finding in the gospel an incontrovertible testimony to the apostleship of Manichæus, you will weaken my regard for the authority of the Catholics who bid me not to believe you; and the effect of that will be, that I shall no longer be able to believe the gospel either, for it was through the Catholics that I got my faith in it; and so, whatever you bring from the gospel will no longer have any weight with me. Wherefore, if no clear proof of the apostleship of Manichæus is found in the gospel, I will believe the Catholics rather than you. But if you read thence some passage clearly in favor of Manichæus, I will believe neither them nor you: not them, for they lied to me about you; nor you, for you quote to me that Scripture which I had believed on the authority of those liars. But far be it that I should not believe the gospel; for believing it, I find no way of believing you too. For the names of the apostles, as there recorded, [268] do not include the name of Manichæus. And who the successor of Christ's betrayer was we read in the Acts of the Apostles; [269] which book I must needs believe if I believe the gospel, since both writings alike Catholic authority commends to me. The same book contains the well-known narrative of the calling and apostleship of Paul. [270]Read me now, if you can, in the gospel where Manichæus is called an apostle, or in any other book in which I have professed to believe. Will you read the passage where the Lord promised the Holy Spirit as a Paraclete, to the apostles? Concerning which passage, behold how many and how great are the things that restrain and deter me from believing in Manichæus.

Footnotes

[267] [This is one of the earliest distinct assertions of the dependence of the Scriptures for authority on the Church.--A.H.N.] [268] Matt. x. 2-4; Mark iii. 13-19; Luke vi. 13-18. [269] Acts i. 26. [270] Acts ix.


Chapter 6.--Why Manichæus Called Himself an Apostle of Christ.

7. For I am at a loss to see why this epistle begins, "Manichæus, an apostle of Jesus Christ," and not Paraclete, an apostle of Jesus Christ. Or if the Paraclete sent by Christ sent Manichæus, why do we read, "Manichæus, an apostle of Jesus Christ," instead of Manichæus, an apostle of the Paraclete? If you say that it is Christ Himself who is the Holy Spirit, you contradict the very Scripture, where the Lord says, "And I will send you another Paraclete." [271]Again, if you justify your putting of Christ's name, not because it is Christ Himself who is also the Paraclete, but because they are both of the same substance,--that is, not because they are one person, but one existence [non quia unus est, sed quia unum sunt],--Paul too might have used the words, Paul, an apostle of God the Father; for the Lord said, "I and the Father are one." [272]Paul nowhere uses these words; nor does any of the apostles write himself an apostle of the Father. Why then this new fashion? Does it not savor of trickery of some kind or other? For if he thought it made no difference, why did he not for the sake of variety in some epistles call himself an apostle of Christ, and in others of the Paraclete? But in every one that I know of, he writes, of Christ; and not once, of the Paraclete. What do we suppose to be the reason of this, but that pride, the mother of all heretics, impelled the man to desire to seem to have been sent by the Paraclete, but to have been taken into so close a relation as to get the name of Paraclete himself? As the man Jesus Christ was not sent by the Son of God, that is, the power and wisdom of God--by which all things were made, but, according to the Catholic faith, was taken into such a relation as to be Himself the Son of God--that is, that in Himself the wisdom of God was displayed in the healing of sinners,--so Manichæus wished it to be thought that he was so taken up by the Holy Spirit, whom Christ promised, that we are henceforth to understand that the names Manichæus and Holy Spirit alike signify the apostle of Jesus Christ,--that is, one sent by Jesus Christ, who promised to send him. Singular audacity this! and unutterable sacrilege!

Footnotes

[271] John xiv. 16. [272] John x. 30.


Chapter 7.--In What Sense the Followers of Manichæus Believe Him to Be the Holy Spirit.

8. Besides, you should explain how it is that, while the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united in equality of nature, as you also acknowledge, you are not ashamed to speak of Manichæus, a man taken into union with the Holy Spirit, as born of ordinary generation; and yet you shrink from believing that the man taken into union with the only-begotten Wisdom of God was born of a Virgin. If human flesh, if generation [concubitus viri], if the womb of a woman could not contaminate the Holy Spirit, how could the Virgin's womb contaminate the Wisdom of God? This Manichæus, then, who boasts of a connection with the Holy Spirit, and of being spoken of in the gospel, must produce his claim to either of these two things,--that he was sent by the Spirit, or that he was taken into union with the Spirit. If he was sent, let him call himself the apostle of the Paraclete; if taken into union, let him allow that He whom the only-begotten Son took upon Himself had a human mother, since he admits a human father as well as mother in the case of one taken up by the Holy Spirit. Let him believe that the Word of God was not defiled by the virgin womb of Mary, since he exhorts us to believe that the Holy Spirit could not be defiled by the married life of his parents. But if you say that Manichæus was united to the Spirit, not in the womb or before conception, but after his birth, still you must admit that he had a fleshly nature derived from man and woman. And since you are not afraid to speak of the blood and the bodily substance of Manichæus as coming from ordinary generation, or of the internal impurities contained in his flesh, and hold that the Holy Spirit, who took on Himself, as you believe, this human being, was not contaminated by all those things, why should I shrink from speaking of the Virgin's womb and body undefiled, and not rather believe that the Wisdom of God in union with the human being in his mother's flesh still remained free from stain and pollution? Wherefore, as, whether your Manichæus professes to be sent by or to be united with the Paraclete, neither statement can hold good, I am on my guard, and refuse to believe either in his mission or in his susception.


Chapter 8.--The Festival of the Birth-Day of Manichæus.

9. In adding the words, "by the providence of God the Father," what else did Manichæus design but that, having got the name of Jesus Christ, whose apostle he calls himself, and of God the Father, by whose providence he says he was sent by the Son, we should believe himself, as the Holy Spirit, to be the third person? His words are: "Manichæus, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the providence of God the Father." The Holy Spirit is not named, though He ought specially to have been named by one who quotes to us in favor of his apostleship the promise of the Paraclete, that he may prevail upon ignorant people by the authority of the gospel. In reply to this, you of course say that in the name of the Apostle Manichæus we have the name of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, because He condescended to come into Manichæus. Why then, I ask again, should you cry out against the doctrine of the Catholic Church, that He in whom divine Wisdom came was born of a virgin, when you do not scruple to affirm the birth by ordinary generation of him in whom you say the Holy Spirit came? I cannot but suspect that this Manichæus, who uses the name of Christ to gain access to the minds of the ignorant, wished to be worshipped instead of Christ Himself. I will state briefly the reason of this conjecture. At the time when I was a student of your doctrines, to my frequent inquiries why it was that the Paschal feast of the Lord was celebrated generally with no interest, though sometimes there were a few languid worshippers, but no watchings, no prescription of any unusual fast,--in a word, no special ceremony,--while great honor is paid to your Bema, that is, the day on which Manichæus was killed, when you have a platform with fine steps, covered with precious cloth, placed conspicuously so as to face the votaries,--the reply was, that the day to observe was the day of the passion of him who really suffered, and that Christ, who was not born, but appeared to human eyes in an unreal semblance of flesh, only feigned suffering, without really bearing it. Is it not deplorable, that men who wish to be called Christians are afraid of a virgin's womb as likely to defile the truth, and yet are not afraid of falsehood? But to go back to the point, who that pays attention can help suspecting that the intention of Manichæus in denying Christ's being born of a woman, and having a human body, was that His passion, the time of which is now a great festival all over the world, might not be observed by the believers in himself, so as to lessen the devotion of the solemn commemoration which he wished in honor of the day of his own death? For to us it was a great attraction in the feast of the Bema that it was held during Pascha, since we used all the more earnestly to desire that festal day [the Bema], that the other which was formerly most sweet had been withdrawn.


Chapter 9.--When the Holy Spirit Was Sent.

10. Perhaps you will say to me, When, then, did the Paraclete promised by the Lord come? As regards this, had I nothing else to believe on the subject, I should rather look for the Paraclete as still to come, than allow that He came in Manichæus. But seeing that the advent of the Holy Spirit is narrated with perfect clearness in the Acts of the Apostles, where is the necessity of my so gratuitously running the risk of believing heretics? For in the Acts it is written as follows: "The former treatise have we made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, in the day in which He chose the apostles by the Holy Spirit, and commanded them to preach the gospel. By those to whom He showed Himself alive after His passion by many proofs in the daytime, He was seen forty days, teaching concerning the kingdom of God. And how He conversed with them, and commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of me. For John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall begin to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, whom also ye shall receive after not many days, that is, at Pentecost. When they had come, they asked him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time manifest Thyself? And when will be the kingdom of Israel? And He said unto them, No one can know the time which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." [273]Behold you have here the Lord reminding His disciples of the promise of the Father, which they had heard from His mouth, of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Let us now see when He was sent; for shortly after we read as follows: "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. And when the sound was heard, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed, and marvelled, saying one to another, Are not all these which speak Galilæans? and how heard we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Armenia, and in Cappadocia, in Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the regions of Africa about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews, natives, Cretes, and Arabians, they heard them speak in their own tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt on account of what had happened, saying, What meaneth this? But others, mocking, said, These men are full of new wine." [274]You see when the Holy Spirit came. What more do you wish? If the Scriptures are credible, should not I believe most readily in these Acts, which have the strongest testimony in their support, and which have had the advantage of becoming generally known, and of being handed down and of being publicly taught along with the gospel itself, which contains the promise of the Holy Spirit, which also we believe? On reading, then, these Acts of the Apostles, which stand, as regards authority, on a level with the gospel, I find that not only was the Holy Spirit promised to these true apostles, but that He was also sent so manifestly, that no room was left for errors on this subject.

Footnotes

[273] Acts i. 1-8. [274] Acts ii. 1-13.


Chapter 10.--The Holy Spirit Twice Given.

11. For the glorification of our Lord among men is His resurrection from the dead and His ascension to heaven. For it is written in the Gospel according to John: "The Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified." [275]Now if the reason why He was not given was that Jesus was not yet glorified, He was given immediately on the glorification of Jesus. And since that glorification was twofold, as regards man and as regards God, twice also was the Holy Spirit given: once, when, after His resurrection from the dead, He breathed on the face of His disciples, saying, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost;" [276] and again, ten days after His ascension to heaven. This number ten signifies perfection; for to the number seven which embraces all created things, is added the trinity of the Creator. [277]On these things there is much pious and sober discourse among spiritual men. But I must keep to my point; for my business at present is not to teach you, which you might think presumptuous, but to take the part of an inquirer, and learn from you, as I tried to do for nine years without success. Now, therefore, I have a document to believe on the subject of the Holy Spirit's advent; and if you bid me not to believe this document, as your usual advice is not to believe ignorantly, without consideration, [278] much less will I believe your documents. Away, then, with all books, and disclose the truth with logical clearness, so as to leave no doubt in my mind; or bring forward books where I shall find not an imperious demand for my belief, but a trustworthy statement of what I may learn. Perhaps you say this epistle is also of this character. Let me, then, no longer stop at the threshold: let us see the contents.

Footnotes

[275] John vii. 39. [276] John xx. 22. [277] [This is, of course, fanciful; but is quite in accordance with the exegetical methods of the time.--A.H.N.] [278] [The Manichæans assumed the role of rationalists, and scorned the credulity of ordinary believers. Yet they required in their followers an amount of credulity which only persons of a peculiar turn of mind could furnish. The same thing applies to modern rationalistic anti-Christian systems. The fact is, that it requires infinitely less credulity to believe in historical Christianity than to disbelieve in it.--A.H.N.]


Chapter 11.--Manichæus Promises Truth, But Does Not Make Good His Word.

12. "These," he says, "are wholesome words from the perennial and living fountain; and whoever shall have heard them, and shall have first believed them, and then shall have observed the truths they set forth, shall never suffer death, but shall enjoy eternal life in glory. For he is to be judged truly blessed who has been instructed in this divine knowledge, by which he is made free and shall abide in everlasting life." And this, as you see, is a promise of truth, but not the bestowal of it. And you yourselves can easily see that any errors whatever might be dressed up in this fashion, so as under cover of a showy exterior to steal in unawares into the minds of the ignorant. Were he to say, These are pestiferous words from a poisonous fountain; and whoever shall have heard them, and shall have first believed them, and then have observed what they set forth, shall never be restored to life, but shall suffer a woful death as a criminal: for assuredly he is to be pronounced miserable who falls into this infernal error, in which he will sink so as to abide in everlasting torments;--were he to say this, he would say the truth; but instead of gaining any readers for his book, he would excite the greatest aversion in the minds of all into whose hands the book might come. Let us then pass on to what follows; nor let us be deceived by words which may be used alike by good and bad, by learned and unlearned. What, then, comes next?

13. "May the peace," he says, "of the invisible God, and the knowledge of the truth, be with the holy and beloved brethren who both believe and also yield obedience to the divine precepts." Amen, say we. For the prayer is a most amiable and commendable one. Only we must bear in mind that these words might be used by false teachers as well as by good ones. So, if he said nothing more than this, all might safely read and embrace it. Nor should I disapprove of what follows: "May also the right hand of light protect you, and deliver you from every hostile assault, and from the snares of the world." In fact, I have no fault to find with the beginning of this epistle, till we come to the main subject of it. For I wish not to spend time on minor points. Now, then, for this writer's plain statement of what is to be expected from him.


Chapter 12.--The Wild Fancies of Manichæus. The Battle Before the Constitution of the World.

14. "Of that matter," he says, "beloved brother of Patticus, of which you told me, saying that you desired to know the manner of the birth of Adam and Eve, whether they were produced by a word or sprung from matter, I will answer you as is fit. For in various writings and narratives we find different assertions made and different descriptions given by many authors. Now the real truth on the subject is unknown to all peoples, even to those who have long and frequently treated of it. For had they arrived at a clear knowledge of the generation of Adam and Eve, they would not have remained liable to corruption and death." Here, then, is a promise to us of clear knowledge of this matter, so that we shall not be liable to corruption and death. And if this does not suffice, see what follows: "Necessarily," he says, "many things have to be said by way of preface, before a discovery of this mystery free from all uncertainty can be made." This is precisely what I asked for, to have such evidence of the truth as to free my knowledge of it from all uncertainty. And even were the promise not made by this writer himself, it was proper for me to demand and to insist upon this, so that no opposition should make me ashamed of becoming a Manichæan from a Catholic Christian, in view of such a gain as that of perfectly clear and certain truth. Now, then, let us hear what he has to state.

15. "Accordingly," he says, "hear first, if you please, what happened before the constitution of the world, and how the battle was carried on, that you may be able to distinguish the nature of light from that of darkness." Such are the utterly false and incredible statements which this writer makes. Who can believe that any battle was fought before the constitution of the world? And even supposing it credible, we wish now to get something to know, not to believe. For to say that the Persians and Scythians long ago fought with one another is a credible statement; but while we believe it when we read or hear it, we cannot know it as a fact of experience or as a truth of the understanding. So, then, as I would repudiate any such statement on the ground that I have been promised something, not that I must believe on authority, but that I shall understand without any ambiguity; still less will I receive statements which are not only uncertain, but incredible. But what if he have some evidence to make these things clear and intelligible? Let us hear, then, if we can, what follows with all possible patience and forbearance.


Chapter 13.--Two Opposite Substances. The Kingdom of Light. Manichæus Teaches Uncertainties Instead of Certainties.

16. "In the beginning, then," he says, "these two substances were divided. The empire of light was held by God the Father, who is perpetual in holy origin, magnificent in virtue, true in His very nature, ever rejoicing in His own eternity, possessing in Himself wisdom and the vital senses, by which He also includes the twelve members of His light, which are the plentiful resources of his kingdom. Also in each of His members are stored thousands of untold and priceless treasures. But the Father Himself, chief in praise, incomprehensible in greatness, has united to Himself happy and glorious worlds, incalculable in number and duration, along with which this holy and illustrious Father and Progenitor resides, no poverty or infirmity being admitted in His magnificent realms. And these matchless realms are so founded on the region of light and bliss, that no one can ever move or disturb them." [279]

17. Where is the proof of all this? And where did Manichæus learn it? Do not frighten me with the name of the Paraclete. For, in the first place, I have come not to put faith in unknown things, but to get the knowledge of undoubted truths, according to the caution enjoined on me by yourselves. For you know how bitterly you taunt those who believe without consideration. And what is more, this writer, who here begins to tell of very doubtful things, himself promised a little before to give complete and well-grounded knowledge.

Footnotes

[279] [Compare the fuller account from the Fihrist in the Introduction.--A.H.N.]


Chapter 14.--Manichæus Promises the Knowledge of Undoubted Things, and Then Demands Faith in Doubtful Things.

In the next place, if faith is what is required of me, I should prefer to keep to the Scripture, which tells me that the Holy Spirit came and inspired the apostles, to whom the Lord had promised to send Him. You must therefore prove, either that what Manichæus says is true, and so make clear to me what I am unable to believe; or that Manichæus is the Holy Spirit, and so lead me to believe in what you cannot make clear. For I profess the Catholic faith, and by it I expect to attain certain knowledge. Since, then, you try to overthrow my faith, you must supply me with certain knowledge, if you can, that you may convict me of having adopted my present belief without consideration. You make two distinct propositions,--one when you say that the speaker is the Holy Spirit, and another when you say that what the speaker teaches is evidently true. I might fairly ask undeniable proof for both propositions. But I am not greedy and require to be convinced only of one. Prove this person to be the Holy Spirit, and I will believe what he says to be true, even without understanding it; or prove that what he says is true, and I will believe him to be the Holy Spirit, even without evidence. Could anything be fairer or kinder than this? But you cannot prove either one or other of these propositions. You can find nothing better than to praise your own faith and ridicule mine. So, after having in my turn praised my belief and ridiculed yours, what result do you think we shall arrive at as regards our judgment and our conduct, but to part company with those who promise the knowledge of indubitable things, and then demand from us faith in doubtful things? while we shall follow those who invite us to begin with believing what we cannot yet fully perceive, that, strengthened by this very faith, we may come into a position to know what we believe by the inward illumination and confirmation of our minds, due no longer to men, but to God Himself.

18. And as I have asked this writer to prove these things to me, I ask him now where he learned them himself. If he replies that they were revealed to him by the Holy Spirit, and that his mind was divinely enlightened that he might know them to be certain and evident, he himself points to the distinction between knowing and believing. The knowledge is his to whom these things are fully made known as proved; but in the case of those who only hear his account of these things, there is no knowledge imparted, but only a believing acquiescence required. Whoever thoughtlessly yields this becomes a Manichæan, not by knowing undoubted truth, but by believing doubtful statements. Such were we when in our inexperienced youth we were deceived. Instead, therefore, of promising knowledge, or clear evidence, or the settlement of the question free from all uncertainty, Manichæus ought to have said that these things were clearly proved to him, but that those who hear his account of them must believe him without evidence. But were he to say this, who would not reply to him, If I must believe without knowing, why should I not prefer to believe those things which have a widespread notoriety from the consent of learned and unlearned, and which among all nations are established by the weightiest authority? From fear of having this said to him, Manichæus bewilders the inexperienced by first promising the knowledge of certain truths, and then demanding faith in doubtful things. And then, if he is asked to make it plain that these things have been proved to himself, he fails again, and bids us believe this too. Who can tolerate such imposture and arrogance?


Chapter 15.--The Doctrine of Manichæus Not Only Uncertain, But False. His Absurd Fancy of a Land and Race of Darkness Bordering on the Holy Region and the Substance of God. The Error, First of All, of Giving to the Nature of God Limits and Borders, as If God Were a Material Substance, Having Extension in Space.

19. What if I shall have shown, with the help of God and of our Lord, that this writer's statements are false as well as uncertain? What more unfortunate thing can be found than that superstition which not only fails to impart the knowledge and the truth which it promises, but also teaches what is directly opposed to knowledge and truth? This will appear more clearly from what follows: "In one direction on the border of this bright and holy land there was a land of darkness deep and vast in extent, where abode fiery bodies, destructive races. Here was boundless darkness, flowing from the same source in immeasurable abundance, with the productions properly belonging to it. Beyond this were muddy turbid waters with their inhabitants; and inside of them winds terrible and violent with their prince and their progenitors. Then again a fiery region of destruction, with its chiefs and peoples. And similarly inside of this a race full of smoke and gloom, where abode the dreadful prince and chief of all, having around him innumerable princes, himself the mind and source of them all. Such are the five natures of the pestiferous land."

20. To speak of God as an aerial or even as an ethereal body is absurd in the view of all who, with a clear mind, possessing some measure of discernment, can perceive the nature of wisdom and truth as not extended or scattered in space, but as great, and imparting greatness without material size, nor confined more or less in any direction, but throughout co-extensive with the Father of all, nor having one thing here and another there, but everywhere perfect, everywhere present. [280]

Footnotes

[280] [This exalted view of God Augustin held in common with the Neo-Platonists.--A.H.N.]


Chapter 16.--The Soul, Though Mutable, Has No Material Form. It is All Present in Every Part of the Body.

But why speak of truth and wisdom which surpass all the powers of the soul, when the nature of the soul itself, which is known to be mutable, still has no kind of material extension in space? For whatever consists of any kind of gross matter must necessarily be divisible into parts, having one in one place, and another in another. Thus, the finger is less than the whole hand, and one finger is less than two; and there is one place for this finger, and another for that, and another for the rest of the hand. And this applies not to organized bodies only, but also to the earth, each part of which has its own place, so that one cannot be where the other is. So in moisture, the smaller quantity occupies a smaller space, and the larger quantity a larger space; and one part is at the bottom of the cup, and another part near the mouth. So in air, each part has its own place; and it is impossible for the air in this house to have along with itself, in the same house at the same moment, the air that the neighbors have. And even as regards light itself, one part pours through one window, and another through another; and a greater through the larger, and a smaller through the smaller. Nor, in fact, can there be any bodily substance, whether celestial or terrestrial, whether aerial or moist, which is not less in part than in whole, or which can possibly have one part in the place of another at the same time; but, having one thing in one place and another in another, its extension in space is a substance which has distinct limits and parts, or, so to speak, sections. The nature of the soul, on the other hand, though we leave out of account its power of perceiving truth, and consider only its inferior power of giving unity to the body, and of sensation in the body, does not appear to have any material extension in space. For it is all present in each separate part of its body when it is all present in any sensation. There is not a smaller part in the finger, and a larger in the arm, as the bulk of the finger is less than that of the arm; but the quantity everywhere is the same, for the whole is present everywhere. For when the finger is touched, the whole mind feels, though the sensation is not through the whole body. No part of the mind is unconscious of the touch, which proves the presence of the whole. And yet it is not so present in the finger or in the sensation as to abandon the rest of the body, or to gather itself up into the one place where the sensation occurs. For when it is all present in the sensation in a finger, if another part, say the foot, be touched, it does not fail to be all present in this sensation too: so that at the same moment it is all present in different places, without leaving one in order to be in the other, and without having one part in one, and another in the other; but by this power showing itself to be all present at the same moment in separate places. Since it is all present in the sensations of these places, it proves that it is not bound by the conditions of space. [281]

Footnotes

[281] [Modern mental physiologists differ among themselves as regards the presence of the mind throughout the entire nervous system; some maintaining the view here presented, and others making the brain to be the seat of sensation, and the nerves telegraphic lines, so to speak, for the communication of impressions from the various parts of the body to the brain. Compare Carpenter: Mental Physiology, and Calderwood: Mind and Brain.--A.H.N.]


Chapter 17.--The Memory Contains the Ideas of Places of the Greatest Size.

Again, if we consider the mind's power of remembering not the objects of the intellect, but material objects, such as we see brutes also remembering (for cattle find their way without mistake in familiar places, and animals return to their cribs, and dogs recognize the persons of their masters, and when asleep they often growl, or break out into a bark, which could not be unless their mind retained the images of things before seen or perceived by some bodily sense), who can conceive rightly where these images are contained, where they are kept, or where they are formed? If, indeed, these images were no larger than the size of our body, it might be said that the mind shapes and retains them in the bodily space which contains itself. But while the body occupies a small material space, the mind revolves images of vast extent, of heaven and earth, with no want of room, though they come and go in crowds; so that clearly, the mind is not diffused through space: for instead of being contained in images of the largest spaces, it rather contains them; not, however, in any material receptacle, but by a mysterious faculty or power, by which it can increase or diminish them, can contract them within narrow limits, or expand them indefinitely, can arrange or disarrange them at pleasure, can multiply them or reduce them to a few or to one.


Chapter 18.--The Understanding Judges of the Truth of Things, and of Its Own Action.

What, then, must be said of the power of perceiving truth, and of making a vigorous resistance against these very images which take their shape from impressions on the bodily senses, when they are opposed to the truth? This power discerns the difference between, to take a particular example, the true Carthage and its own imaginary one, which it changes as it pleases with perfect ease. It shows that the countless worlds of Epicurus, in which his fancy roamed without restraint, are due to the same power of imagination, and, not to multiply examples, that we get from the same source that land of light, with its boundless extent, and the five dens of the race of darkness, with their inmates, in which the fancies of Manichæus have dared to usurp for themselves the name of truth. What then is this power which discerns these things? Clearly, whatever its extent may be, it is greater than all these things, and is conceived of without any such material images. Find, if you can, space for this power; give it a material extension; provide it with a body of huge size. Assuredly if you think well, you cannot. For of everything of this corporeal nature your mind forms an opinion as to its divisibility, and you make of such things one part greater and another less, as much as you like; while that by which you form a judgment of these things you perceive to be above them, not in local loftiness of place, but in dignity of power.


Chapter 19.--If the Mind Has No Material Extension, Much Less Has God.

21. So then, if the mind, so liable to change, whether from a multitude of dissimilar desires, or from feelings varying according to the abundance or the want of desirable things, or from these endless sports of the fancy, or from forgetfulness and remembrance, or from learning and ignorance; if the mind, I say, exposed to frequent change from these and the like causes, is perceived to be without any local or material extension, and to have a vigor of action which surmounts these material conditions, what must we think or conclude of God Himself, who remains superior to all intelligent beings in His freedom from perturbation and from change, giving to every one what is due? Him the mind dares to express more easily than to see; and the clearer the sight, the less is the power of expression. And yet this God, if, as the Manichæan fables are constantly asserting, He were limited in extension in one direction and unlimited in others, could be measured by so many subdivisions or fractions of greater or less size, as every one might fancy; so that, for example, a division of the extent of two feet would be less by eight parts than one of ten feet. For this is the property of all natures which have extension in space, and therefore cannot be all in one place. But even with the mind this is not the case; and this degrading and perverted idea of the mind is found among people who are unfit for such investigations.


Chapter 20.--Refutation of the Absurd Idea of Two Territories.

22. But perhaps, instead of thus addressing carnal minds, we should rather descend to the views of those who either dare not or are as yet unfit to turn from the consideration of material things to the study of an immaterial and spiritual nature, and who thus are unable to reflect upon their own power of reflection, so as to see how it forms a judgment of material extension without itself possessing it. Let us descend then to these material ideas, and let us ask in what direction, and on what border of the shining and sacred territory, to use the expressions of Manichæus, was the region of darkness? For he speaks of one direction and border, without saying which, whether the right or the left. In any case, it is clear that to speak of one side implies that there is another. But where there are three or more sides, either the figure is bounded in all directions, or if it extends infinitely in one direction, still it must be limited in the directions where it has sides. If,then, on one side of the region of light there was the race of darkness, what bounded it on the other side or sides? The Manichæans say nothing in reply to this; but when pressed, they say that on the other sides the region of light, as they call it, is infinite, that is, extends throughout boundless space. They do not see, what is plain to the dullest understanding, that in that case there could be no sides? For the sides are where it is bounded. What, then, he says, though there are no sides? But what you said of one direction or side, implied of necessity the existence of another direction and side, or other directions and sides. For if there was only one side, you should have said, on the side, not on one side; as in reference to our body we say properly, By one eye, because there is another; or on one breast, because there is another. But if we spoke of a thing as being on one nose, or one navel, we should be ridiculed by learned and unlearned, since there is only one. But I do not insist on words, for you may have used one in the sense of the only one.


Chapter 21.--This Region of Light Must Be Material If It is Joined to the Region of Darkness. The Shape of the Region of Darkness Joined to the Region of Light.

What, then, bordered on the side of the region which you call shining and sacred? The region, you reply, of darkness. Do you then allow this latter region to have been material? Of course you must, since you assert that all bodies derive their origin from it. How then is it that, dull and carnal as you are, you do not see that unless both regions were material, they could not have their sides joined to one another? How could you ever be so blinded in mind as to say that only the region of darkness was material, and that the so-called region of light was immaterial and spiritual? My good friends, let us open our eyes for once, and see, now that we are told of it, what is most obvious, that two regions cannot be joined at their sides unless both are material.

23. Or if we are too dull and stupid to see this, let us hear whether the region of darkness too has one side, and is boundless in the other directions, like the region of light. They do not hold this from fear of making it seem equal to God. Accordingly they make it boundless in depth and in length; but upwards, above it, they maintain that there is an infinity of empty space. And lest this region should appear to be a fraction equal in amount to half of that representing the region of light, they narrow it also on two sides. As if, to give the simplest illustration, a piece of bread were made into four squares, three white and one black; then suppose the three white pieces joined as one, and conceive them as infinite upwards and downwards, and backwards in all directions: this represents the Manichæan region of light. Then conceive the black square infinite downwards and backwards, but with infinite emptiness above it: this is their region of darkness. But these are secrets which they disclose to very eager and anxious inquirers.


Chapter 22.--The Form of the Region of Light the Worse of the Two.

Well, then, if this is so, the region of darkness is clearly touched on two sides by the region of light. And if it is touched on two sides, it must touch on two. So much for its being on one side, as we were told before.

24. And what an unseemly appearance is this of the region of light!--like a cloven arch, with a black wedge inserted below, bounded only in the direction of the cleft, and having a void space interposed where the boundless emptiness stretches above the region of darkness. Indeed, the form of the region of darkness is better than that of the region of light: for the former cleaves, the latter is cloven; the former fills the gap which is made in the latter; the former has no void in it, while the latter is undefined in all directions, except that where it is filled up by the wedge of darkness. In an ignorant and greedy notion of giving more honor to a number of pans than to a single one, so that the region of light should have six, three upwards and three downwards, they have made this region be split up, instead of sundering the other. For, according to this figure, though there may be no commixture of darkness with light, there is certainly penetration.


Chapter 23.--The Anthropomorphites Not So Bad as the Manichæans.

25. Compare, now, not spiritual men of the Catholic faith, whose mind, as far as is possible in this life, perceives that the divine substance and nature has no material extension, and has no shape bounded by lines, but the carnal and weak of our faith, who, when they hear the members of the body used figuratively, as, when God's eyes or ears are spoken of, are accustomed, in the license of fancy, to picture God to themselves in a human form; compare these with the Manichæans, whose custom it is to make known their silly stories to anxious inquirers as if they were great mysteries: and consider who have the most allowable and respectable ideas of God, --those who think of Him as having a human form which is the most excellent of its kind, or those who think of Him as having boundless material extension, yet not in all directions, but with three parts infinite and solid, while in one part He is cloven, with an empty void, and with undefined space above, while the region of darkness is inserted wedge-like below. Or perhaps the proper expression is, that He is unconfined above in His own nature, but encroached on below by a hostile nature. I join with you in laughing at the folly of carnal men, unable as yet to form spiritual conceptions, who think of God as having a human form. Do you too join me, if you can, in laughing at those whose unhappy conceptions represent God as having a shape cloven or cut in such an unseemly and unbecoming way, with such an empty gap above, and such a dishonorable curtailment below. Besides, there is this difference, that these carnal people, who think of God as having a human form, if they are content to be nourished with milk from the breast of the Catholic Church, and do not rush headlong into rash opinions, but cultivate in the Church the pious habit of inquiry, and there ask that they may receive, and knock that it may be opened to them, begin to understand spiritually the figures and parables of the Scriptures, and gradually to perceive that the divine energies are suitably set forth under the name, sometimes of ears, sometimes of eyes, sometimes of hands or feet, or even of wings and feathers a shield too, and sword, and helmet, and all the other innumerable things. And the more progress they make in this understanding, the more are they confirmed as Catholics. The Manichæans, on the other hand, when they abandon their material fancies, cease to be Manichæans. For this is the chief and special point in their praises of Manichæus, that the divine mysteries which were taught figuratively in books from ancient times were kept for Manichæus, who was to come last, to solve and demonstrate; and so after him no other teacher will come from God, for he has said nothing in figures or parables, but has explained ancient sayings of that kind, and has himself taught in plain, simple terms. Therefore, when the Manichæans hear these words of their founder, on one side and border of the shining and sacred region was the region of darkness, they have no interpretations to fall back on. Wherever they turn, the wretched bondage of their own fancies brings them upon clefts or sudden stoppages and joinings or sunderings of the most unseemly kind, which it would be shocking to believe as true of any immaterial nature, even though mutable, like the mind, not to speak of the immutable nature of God. And yet if I were unable to rise to higher things, and to bring my thoughts from the entanglement of false imaginations which are impressed on the memory by the bodily senses, into the freedom and purity of spiritual existence, how much better would it be to think of God as in the form of a man, than to fasten that wedge of darkness to His lower edge, and, for want of a covering for the boundless vacuity above to leave it void and unoccupied throughout infinite space! What notion could be worse than this? What darker error can be taught or imagined?


Chapter 24.--Of the Number of Natures in the Manichæan Fiction.

26. Again, I wish to know, when I read of God the Father and His kingdoms founded on the shining and happy region, whether the Father and His kingdoms, and the region, are all of the same nature and substance. If they are, then it is not another nature or sort of body of God which the wedge of the race of darkness cleaves and penetrates, which itself is an unspeakably revolting thing, but it is actually the very nature of God which undergoes this. Think of this, I beseech you: as you are men, think of it, and flee from it; and if by tearing open your breasts you can cast out by the roots such profane fancies from your faith, I pray you to do it. Or will you say that these three are not of one and the same nature, but that the Father is of one, the kingdoms of another, and the region of another, so that each has a peculiar nature and substance, and that they are arranged according to their degree of excellence? If this is true, Manichæus should have taught that there are four natures, not two; or if the Father and the kingdoms have one nature, and the region only one of its own, he should have made three. Or if he made only two, because the region of darkness does not belong to God, in what sense does the region of light belong to God? For if it has a nature of its own, and if God neither generated nor made it, it does not belong to Him, and the seat of His kingdom is in what belongs to another. Or if it belongs to Him because of its vicinity, the region of darkness must do so too; for it not only borders on the region of light, but penetrates it so as to sever it in two. Again, if God generated it, it cannot have a separate nature. For what is generated by God must be what God is, as the Catholic Church believes of the only begotten Son. So you are brought back of necessity to that shocking and detestable profanity, that the wedge of darkness sunders not a region distinct and separate from God, but the very nature of God. Or if God did not generate, but make it, of what did He make it? Or if of Himself, what is this but to generate? If of some other nature, was this nature good or evil? If good, there must have been some good nature not belonging to God; which you will scarcely have the boldness to assert. If evil, the race of darkness cannot have been the only evil nature. Or did God take a part of that region and turn it into a region of light, in order to found His kingdom upon it? If He had, He would have taken the whole, and there would have been no evil nature left. If God, then, did not make the region of light of a substance distinct from His own, He must have made it of nothing. [282]

Footnotes

[282] [There is sufficient reason to think that Mani identified God with the kingdom and the region of light. See Introduction.--A.H.N.]


Chapter 25.--Omnipotence Creates Good Things Differing in Degree. In Every Description Whatsoever of the Junction of the Two Regions There is Either Impropriety or Absurdity.

27. If, then, you are now convinced that God is able to create some good thing out of nothing, come into the Catholic Church, and learn that all the natures which God has created and founded in their order of excellence from the highest to the lowest are good, and some better than others; and that they were made of nothing, though God, their Maker, made use of His own wisdom as an instrument, so to speak, to give being to what was not, and that as far as it had being it might be good, and that the limitation of its being might show that it was not begotten by God, but made out of nothing. If you examine the matter, you will find nothing to keep you from agreeing to this. For you cannot make your region of light to be what God is, without making the dark section an infringement on the very nature of God. Nor can you say that it was generated by God, without being reduced to the same enormity, from the necessity of concluding that as begotten of God, it must be what God is. Nor can you say that it was distinct from Him, lest you should be forced to admit that God placed His kingdom in what did not belong to Him, and that there are three natures. Nor can you say that God made it of a substance distinct from His own, without making something good besides God, or something evil besides the race of darkness. It remains, therefore that you must confess that God made the region of light out of nothing: and you are unwilling to believe this; because if God could make out of nothing some great good which yet was inferior to Himself, He could also, since He is good, and grudges no good, make another good inferior to the former, and again a third inferior to the second, and so on, in order down to the lowest good of created natures, so that the whole aggregate, instead of extending indefinitely without number or measure should have a fixed and definite consistency. Again, if you will not allow this either, that God made the region of light out of nothing, you will have no escape from the shocking profanities to which your opinions lead.

28. Perhaps, since the carnal imagination can fancy any shapes it likes, you might be able to devise some other form for the junction of the two regions, instead of presenting to the mind such a disagreeable and painful description as this, that the region of God, whether it be of the same nature as God or not, where at least God's kingdoms are founded, lies through immensity in such a huge mass that its members stretch loosely to an infinite extent, and that on their lower part that wedge of the region of darkness, itself of boundless size encroaches upon them. But whatever other form you contrive for the junction of these two regions, you cannot erase what Manichæus has written. I refer not to other treatises where a more particular description is given,--for perhaps, because they are in the hands of only a few, there might not be so much difficulty with them,--but to this Fundamental Epistle which we are now considering, with which all of you who are called enlightened are usually quite familiar. Here the words are: "On one side the border of the shining and sacred region was the region of darkness, deep and boundless in extent."


Chapter 26.--The Manichæans are Reduced to the Choice of a Tortuous, or Curved, or Straight Line of Junction. The Third Kind of Line Would Give Symmetry and Beauty Suitable to Both Regions.

What more is to be got? we have now heard what is on the border. Make what shape you please, draw any kind of lines you like, it is certain that the junction of this boundless mass of the region of darkness to the region of light must have been either by a straight line, or a curved, or a tortuous one. If the line of junction is tortuous the side of the region of light must also be tortuous; otherwise its straight side joined to a tortuous one would leave gaps of infinite depth, instead of having vacuity only above the land of darkness, as we were told before. And if there were such gaps, how much better it would have been for the region of light to have been still more distant, and to have had a greater vacuity between, so that the region of darkness might not touch it at all! Then there might have been such a gap of bottomless depth, that, on the rise of any mischief in that race, although the chiefs of darkness might have the foolhardy wish to cross over, they would fall headlong into the gap (for bodies cannot fly without air to support them); and as there is infinite space downwards, they could do no more harm, though they might live for ever, for they would be for ever falling. Again, if the line of junction was a curved one, the region of light must also have had the disfigurement of a curve to answer it. Or if the land of darkness were curved inwards like a theatre, there would be as much disfigurement in the corresponding line in the region of light. Or if the region of darkness had a curved line, and the region of light a straight one, they cannot have touched at all points. And certainly, as I said before, it would have been better if they had not touched, and if there was such a gap between that the regions might be kept distinctly separate, and that rash evildoers might fall headlong so as to be harmless. If, then, the line of junction was a straight one, there remain, of course, no more gaps or grooves, but, on the contrary, so perfect a junction as to make the greatest possible peace and harmony between the two regions. What more beautiful or more suitable than that one side should meet the other in a straight line, without bends or breaks to disturb the natural and permanent connection throughout endless space and endless duration? And even though there was a separation, the straight sides of both regions would be beautiful in themselves, as being straight; and besides, even in spite of an interval, their correspondence, as running parallel, though not meeting, would give a symmetry to both. With the addition of the junction, both regions become perfectly regular and harmonious; for nothing can be devised more beautiful in description or in conception than this junction of two straight lines. [283]

Footnotes

[283] [This discussion of the lines bounding the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness seems very much like trifling, but Augustin's aim was to bring the Manichæan representations into ridicule.--A.H.N.]


Chapter 27.--The Beauty of the Straight Line Might Be Taken from the Region of Darkness Without Taking Anything from Its Substance. So Evil Neither Takes from Nor Adds to the Substance of the Soul. The Straightness of Its Side Would Be So Far a Good Bestowed on the Region of Darkness by God the Creator.

29. What is to be done with unhappy minds, perverse in error, and held fast by custom? These men do not know what they say when they say those things; for they do not consider. Listen to me; no one forces you, no one quarrels with you, no one taunts you with past errors, unless some one who has not experienced the divine mercy in deliverance from error: all we desire is that the errors should some time or other be abandoned. Think a little without animosity or bitterness. We are all human beings: let us hate, not one another, but errors and lies. Think a little, I pray you. God of mercy, help them to think, and kindle in the minds of inquirers the true light. If anything is plain, is not this, that right is better than wrong? Give me, then, a calm and quiet answer to this, whether making crooked the right line of the region of darkness which joins on to the right line of the region of light, would not detract from its beauty. If you will not be dogged, you must confess that not only is beauty taken from it by its being made crooked, but also the beauty which it might have had from connection with the right line of the region of light. Is it the case, then, that in this loss of beauty, in which right is made crooked, and harmony becomes discord, and agreement disagreement, there is any loss of substance? Learn, then, from this that substance is not evil; but as in the body, by change of form for the worse, beauty is lost, or rather lessened, and what was called fair before is said to be ugly, and what was pleasing becomes displeasing, so in the mind the seemliness of a right will, which makes a just and pious life, is injured when the will changes for the worse; and by this sin the mind becomes miserable, instead of enjoying as before the happiness which comes from the ornament of a right will, without any gain or loss of substance.

30. Consider, again, that though we admit that the border of the region of darkness was evil for other reasons, such as that it was dim and dark, or any other reason, still it was not evil in being straight. So, if I admit that there was some evil in its color, you must admit that there was some good in its straightness. Whatever the amount of this good, it is not allowable to attribute it to any other than God the Maker, from whom we must believe that all good in whatsoever nature comes, if we are to escape deadly error. It is absurd, then, to say that this region is perfect evil, when in its straightness of border is found the good of not a little beauty of a material kind; and also to make this region to be altogether estranged, from the almighty and good God, when this good which we find in it can be attributed to no other but the author of all good things. But this border, too, we are told, was evil. Well, suppose it evil: it would surely have been worse had it been crooked instead of straight. And how can that be the perfection of evil than which something worse than itself can be thought of? And to be worse implies that there is some good, the want of which makes the thing worse. Here the want of straightness would make the line worse. Therefore its straightness is something good. And you will never answer the question whence this goodness comes, without reference to Him from whom we must acknowledge that all good things come, whether small or great. But now we shall pass on from considering this border to something else.


Chapter 28.--Manichæus Places Five Natures in the Region of Darkness.

31. "There dwelt," he says, "in that region fiery bodies, destructive races." By speaking of dwelling, he must mean that those bodies were animated and in life. But, not to appear to cavil at a word, let us see how he divides into five classes all these inhabitants of this region. "Here," he says, "was boundless darkness, flowing from the same source in immeasurable abundance, with the productions properly belonging to it. Beyond this were muddy turbid waters, with their inhabitants; and inside of them winds terrible and violent, with their prince and their progenitors. Then, again, a fiery region of destruction, with its chiefs and peoples. And, similarly, inside of this a race full of smoke and gloom, where abode the dreadful prince and chief of all, having around him innumerable princes, himself the mind and source of them all. Such are the five natures of the pestiferous region." We find here five natures mentioned as part of one nature, which he calls the pestiferous region. The natures are darkness, waters, winds, fire, smoke; which he so arranges as to make darkness first, beginning at the outside. Inside of darkness he puts the waters; inside of the waters, the winds; inside of the winds, the fire; inside of the fire, the smoke. And each of these natures had its peculiar kind of inhabitants, which were likewise five in number. For to the question, Whether there was only one kind in all, or different kinds corresponding to the different natures; the reply is, that they were different: as in other books we find it stated that the darkness had serpents; the waters swimming creatures, such as fish; the winds flying creatures, such as birds; the fire quadrupeds, such as horses, lions, and the like; the smoke bipeds, such as men.


Chapter 29.--The Refutation of This Absurdity.

32. Whose arrangement, then, is this? Who made the distinctions and the classification? Who gave the number, the qualities, the forms, the life? For all these things are in themselves good, nor could each of the natures have them except from the bestowal of God, the author of all good things. For this is not like the descriptions or suppositions of poets about an imaginary chaos, as being a shapeless mass, without form, without quality, without measurement, without weight and number, without order and variety; a confused something, absolutely destitute of qualities, so that some Greek writers call it apoion. So far from being like this is the Manichæan description of the region of darkness, as they call it, that, in a directly contrary style, they add side to side, and join border to border; they number five natures; they separate, arrange, and assign to each its own qualities. Nor do they leave the natures barren or waste, but people them with their proper inhabitants; and to these, again, they give suitable forms, and adapted to their place of habitation, besides giving the chief of all endowments, life. To recount such good things as these, and to speak of them as having no connection with God, the author of all good things, is to lose sight of the excellence of the order in the things, and of the great evil of the error which leads to such a conclusion.


Chapter 30.--The Number of Good Things in Those Natures Which Manichæus Places in the Region of Darkness.

33. "But," is the reply, "the orders of beings inhabiting those five natures were fierce and destructive." As if I were praising their fierceness and destructiveness. I, you see, join with you in condemning the evils you attribute to them; join you with me in praising the good things which you ascribe to them: so it will appear that there is a mixture of good and evil in what you call the last extremity of evil. If I join you in condemning what is mischievous in this region, you must join with me in praising what is beneficial. For these beings could not have been produced, or nourished, or have continued to inhabit that region, without some salutary influence. I join with you in condemning the darkness; join with me in praising the productiveness. For while you call the darkness immeasurable, you speak of "suitable productions." Darkness, indeed, is not a real substance, and means no more than the absence of light, as nakedness means the want of clothing, and emptiness the want of material contents: so that darkness could produce nothing, although a region in darkness--that is, in the absence of light--might produce something. But passing over this for the present, it is certain that where productions arise there must be a beneficent adaptation of substances, as well as a symmetrical arrangement and construction in unity of the members of the beings produced,--a wise adjustment making them agree with one another. And who will deny that all these things are more to be praised than darkness is to be condemned? If I join with you in condemning the muddiness of the waters, you must join with me in praising the waters as far as they possessed the form and quality of water, and also the agreement of the members of the inhabitants swimming in the waters, their life sustaining and directing their body, and every particular adaptation of substances for the benefit of health. For though you find fault with the waters as turbid and muddy, still, in allowing them the quality of producing and maintaining their living inhabitants, you imply that there was some kind of bodily form, and similarity of parts, giving unity and congruity of character; otherwise there could be no body at all: and, as a rational being, you must see that all these things are to be praised. And however great you make the ferocity of these inhabitants, and their massacrings and devastations in their assaults, you still leave them the regular limits of form, by which the members of each body are made to agree together, and their beneficial adaptations, and the regulating power of the living principle binding together the parts of the body in a friendly and harmonious union. And if all these are regarded with common sense it will be seen that they are more to be commended than the faults are to be condemned. I join with you in condemning the frightfulness of the winds; join with me in praising their nature, as giving breath and nourishment, and their material form in its continuousness and diffusion by the connection of its parts: for by these things these winds had the power of producing and nourishing, and sustaining in vigor these inhabitants you speak of; and also in these inhabitants--besides the other things which have already been commended in all animated creatures--this particular power of going quickly and easily whence and whither they please, and the harmonious stroke of their wings in flight, and their regular motion. I join with you in condemning the destructiveness of fire; join with me in commending the productiveness of this fire, and the growth of these productions, and the adaptation of the fire to the beings produced, so that they had coherence, and came to perfection in measure and shape, and could live and have their abode there: for you see that all these things deserve admiration and praise, not only in the fire which is thus habitable, but in the inhabitants too. I join with you in condemning the denseness of smoke, and the savage character of the prince who, as you say, abode in it; join with me in praising the similarity of all the parts in this very smoke, by which it preserves the harmony and proportion of its parts among themselves, according to its own nature, and has an unity which makes it what it is: for no one can calmly reflect on these things without wonder and praise. Besides, even to the smoke you give the power and energy of production, for you say that princes inhabited it; so that in that region the smoke is productive, which never happens here, and, moreover, affords a wholesome dwelling place to its inhabitants.


Chapter 31.--The Same Subject Continued.

34. And even in the prince of smoke himself, instead of mentioning only his ferocity as a bad quality, ought you not to have taken notice of the other things in his nature which you must allow to be commendable? For he had a soul and a body; the soul life-giving, and the body endowed with life. Since the soul governed and the body obeyed, the soul took the lead and the body followed; the soul gave consistency, the body was not dissolved; the soul gave harmonious motion, and the body was constructed of a well-proportioned framework of members. In this single prince are you not induced to express approval of the orderly peace or the peaceful order? And what applies to one applies to all the rest. You say he was fierce and cruel to others. This is not what I commend, but the other important things which you will not take notice of. Those things, when perceived and considered,--after advice by any one who has without consideration put faith in Manichæus,--lead him to a clear conviction that, in speaking of those natures, he speaks of things good in a sense, not perfect and un-created, like God the one Trinity, nor of the higher rank of created things, like the holy angels and the ever-blessed powers; but of the lowest class, and ranked according to the small measure of their endowments. These things are thought to be blameworthy by the uninstructed when they compare them with higher things; and in view of their want of some good, the good they have gets the name of evil, because it is defective. My reason also for thus discussing the natures enumerated by Manichæus is that the things named are things familiar to us in this world. We are familiar with darkness, waters, winds, fire, smoke; we are familiar, too, with animals, creeping, swimming, flying; with quadrupeds and biped. With the exception of darkness (which, as I have said already, is nothing but the absence of light, and the perception of it is only the absence of sight, as the perception of silence is the absence of hearing; not that darkness is anything, but that light is not, as neither that silence is anything, but that sound is not), all the other things are natural qualities and are familiar to all; and the form of those natures, which is commendable and good as far as it exists, no wise man attributes to any other author than God, the author of all good things. [284]

Footnotes

[284] [This portion of the argument is conducted with great adroitness. Augustin takes the inhabitants of the region of darkness, as Mani describes them, and proves that they possess so much of good that they can have no other author than God.--A.H.N.]


Chapter 32.--Manichæus Got the Arrangement of His Fanciful Notions from Visible Objects.

35. For in giving to these natures which he has learned from visible things, an arrangement according to his fanciful ideas, to represent the race of darkness, Manichæus is clearly in error. First of all, he makes darkness productive, which is impossible. But, he replies, this darkness was unlike what you are familiar with. How, then, can you make me understand about it? After so many promises to give knowledge, will you force me to take your word for it? Suppose I believe you, this at least is certain, that if the darkness had no form, as darkness usually has not, it could produce nothing; if it had form, it was better than ordinary darkness: whereas, when you call it different from the ordinary kind, you wish us to believe that it is worse. You might as well say that silence, which is the same to the ear as darkness to the eyes, produced some deaf or dumb animals in that region; and then, in reply to the objection that silence is not a nature, you might say that it was different silence from ordinary silence; in a word, you might say what you pleased to those whom you have once misled into believing you. No doubt, the obvious facts relating to the origin of animal life led Manichæus to say that serpents were produced in darkness. However, there are serpents which have such sharp sight, and such pleasure in light, that they seem to give evidence of the most weighty kind against this idea. Then the idea of swimming things in the water might easily be got here, and applied to the fanciful objects in that region; and so of flying things in the winds, for the motion of the lower air in this world, where birds fly, is called wind. Where he got the idea of the quadrupeds in fire, no one can tell. Still he said this deliberately, though without sufficient thought, and from great misconception. The reason usually given is, that quadrupeds are voracious and salacious. But many men surpass any quadruped in voracity, though they are bipeds, and are called children of the smoke, and not of fire. Geese, too, are as voracious as any animal; and though he might place them in fire as bipeds, or in the water because they love to swim, or in the winds because they have wings and sometimes fly, they certainly have nothing to do with fire in this classification. As regards salaciousness, I suppose he was thinking of neighing horses, which sometimes bite through the bridle and rush at the mares; and writing hastily, with this in his mind, he forgot the common sparrow, in comparison of which the hottest stallion is cold. The reason they give for assigning bipeds to the smoke is, that bipeds are conceited and proud, for men are derived from this class; and the idea, which is a plausible one, is that smoke resembles proud people in rising up into the air, round and swelling. This idea might warrant a figurative description of proud men, or an allegorical expression or explanation, but not the belief that bipeds are born in smoke and of smoke. They might with equal reason be said to be born in dust, for it often rises up to the heaven with a similar circling and lofty motion; or in the clouds, for they are often drawn up from the earth in such a way, that those looking from a distance are uncertain whether they are clouds or smoke. Once more, why, in the case of the waters and the winds, does he suit the inhabitants to the character of the place, as we see swimming things in water, and flying things in the wind; whereas, in the face of fire and smoke, this bold liar is not ashamed to assign to these places the most unlikely inhabitants? For fire burns quadrupeds, and consumes them, and smoke suffocates and kills bipeds. At least he must acknowledge that he has made these natures better in the race of darkness than they are here, though he wishes us to think everything to be worse. For, according to this, the fire there produced and nourished quadrupeds, and gave them a lodging not only harmless, but most convenient. The smoke, too, provided room for the offspring of its own benign bosom, and cherished them up to the rank of prince. Thus we see that these lies, which have added to the number of heretics, arose from the perception by carnal sense, only without care or discernment, of visible objects in this world, and when thus conceived, were brought forth by fancy, and then presumptuously written and published.


Chapter 33.--Every Nature, as Nature, is Good.

36. But the consideration we wish most to urge is the truth of the Catholic doctrine, if they can understand it, that God is the author of all natures. I urged this before when I said, I join with you in your condemnation of destructiveness, of blindness, of dense muddiness, of terrific violence, of perishableness, of the ferocity of the princes, and so on; join with me in commending form, classification, arrangement, harmony, unity of structure, symmetry and correspondence of members, provision for vital breath and nourishment, wholesome adaptation, regulation and control by the mind, and the subjection of the bodies, and the assimilation and agreement of parts in the natures, both those inhabiting and those inhabited, and all the other things of the same kind. From this, if they would only think honestly, they would understand that it implies a mixture of good and evil, even in the region where they suppose evil to be alone and in perfection: so that if the evils mentioned were taken away, the good things will remain, without anything to detract from the commendation given to them; whereas, if the good things are taken away, no nature is left. From this every one sees, who can see, that every nature, as far as it is nature, is good; since in one and the same thing in which I found something to praise, and he found something to blame, if the good things are taken away, no nature will remain; but if the disagreeable things are taken away, the nature will remain unimpaired. Take from waters their thickness and muddiness, and pure clear water remains; take from them the consistence of their parts, and no water will be left. If then, after the evil is removed, the nature remains in a purer state, and does not remain at all when the good is taken away, it must be the good which makes the nature of the thing in which it is, while the evil is not nature, but contrary to nature. Take from the winds their terribleness and excessive force, with which you find fault, you can conceive of winds as gentle and mild; take from them the similarity of their parts which gives them continuity of substance, and the unity essential to material existence, and no nature remains to be conceived of. It would be tedious to go through all the cases; but all who consider the subject free from party spirit must see that in their list of natures the disagreeable things mentioned are additions to the nature; and when they are removed, the natures remain better than before. This shows that the natures, as far as they are natures, are good; for when you take from them the good instead of the evil, no natures remain. And attend, you who wish to arrive at a correct judgment, to what is said of the fierce prince himself. If you take away his ferocity, see how many excellent things will remain; his material frame, the symmetry of the members on one side with those on the other, the unity of his form, the settled continuity of his parts, the orderly adjustment of the mind as ruling and animating, and the body as subject and animated. The removal of these things, and of others I may have omitted to mention, will leave no nature remaining.


Chapter 34.--Nature Cannot Be Without Some Good. The Manichæans Dwell Upon the Evils.

37. But perhaps you will say that these evils cannot be removed from the natures, and must therefore be considered natural. The question at present is not what can be taken away, and what cannot; but it certainly helps to a clear perception that these natures, as far as they are natures, are good, when we see that the good things can be thought of without these evil things, while without these good things no nature can be conceived of. I can conceive of waters without muddy commotion; but without settled continuity of parts no material form is an object of thought or of sensation in any way. Therefore even these muddy waters could not exist without the good which was the condition of their material existence. As to the reply that these evil things cannot be taken from such natures, I rejoin that neither can the good things be taken away. Why, then, should you call these things natural evils, on account of the evil things which you suppose cannot be taken away, and yet refuse to call them natural good things, on account of the good things which, as has been proved, cannot be taken away?

38. You may next ask, as you usually do for a last resource, whence come these evils which I have said that I too disapprove of. I shall perhaps tell you, if you first tell me whence are those good things which you too are obliged to commend, if you would not be altogether unreasonable. But why should I ask this, when we both acknowledge that all good things whatever, and how great soever, are from the one God, who is supremely good? You must therefore yourselves oppose Manichæus who has placed all these important good things which we have mentioned and justly commended,--the continuity and agreement of parts in each nature, the health and vigor of the animated creatures, and the other things which it would be wearisome to repeat,--(in an imaginary region of darkness, so as to separate them altogether from that God whom he allows to be the author of all good things.) He lost sight of those good things, while taking notice only of what was disagreeable; as if one, frightened by a lion's roaring, and seeing him dragging away and tearing the bodies of cattle or human beings which he had seized, should from childish pusillanimity be so overpowered with fear as to see nothing but the cruelty and ferocity of the lion; and overlooking or disregarding all the other qualities, should exclaim against the nature of this animal as not only evil, but a great evil, his fear adding to his vehemence. But were he to see a tame lion, with its ferocity subdued, especially if he had never been frightened by a lion, he would have leisure, in the absence of danger and terror, to observe and admire the beauty of the animal. My only remark on this is one closely connected with our subject: that any nature may be in some case disagreeable, so as to excite hatred towards the whole nature; though it is clear that the form of a real living beast, even when it excites terror in the woods, is far better than that of the artificial imitation which is commended in a painting on the wall. We must not then be misled into this error by Manichæus, or be hindered from observing the forms of the natures, by his finding fault with some things in them in such a way as to make us disapprove of them entirely, when it is impossible to show that they deserve entire disapproval. And when our minds are thus composed and prepared to form a just judgment, we may ask whence come those evils which I have said that I condemn. It will be easier to see this if we class them all under one name.


Chapter 35.--Evil Alone is Corruption. Corruption is Not Nature, But Contrary to Nature. Corruption Implies Previous Good.

39. For who can doubt that the whole of that which is called evil is nothing else than corruption? Different evils may, indeed, be called by different names; but that which is the evil of all things in which any evil is perceptible is corruption. So the corruption of an educated mind is ignorance; the corruption of a prudent mind is imprudence; the corruption of a just mind, injustice; the corruption of a brave mind, cowardice; the corruption of a calm, peaceful mind, cupidity, fear, sorrow, pride. Again, in a living body, the corruption of health is pain and disease; the corruption of strength is exhaustion; the corruption of rest is toil. Again, in any corporeal thing, the corruption of beauty is ugliness; the corruption of straightness is crookedness; the corruption of order is confusion; the corruption of entireness is disseverance, or fracture, or diminution. It would be long and laborious to mention by name all the corruptions of the things here mentioned, and of countless other things; for in many cases the words may apply to the mind as well as to the body, and in innumerable cases the corruption has a distinct name of its own. But enough has been said to show that corruption does harm only as displacing the natural condition; and so, that corruption is not nature, but against nature. And if corruption is the only evil to be found anywhere, and if corruption is not nature, no nature is evil.

40. But if, perchance, you cannot follow this, consider again, that whatever is corrupted is deprived of some good: for if it were not corrupted, it would be incorrupt; or if it could not in any way be corrupted, it would be incorruptible. Now, if corruption is an evil, both incorruption and incorruptibility must be good things. We are not, however, speaking at present of incorruptible nature, but of things which admit of corruption, and which, while not corrupted, may be called incorrupt, but not incorruptible. That alone can be called incorruptible which not only is not corrupted, but also cannot in any part be corrupted. Whatever things, then, being incorrupt, but liable to corruption, begin to be corrupted, are deprived of the good which they had as incorrupt. Nor is this a slight good, for corruption is a great evil. And the continued increase of corruption implies the continued presence of good, of which they may be deprived. Accordingly, the natures supposed to exist in the region of darkness must have been either corruptible or incorruptible. If they were incorruptible, they were in possession of a good than which nothing is higher. If they were corruptible, they were either corrupted or not corrupted. If they were not corrupted, they were incorrupt, to say which of anything is to give it great praise. If they were corrupted, they were deprived of this great good of incorruption; but the deprivation implies the previous possession of the good they are deprived of; and if they possessed this good, they were not the perfection of evil, and consequently all the Manichæan story is a falsehood.


Chapter 36.--The Source of Evil or of Corruption of Good.

41. After thus inquiring what evil is, and learning that it is not nature, but against nature, we must next inquire whence it is. If Manichæus had done this, he might have escaped falling into the snare of these serious errors. Out of time and out of order, he began with inquiring into the origin of evil, without first asking what evil was; and so his inquiry led him only to the reception of foolish fancies, of which the mind, much fed by the bodily senses, with difficulty rids itself. Perhaps, then, some one, desiring no longer argument, but delivery from error, will ask, Whence is this corruption which we find to be the common evil of good things which are not incorruptible? Such an inquirer will soon find the answer if he seeks for truth with great earnestness, and knocks reverently with sustained assiduity. For while man can use words as a kind of sign for the expression of his thoughts, teaching is the work of the incorruptible Truth itself, who is the one true, the one internal Teacher. He became external also, that He might recall us from the external to the internal; and taking on Himself the form of a servant, that He might bring down His height to the knowledge of those rising up to Him, He condescended to appear in lowliness to the low. In His name let us ask, and through Him let us seek mercy of the Father while making this inquiry. For to answer in a word the question, Whence is corruption? it is hence, because these natures that are capable of corruption were not begotten by God, but made by Him out of nothing; and as we already proved that those natures are good, no one can say with propriety that they were not good as made by God. If it is said that God made them perfectly good, it must be remembered that the only perfect good is God Himself, the maker of those good things.


Chapter 37.--God Alone Perfectly Good.

42. What harm, you ask, would follow if those things too were perfectly good? Still, should any one, who admits and believes the perfect goodness of God the Father, inquire what source we should reverently assign to any other perfectly good thing, supposing it to exist, our only correct reply would be, that it is of God the Father, who is perfectly good. And we must bear in mind that what is of Him is born of Him, and not made by Him out of nothing, and that it is therefore perfectly, that is, incorruptibly, good like God Himself. So we see that it is unreasonable to require that things made out of nothing should be as perfectly good as He who was begotten of God Himself, and who is one as God is one, otherwise God would have begotten something unlike Himself. Hence it shows ignorance and impiety to seek for brethren for this only-begotten Son through whom all good things were made by the Father out of nothing, except in this, that He condescended to appear as man. Accordingly in Scripture He is called both only-begotten and first-begotten; only-begotten of the Father, and first-begotten from the dead. "And we beheld," says John, "His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." [285]And Paul says, "that He might be the first-born among many brethren." [286]

43. But should we say, These things made out of nothing are not good things, but only God's nature is good, we shall be unjust to good things of great value. And there is impiety in calling it a defect in anything not to be what God is, and in denying a thing to be good because it is inferior to God. Pray submit then, thou nature of the rational soul, to be somewhat less than God, but only so far less, that after Him nothing else is above thee. Submit, I say, and yield to Him, lest He drive thee still lower into depths where the punishment inflicted will continually detract more and more from the good which thou hast. Thou exaltest thyself against God, if thou art indignant at His preceding thee; and thou art very contumacious in thy thoughts of Him, if thou dost not rejoice unspeakably in the possession of this good, that He alone is above thee. This being settled as certain, thou art not to say, God should have made me the only nature: there should be no good thing after me. It could not be that the next good thing to God should be the last. And in this is seen most clearly how great dignity God conferred on thee, that He who in the order of nature alone rules over thee, made other good things for thee to rule over. Nor be surprised that they are not now in all respects subject to thee, and that sometimes they pain thee; for thy Lord has greater authority over the things subject to thee than thou hast, as a master over the servants of his servants. What wonder, then, if, when thou sinnest, that is, disobeyest thy Lord, the things thou before ruledst over are made instrumental in thy punishment? For what is so just, or what is more just than God? For this befell human nature in Adam, of whom this is not the place to speak. Suffice it to say, the righteous Ruler acts in character both in just rewards and in just punishments, in the happiness of those who live rightly, and in the penalty inflicted on sinners. Nor yet art thou [287] left without mercy, since by an appointed distribution of things and times thou art called to return. Thus the righteous control of the supreme Creator extends even to earthly good things, which are corrupted and restored, that thou mightest have consolations mingled with punishments; that thou mightest both praise God when delighted by the order of good things, and mightest take refuge in Him when tried by experience of evils. So, as far as earthly things are subject to thee, they teach thee that thou art their ruler; as far as they distress thee, they teach thee to be subject to thy Lord.

Footnotes

[285] John i. 14. [286] Rom. viii. 29. [287] [Augustin still addresses himself to the "nature of the rational soul."--A.H.N.]


Chapter 38.--Nature Made by God; Corruption Comes from Nothing.

44. In this way, though corruption is an evil, and though it comes not from the Author of natures, but from their being made out of nothing, still, in God's government and control over all that He has made, even corruption is so ordered that it hurts only the lowest natures, for the punishment of the condemned, and for the trial and instruction of the returning, that they may keep near to the incorruptible God, and remain incorrupt, which is our only good; as is said by the prophet, "But it is good for me that I keep near to God." [288]And you must not say, God did not make corruptible natures: for, as far as they are natures, God made them; but as far as they are corruptible, God did not make them: for corruption cannot come from Him who alone is incorruptible. If you can receive this, give thanks to God; if you cannot, be quiet and do not condemn what you do not yet understand, but humbly wait on Him who is the light of the mind that thou mayest know. For in the expression "corruptible nature" there are two words, and not one only. So, in the expression, God made out of nothing, "God" and "nothing" are two separate words. Render therefore to each of these words that which belongs to each, so that the word "nature" may go with the word "God,"and the word "corruptible" with the word "nothing." And yet even the corruptions, though they have not their origin from God, are to be overruled by Him in accordance with the order of inanimate things and the deserts of His intelligent creatures. Thus we say rightly that reward and punishment are both from God. For God's not making corruption is consistent with His giving over to corruption the man who deserves to be corrupted, that is, who has begun to corrupt himself by sinning, that he who has wilfully yielded to the allurements of corruption may, against his will, suffer its pains.

Footnotes

[288] Ps. lxxiii. 28.


Chapter 39.--In What Sense Evils are from God.

45. Not only is it written in the Old Testament, "I make good, and create evil;" [289] but more clearly in the New Testament, where the Lord says, "Fear not them which kill the body, and have no more that they can do; but fear him who, after he has killed the body, has power to cast the soul into hell." [290]And that to voluntary corruption penal corruption is added in the divine judgment, is plainly declared by the Apostle Paul, when he says, "The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are; whoever corrupts the temple of God, him will God corrupt." [291]If this had been said in the Old Law, how vehemently would the Manichæans have denounced it as making God a corrupter! And from fear of the word, many Latin translators make it, "him shall God destroy," instead of corrupt, avoiding the offensive word without any change of meaning. Although these would inveigh against any passage in the Old Law or the prophets if God was called in it a destroyer. But the Greek original here shows that corrupt is the true word; for it is written distinctly, "Whoever corrupts the temple of God, him will God corrupt." If the Manichæans are asked to explain the words, they will say, to escape making God a corrupter, that corrupt here means to give over to corruption, or some such explanation. Did they read the Old Law in this spirit, they would both find many admirable things in it; and instead of spitefully attacking passages which they did not understand, they would reverently postpone the inquiry.

Footnotes

[289] Ps. xlv. 7. [290] Matt. x. 28, and Luke xii. 4. [291] 1 Cor. iii. 17.


Chapter 40.--Corruption Tends to Non-Existence.

46. But if any one does not believe that corruption comes from nothing, let him place before himself existence and non-existence--one, as it were, on one side, and the other on the other (to speak so as not to outstrip the slow to understand); then let him set something, say the body of an animal, between them, and let him ask himself whether, while the body is being formed and produced, while its size is increasing, while it gains nourishment, health, strength, beauty, stability, it is tending, as regards its duration and permanence, to this side or that, to existence or non-existence. He will see without difficulty, that even in the rudimentary form there is an existence, and that the more the body is established and built up in form, and figure and strength, the more does it come to exist, and to tend to the side of existence. Then, again, let the body begin to be corrupted; let its whole condition be enfeebled, let its vigor languish, its strength decay, its beauty be defaced, its framework be sundered, the consistency of its parts give way and go to pieces; and let him ask now where the body is tending in this corruption, whether to existence or non-existence: he will not surely be so blind or stupid as to doubt how to answer himself, or as not to see that, in proportion as anything is corrupted, in that proportion it approaches decease. But whatever tends to decease tends to non-existence. Since, then, we must believe that God exists immutably and incorruptibly, while what is called nothing is clearly altogether nonexistent; and since, after setting before yourself existence and non-existence, you have observed that the more a visible object increases the more it tends towards existence, while the more it is corrupted the more it tends towards non-existence, why are you at a loss to tell regarding any nature what in it is from God, and what from nothing; seeing that visible form is natural, and corruption against nature? The increase of form leads to existence, and we acknowledge God as supreme existence; the increase of corruption leads to non-existence, and we know that what is non-existent is nothing. Why then, I say, are you at a loss to tell regarding a corruptible nature, when you have both the words nature and corruptible, what is from God, and what from nothing? And why do you inquire for a nature contrary to God, since, if you confess that He is the supreme existence, it follows that non-existence is contrary to Him? [292]

Footnotes

[292] [We have already encountered in the treatise Concerning two Souls, substantially the same course of argumentation here pursued. The doctrine of the negativity of evil may be said to have been fundamental with Augustin, and he uses it very effectually against Manichæan dualism.--A.H.N.]


Chapter 41.--Corruption is by God's Permission, and Comes from Us.

47. You ask, Why does corruption take from nature what God has given to it? It takes nothing but where God permits; and He permits in righteous and well-ordered judgment, according to the degrees of non-intelligent and the deserts of intelligent creatures. The word uttered passes away as an object of sense, and perishes in silence; and yet the coming and going of these passing words make our speech, and the regular intervals of silence give pleasing and appropriate distinction; and so it is with temporal natures which have this lowest form of beauty, that transition gives them being, and the death of what they give birth to gives them individuality. And if our sense and memory could rightly take in the order and proportions of this beauty, it would so please us, that we should not dare to give the name of corruptions to those imperfections which give rise to the distinction. And when distress comes to us through their peculiar beauty, by the loss of beloved temporal things passing away, we both pay the penalty of our sins, and are exhorted to set our affection on eternal things.


Chapter 42.--Exhortation to the Chief Good.

48. Let us, then, not seek in this beauty for what has not been given to it (and from not having what we seek for, this is the lowest form of beauty); and in that which has been given to it, let us praise God, because He has bestowed this great good of visible form even on the lowest degree of beauty. And let us not cleave as lovers to this beauty, but as praisers of God let us rise above it; and from this superior position let us pronounce judgment on it, instead of so being bound up in it as to be judged along with it. And let us hasten on to that good which has no motion in space or advancement in time, from which all natures in space and time receive their sensible being and their form. To see this good let us purify our heart by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, who says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." [293]For the eyes needed in order to see this good are not those with which we see the light spread through space, which has part in one place and part in another, instead of being all in every place. The sight and the discernment we are to purify is that by which we see, as far as is allowed in this life, what is just, what is pious, what is the beauty of wisdom. He who sees these things, values them far above the fullness of all regions in space, and finds that the vision of these things requires not the extension of his perception through distances in space, but its invigoration by an immaterial influence. [294]

Footnotes

[293] Matt. v. 8. [294] [The Neo-Platonic quality of this section cannot escape the attention of the philosophical student.--A.H.N.]


Chapter 43.--Conclusion.

49. And as this vision is greatly hindered by those fancies which are originated by the carnal sense, and are retained and modified by the imagination, let us abhor this heresy which has been led by faith in its fancies to represent the divine substance as extended and diffused through space, even through infinite space, and to cut short one side so as to make room for evil,--not being able to perceive that evil is not nature, but against nature; and to beautify this very evil with such visible appearance, and forms, and consistency of parts prevailing in its several natures, not being able to conceive of any nature without those good things, that the evils found fault with in it are buried under a countless abundance of good things.

Here let us close this part of the treatise. The other absurdities of Manichæus will be exposed in what follows, by the permission and help of God. [295]

Footnotes

[295] Vide Preface.


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