Writings of Augustine. Letters of St. Augustin

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Letters of St. Augustin

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

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


The importance of the letters of eminent men, as illustrations of their life, character, and times, is too well understood to need remark. The Letters of Cicero and Pliny have given us a more vivid conception of Roman life than the most careful history could have given; the Letters of Erasmus, Luther, and Calvin furnish us with the most trustworthy material for understanding the rapid movement and fierce conflict of their age; when we read the voluminous correspondence of Pope and his compeers, or the unstudied beauties of Cowper's letters of friendship, we seem to be in the company of living men; and modern history has in nothing more distinctly proved its sagacity, than by its diligence in publishing the Letters of Cromwell, of Washington, of Chatham, and of other historical personages.

For biography, familiar letters are the most important material. In a man's published writings we see the general character of his mind, and we ascertain his opinions in so far as he deemed it safe or advisable to lay these before a perhaps unsympathizing public; in his letters he reveals his whole character, his feelings as well as his judgments, his motives, his personal history, and the various ramifications of his interest. In his familiar correspondence we see the man as he is known to his intimate friends, in his times of relaxation and unstudied utterance. [1434] Few men, in writing for the public, can resist the tendency towards a constrained attitudinizing, or throw off the fixed expression of one sitting for his portrait; and it is only in conversation, spoken or written, that we get the whole man revealed in a series of constantly varying and unconstrained expressions. And even where, as in Augustin's case, we have an autobiography, we derive from the letters many additional traits of character, much valuable illustration of opinions and progress. [1435]

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In their function of appendices to history they are equally valuable. It was a characteristic remark of Horace Walpole's, that "nothing gives so just an idea of an age as genuine letters; nay, history waits for its last seal from them." A still greater authority, Bacon, in his marvellous distribution of all knowledge, gives to letters the highest place among the "Appendices to History." "Letters," he says, "are, according to all the variety of occasions, advertisements, advices, directions, propositions, petitions commendatory, expostulatory, satisfactory; of compliment, of pleasure, of discourse, and all other passages of action. And such as are written from wise men are, of all the words of man, in my judgment, the best; for they are more natural than orations and public speeches, and more advised than conferences or present speeches. So, again, letters of affairs from such as manage them, or are privy to them, are of all others the best instructions for history, and to a diligent reader the best histories in themselves." [1436] This is especially true of the Letters of Augustin. A large number of them are ecclesiastical and theological, and would in our day have appeared as pamphlets, or would have been delivered as lectures. There are none of his writings which do not receive some supplementary light from his letters. The subjects of his more elaborate writings are here handled in an easier manner, and their sources, motives, and origin are disclosed. Difficulties which his published works had occasioned are here removed, new illustrations are noted, further developments and fresh complications of heresy are alluded to, and the whole theological movement of the time is here reflected in a vivid and interesting shape. No controversy of his age was settled without his voice, and it is in his letters we chiefly see the vastness of his empire, the variety of subjects on which appeal was made to him, and the deference with which his judgment was received. Inquiring philosophers, puzzled statesmen, angry heretics, pious ladies, all found their way to the Bishop of Hippo. And while he continually complains of want of leisure, of the multifarious business of his episcopate, of the unwarranted demands made upon him, he yet carefully answers all. Sometimes he writes with the courier who is to carry his letter impatiently chafing outside the door; sometimes a promptly written reply is carried round the whole known world by some faithless messenger before it reaches his anxious correspondent; but, amidst difficulties unthought of under a postal system, his indefatigable diligence succeeds in diffusing intelligence and counsel to the most distant inquirers.

In the present volume we have, as usual, followed the Benedictine edition. Among the many labours which the Benedictine Fathers encountered in editing the works of Augustin, they undertook the onerous task of rearranging the Epistles in chronological order. The manner in which this task has been executed is eminently characteristic of their unostentatious patience and skill. Their order has been universally adopted; it is to this order that reference is made when any writer cites a letter of Augustin's; and therefore it matters less whether in each case the date assigned by the Benedictine editors can be accepted as accurate. It will be seen that we have not considered it desirable to translate all the letters. Of those addressed to Augustin we have omitted a few which were neither important in themselves nor indispensable for the understanding of his replies; and, when any of his own letters is a mere repetition of what he has previously written to another correspondent, we have contented ourselves, and, we hope, shall satisfy our readers, with a reference to the former letter in which the arguments and illustrations now repeated may be found.

No English translation of these Letters has previously appeared. The French have in this, as in other patristic studies, been before us. Two hundred years ago a translation into the French tongue was published, and this has lately been superseded by M. Poujoulat's four readable and fairly accurate volumes.

The Editor. 1872.

In the second volume of Letters in Clark's series the editor adds the following

Prefatory Note.

Of the two hundred and seventy-two letters given in the Benedictine edition of Augustin's works, one hundred and sixty are translated in this selection. In the former volume few were omitted, and the reason for each omission was given in its own place. As the proportion of untranslated letters is in this volume much larger, it may be more convenient to indicate briefly here the general reasons which have guided us in the selection.

We have omitted--

I. Almost all the letters referring to the Donatist schism, as there is enough on this subject in the works on the Donatist controversy (vol. iii. of this series) and in numerous earlier letters. This excludes--105, 106, 107, 108, 128, 129, 134, 141, 142, and 204.

II. Almost all the letters relating to Pelagianism, as the series contains three volumes of Augustin's anti-Pelagian writings (vols. iv. xii. xv.). This excludes--156, 157, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 181, 182, 183, 184, 184 bis, 186, 193, 194, 214, 215, 216, 217.

III. Almost all the letters referring to the doctrine of the Trinity, as this has been already given, partly in earlier letters, and more fully in the volume on the Trinity (vol. vii. of this series). This excludes--119, 120, 170, 174, 238, 239, 240, 241, 242.

IV. Almost all those which in design, style, and prolixity, are exegetical or doctrinal treatises rather than letters. This excludes--140, 147, 149, 152, 153, 154, 155, 162, 187, 190, 196, 197, 198, 199, 202 bis, 205.

V. Some of the letters written by others to Augustin. This excludes--94, 109, 121, 160, 168, 225, 226, 230, 270.

VI. A large number of miscellaneous smaller letters, as, in order to avoid going beyond the limits of one volume, it was necessary to select only the more interesting and important of these. This excludes--110, 112, 113, 114, 127, 161, 162, 171, 200, 206, 207, 221, 222, 223, 224, 233, 234, 235, 236, 243, 244, 247, 248, 249, 251, 252, 253, 255, 256, 257, 258, 259, 260, 261, 262, 264, 265, 266, 267, 268.


[1434] "Ut oculi aliis corporis sensibus præstant, ita illustrium virorum Epistolæ cæteris eorum scriptis passim antecellunt."--Benedictine Preface to the Ep. Aug. [1435] "Si, dans le vaste naufrage des temps, par un malheur que la Providence n'a pas permis, les ouvrages proprement dits de Saint Augustin eussent péri et qu'il ne fut resté que ses lettres, nous aurions encore toute sa doctrine, tout son génie: les Lettres de Saint Augustin, c'est tout Saint Augustin."--Poujoulat, Lettres de. S. Aug. vii. [1436] Advancement of Learning, p. 125.

Letter I.

(a.d. 386.)

To Hermogenianus [1437] Augustin Sends Greeting.

1. I Would not presume, even in playful discussion, to attack the philosophers of the Academy; [1438] for when could the authority of such eminent men fail to move me, did I not believe their views to be widely different from those commonly ascribed to them? Instead of confuting them, which is beyond my power, I have rather imitated them to the best of my ability. For it seems to me to have been suitable enough to the times in which they flourished, that whatever issued pure from the fountainhead of Platonic philosophy should be rather conducted into dark and thorny thickets for the refreshment of a very few men, than left to flow in open meadow-land, where it would be impossible to keep it clear and pure from the inroads of the vulgar herd. I use the word herd advisedly; for what is more brutish than the opinion that the soul is material? For defence against the men who held this, it appears to me that such an art and method of concealing the truth [1439] was wisely contrived by the new Academy. But in this age of ours, when we see none who are philosophers,--for I do not consider those who merely wear the cloak of a philosopher to be worthy of that venerable name,--it seems to me that men (those, at least, whom the teaching of the Academicians has, through the subtlety of the terms in which it was expressed, deterred from attempting to understand its actual meaning) should be brought back to the hope of discovering the truth, lest that which was then for the time useful in eradicating obstinate error, should begin now to hinder the casting in of the seeds of true knowledge.

2. In that age the studies of contending schools of philosophers were pursued with such ardour, that the one thing to be feared was the possibility of error being approved. For every one who had been driven by the arguments of the sceptical philosophers from a position which he had supposed to be impregnable, set himself to seek some other in its stead, with a perseverance and caution corresponding to the greater industry which was characteristic of the men of that time, and the strength of the persuasion then prevailing, that truth, though deep and hard to be deciphered, does lie hidden in the nature of things and of the human mind. Now, however, such is the indisposition to strenuous exertion, and the indifference to the liberal arts, that so soon as it is noised abroad that, in the opinion of the most acute philosophers, truth is unattainable, men send their minds to sleep, and cover them up for ever. For they presume not, forsooth, to imagine themselves to be so superior in discernment to those great men, that they shall find out what, during his singularly long life, Carneades, [1440] with all his diligence, talents, and leisure, besides his extensive and varied learning, failed to discover. And if, contending somewhat against indolence, they rouse themselves so far as to read those books in which it is, as it were, proved that the perception of truth is denied to man, they relapse into lethargy so profound, that not even by the heavenly trumpet can they be aroused.

3. Wherefore, although I accept with the greatest pleasure your candid estimate of my brief treatise, and esteem you so much as to rely not less on the sagacity of your judgment than on the sincerity of your friendship, I beg you to give more particular attention to one point, and to write me again concerning it,--namely, whether you approve of that which, in the end of the third book, [1441] I have given as my opinion, in a tone perhaps of hesitation rather than of certainty, but in statements, as I think, more likely to be found useful than to be rejected as incredible. But whatever be the value of those treatises [the books against the Academicians], what I most rejoice in is, not that I have vanquished the Academicians, as you express it (using the language rather of friendly partiality than of truth), but that I have broken and cast away from me the odious bonds by which I was kept back from the nourishing breasts of philosophy, through despair of attaining that truth which is the food of the soul.


[1437] Hermogenianus was one of the earliest and most intimate friends of Augustin, and his associate in literary and philosophical studies. [1438] [Academy was a grove dedicated to the Attic hero Academos, on the banks of the Kephissos near Athens, where Plato taught. Hence it became the name of the Platonic school of philosophy. It had three branches,--the Older, the Middle, and the Younger Academy. The study of Platonism was a preparatory step to the conversion of Augustin in 386.--P. S.] [1439] We follow the reading "tegendi veri." [1440] [Carneades of Cyrene (B.C. 214-129), the founder of the third Academic school, who came to Rome B.C. 155, went further in the direction of scepticism than Arcesilas, and taught that certain knowledge was impossible. See Ueberweg, History of Philosophy, i. 133, 136 (transl. of Morris).--P. S.] [1441] Augustin's work, De Academicis, b. iii. c. 20.

Letter II.

(a.d. 386.)

To Zenobius Augustin Sends Greeting. [1442]

1. We are, I suppose, both agreed in maintaining that all things with which our bodily senses acquaint us are incapable of abiding unchanged for a single moment, but, on the contrary, are moving and in perpetual transition, and have no present reality, that is, to use the language of Latin philosophy, do not exist. [1443] Accordingly, the true and divine philosophy admonishes us to check and subdue the love of these things as most dangerous and disastrous, in order that the mind, even while using this body, may be wholly occupied and warmly interested in those things which are ever the same, and which owe their attractive power to no transient charm. Although this is all true, and although my mind, without the aid of the senses, sees you as you really are, and as an object which may be loved without disquietude, nevertheless I must own that when you are absent in body, and separated by distance, the pleasure of meeting and seeing you is one which I miss, and which, therefore, while it is attainable, I earnestly covet. This my infirmity (for such it must be) is one which, if I know you aright, you are well pleased to find in me; and though you wish every good thing for your best and most loved friends, you rather fear than desire that they should be cured of this infirmity. If, however, your soul has attained to such strength that you are able both to discern this snare, and to smile at those who are caught therein, truly you are great, and different from what I am. For my part, as long as I regret the absence of any one from me, so long do I wish him to regret my absence. At the same time, I watch and strive to set my love as little as possible on anything which can be separated from me against my will. Regarding this as my duty, I remind you, in the meantime, whatever be your frame of mind, that the discussion which I have begun with you must be finished, if we care for each other. For I can by no means consent to its being finished with Alypius, even if he wished it. But he does not wish this; for he is not the man to join with me now in endeavouring, by as many letters as we could send, to detain you with us, when you decline this, under the pressure of some necessity to us unknown.


[1442] Zenobius was the friend to whom Augustin dedicated his books De Ordine. In book i. ch. 1 and 2, we have a delightful description of the character of Zenobius. [1443] Ut latiné loquar, non esse.

Letter III.

(a.d. 387.)

To Nebridius Augustin Sends Greeting. [1444]

1. Whether I am to regard it as the effect of what I may call your flattering language, or whether the thing be really so, is a point which I am unable to decide. For the impression was sudden, and I am not yet resolved how far it deserves to be believed. You wonder what this can be. What do you think? You have almost made me believe, not indeed that I am happy--for that is the heritage of the wise alone--but that I am at least in a sense happy: as we apply the designation man to beings who deserve the name only in a sense if compared with Plato's ideal man, or speak of things which we see as round or square, although they differ widely from the perfect figure which is discerned by the mind of a few. I read your letter beside my lamp after supper: immediately after which I lay down, but not at once to sleep; for on my bed I meditated long, and talked thus with myself--Augustin addressing and answering Augustin: "Is it not true, as Nebridius affirms, that I am happy?" "Absolutely true it cannot be, for that I am still far from wise he himself would not deny." "But may not a happy life be the lot even of those who are not wise?" "That is scarcely possible; because, in that case, lack of wisdom would be a small misfortune, and not, as it actually is, the one and only source of unhappiness." "How, then, did Nebridius come to esteem me happy? Was it that, after reading these little books of mine, he ventured to pronounce me wise? Surely the vehemence of joy could not make him so rash, especially seeing that he is a man to whose judgment I well know so much weight is to be attached. I have it now: he wrote what he thought would be most gratifying to me, because he had been gratified by what I had written in those treatises; and he wrote in a joyful mood, without accurately weighing the sentiments entrusted to his joyous pen. What, then, would he have said if he had read my Soliloquies? He would have rejoiced with much more exultation, and yet could find no loftier name to bestow on me than this which he has already given in calling me happy. All at once, then, he has lavished on me the highest possible name, and has not reserved a single word to add to my praises, if at any time he were made by me more joyful than he is now. See what joy does."

2. But where is that truly happy life? where? ay, where? Oh! if it were attained, one would spurn the atomic theory of Epicurus. Oh! if it were attained, one would know that there is nothing here below but the visible world. Oh! if it were attained, one would know that in the rotation of a globe on its axis, the motion of points near the poles is less rapid than of those which lie half way between them,--and other such like things which we likewise know. But now, how or in what sense can I be called happy, who know not why the world is such in size as it is, when the proportions of the figures according to which it is framed do in no way hinder its being enlarged to any extent desired? Or how might it not be said to me--nay, might we not be compelled to admit that matter is infinitely divisible; so that, starting from any given base (so to speak), a definite number of corpuscles must rise to a definite and ascertainable quantity? Wherefore, seeing that we do not admit that any particle is so small as to be insusceptible of further diminution, what compels us to admit that any assemblage of parts is so great that it cannot possibly be increased? Is there perchance some important truth in what I once suggested confidentially to Alypius, that since number, as cognisable by the understanding, is susceptible of infinite augmentation, but not of infinite diminution, [1445] because we cannot reduce it lower than to the units, number, as cognisable by the senses (and this, of course, just means quantity of material parts or bodies), is on the contrary susceptible of infinite diminution, but has a limit to its augmentation? This may perhaps be the reason why philosophers justly pronounce riches to be found in the things about which the understanding is exercised, and poverty in those things with which the senses have to do. For what is poorer than to be susceptible of endless diminution? and what more truly rich than to increase as much as you will, to go whither you will, to return when you will and as far as you will, and to have as the object of your love that which is large and cannot be made less? For whoever understands these numbers loves nothing so much as the unit; and no wonder, seeing that it is through it that all the other numbers can be loved by him. But to return: Why is the world the size that it is, seeing that it might have been greater or less? I do not know: its dimensions are what they are, and I can go no further. Again: Why is the world in the place it now occupies rather than in another? Here, too, it is better not to put the question; for whatever the answer might be, other questions would still remain. This one thing greatly perplexed me, that bodies could be infinitely subdivided. To this perhaps an answer has been given, by setting over against it the converse property of abstract number [viz. its susceptibility of infinite multiplication].

3. But stay: let us see what is that indefinable object [1446] which is suggested to the mind. This world with which our senses acquaint us is surely the image of some world which the understanding apprehends. Now it is a strange phenomenon which we observe in the images which mirrors reflect to us,--that however great the mirrors be, they do not make the images larger than the objects placed before them, be they ever so small; but in small mirrors, such as the pupil of the eye, although a large surface be placed over against them, a very small image is formed, proportioned to the size of the mirror. [1447] Therefore if the mirrors be reduced in size, the images reflected in them are also reduced; but it is not possible for the images to be enlarged by enlarging the mirrors. Surely there is in this something which might reward further investigation; but meanwhile, I must sleep. [1448] Moreover, if I seem to Nebridius to be happy, it is not because I seek, but because perchance I have found something. What, then, is that something? Is it that chain of reasoning which I am wont so to caress as if it were my sole treasure, and in which perhaps I take too much delight?

4. "Of what parts do we consist?" "Of soul and body." "Which of these is the nobler?" "Doubtless the soul." "What do men praise in the body?" "Nothing that I see but comeliness." "And what is comeliness of body?" "Harmony of parts in the form, together with a certain agreeableness of colour." "Is this comeliness better where it is true or where it is illusive?" "Unquestionably it is better where it is true." "And where is it found true? In the soul." "The soul, therefore, is to be loved more than the body; but in what part of the soul does this truth reside?" "In the mind and understanding." "With what has the understanding to contend?" "With the senses." "Must we then resist the senses with all our might?" "Certainly." "What, then, if the things with which the senses acquaint us give us pleasure?" "We must prevent them from doing so." "How?" "By acquiring the habit of doing without them, and desiring better things." "But if the soul die, what then?" "Why, then truth dies, or intelligence is not truth, or intelligence is not a part of the soul, or that which has some part immortal is liable to die: conclusions all of which I demonstrated long ago in my Soliloquies to be absurd because impossible; and I am firmly persuaded that this is the case, but somehow through the influence of custom in the experience of evils we are terrified, and hesitate. But even granting, finally, that the soul dies, which I do not see to be in any way possible, it remains nevertheless true that a happy life does not consist in the evanescent joy which sensible objects can yield: this I have pondered deliberately, and proved."

Perhaps it is on account of reasonings such as these that I have been judged by my own Nebridius to be, if not absolutely happy, at least in a sense happy. Let me also judge myself to be happy: for what do I lose thereby, or why should I grudge to think well of my own estate? Thus I talked with myself, then prayed according to my custom, and fell asleep.

5. These things I have thought good to write to you. For it gratifies me that you should thank me when I write freely to you whatever crosses my mind; and to whom can I more willingly write nonsense [1449] than to one whom I cannot displease? But if it depends upon fortune whether one man love another or not, look to it, I pray you, how can I be justly called happy when I am so elated with joy by fortune's favours, and avowedly desire that my store of such good things may be largely increased? For those who are most truly wise, and whom alone it is right to pronounce happy, have maintained that fortune's favours ought not to be the objects of either fear or desire.

Now here I used the word "cupi:" [1450] will you tell me whether it should be "cupi" or "cupiri?" And I am glad this has come in the way, for I wish you to instruct me in the inflexion of this verb "cupio," since, when I compare similar verbs with it, my uncertainty as to the proper inflexion increases. For "cupio" is like "fugio," "sapio," "jacio," "capio;" but whether the infinitive mood is "fugiri" or "fugi," "sapiri" or "sapi," I do not know. I might regard "jaci" and "capi" [1451] as parallel instances answering my question as to the others, were I not afraid lest some grammarian should "catch" and "throw" me like a ball in sport wherever he pleased, by reminding me that the form of the supines "jactum" and "captum" is different from that found in the other verbs "fugitum," "cupitum" and "sapitum." As to these three words, moreover, I am likewise ignorant whether the penultimate is to be pronounced long and with circumflex accent, or without accent and short. I would like to provoke you to write a reasonably long letter. I beg you to let me have what it will take some time to read. For it is far beyond my power to express the pleasure which I find in reading what you write.


[1444] The character of Nebridius, and the intimacy of friendship between him and Augustin, may be seen in the Confessions, b. ix. c. 3. [1445] Had Augustin been acquainted with the decimal notation, he would not have made this remark to Alypius; for in the decimal scale, when the point is inserted, fractional parts go on diminishing according to the number of cyphers between them and the point (e.g .001), precisely as the integers increase according to the number of cyphers between them and the decimal point (e.g. 100.),--there being no limit to the descending series on the right hand of the decimal point, any more than to the ascending series on the left hand of the same point. [1446] Nescio quid. [1447] Augustin's acquaintance with the first principles of optics, and with the properties of reflection possessed by convex, plane, and concave mirrors, was very limited. [1448] Wisely resolved. [1449] Ineptiam. [1450] Present infinitive passive of cupere, to desire. [1451] Infinitive passive of verbs signifying respectively to "throw" and to "catch."

Letter IV.

(a.d. 387.)

To Nebridius Augustin Sends Greeting.

1. It is very wonderful how completely I was taken by surprise, when, on searching to discover which of your letters still remained unanswered, I found only one which held me as your debtor,--that, namely, in which you request me to tell you how far in this my leisure, which you suppose to be great, and which you desire to share with me, I am making progress in learning to discriminate those things in nature with which the senses are conversant, from those about which the understanding is employed. But I suppose it is not unknown to you, that if one becomes more and more fully imbued with false opinions, the more fully and intimately one exercises himself in them, the corresponding effect is still more easily produced in the mind by contact with truth. Nevertheless my progress, like our physical development, is so gradual, that it is difficult to define its steps distinctly, just as though there is a very great difference between a boy and a young man, no one, if daily questioned from his boyhood onward, could at any one date say that now he was no more a boy, but a young man.

2. I would not have you, however, so to apply this illustration as to suppose that, in the vigour of a more powerful understanding, I have arrived as it were at the beginning of the soul's manhood. For I am yet but a boy, though perhaps, as we say, a promising boy, rather than a good-for-nothing. For although the eyes of my mind are for the most part perturbed and oppressed by the distractions produced by blows inflicted through things sensible, they are revived and raised up again by that brief process of reasoning: "The mind and intelligence are superior to the eyes and the common faculty of sight; which could not be the case unless the things which we perceive by intelligence were more real than the things which we perceive by the faculty of sight." I pray you to help me in examining whether any valid objection can be brought against this reasoning. By it, meanwhile, I find myself restored and refreshed; and when, after calling upon God for help, I begin to rise to Him, and to those things which are in the highest sense real, I am at times satisfied with such a grasp and enjoyment of the things which eternally abide, that I sometimes wonder at my requiring any such reasoning as I have above given to persuade me of the reality of those things which in my soul are as truly present to me as I am to myself.

Please look over your letters yourself, for I own that you will be in this matter at greater pains than I, in order to make sure that I am not perchance unwittingly still owing an answer to any of them: for I can hardly believe that I have so soon got from under the burden of debts which I used to reckon as so numerous; albeit, at the same time, I cannot doubt that you have had some letters from me to which I have as yet received no reply.

Letter V.

(a.d. 388.)

To Augustin Nebridius Sends Greeting.

Is it true, my beloved Augustin, that you are spending your strength and patience on the affairs of your fellow-citizens (in Thagaste), and that the leisure from distractions which you so earnestly desired is still withheld from you? Who, I would like to know, are the men who thus take advantage of your good nature, and trespass on your time? I believe that they do not know what you love most and long for. Have you no friend at hand to tell them what your heart is set upon? Will neither Romanianus nor Lucinianus do this? Let them hear me at all events. I will proclaim aloud; I will protest that God is the supreme object of your love, and that your heart's desire is to be His servant, and to cleave to Him. Fain would I persuade you to come to my home in the country, and rest here; I shall not be afraid of being denounced as a robber by those countrymen of yours, whom you love only too well, and by whom you are too warmly loved in return.

Letter VI.

(a.d. 389.)

To Augustin Nebridius Sends Greeting.

1. Your letters I have great pleasure in keeping as carefully as my own eyes. For they are great, not indeed in length, but in the greatness of the subjects discussed in them, and in the great ability with which the truth in regard to these subjects is demonstrated. They shall bring to my ear the voice of Christ, and the teaching of Plato and of Plotinus. To me, therefore, they shall ever be pleasant to hear, because of their eloquent style; easy to read, because of their brevity; and profitable to understand, because of the wisdom which they contain. Be at pains, therefore, to teach me everything which, to your judgment, commends itself as holy or good. As to this letter in particular, answer it when you are ready to discuss a subtle problem in regard to memory, and the images presented by the imagination. [1452] My opinion is, that although there can be such images independently of memory, there is no exercise of memory independently of such images. [1453] You will say, What, then, takes place when memory is exercised in recalling an act of understanding or of thought? I answer this objection by saying, that such acts can be recalled by memory for this reason, that in the supposed act of understanding or of thought we gave birth to something conditioned by space or by time, which is of such a nature that it can be reproduced by the imagination: for either we connected the use of words with the exercise of the understanding and with the thoughts, and words are conditioned by time, and thus fall within the domain of the senses or of the imaginative faculty; or if we did not join words with the mental act, our intellect at all events experienced in the act of thinking something which was of such a nature as could produce in the mind that which, by the aid of the imaginative faculty, memory could recall. These things I have stated, as usual, without much consideration, and in a somewhat confused manner: do you examine them, and, rejecting what is false, acquaint me by letter with what you hold as the truth on this subject.

2. Listen also to this question: Why, I should like to know, do we not affirm that the phantasy [imaginative faculty] derives all its images from itself, rather than say that it receives these from the senses? For it is possible that, as the intellectual faculty of the soul is indebted to the senses, not for the objects upon which the intellect is exercised, but rather for the admonition arousing it to see these objects, in the same manner the imaginative faculty may be indebted to the senses, not for the images which are the objects upon which it is exercised, but rather for the admonition arousing it to contemplate these images. And perhaps it is in this way that we are to explain the fact that the imagination perceives some objects which the senses never perceived, whereby it is shown that it has all its images within itself, and from itself. You will answer me what you think of this question also.


[1452] Phantasia. [1453] Quamvis non omnis phantasia cum memoria sit, omnis tamen memoria, sine phantasia esse non possit.

Letter VII.

(a.d. 389.)

To Nebridius Augustin Sends Greeting.

Chap. I.--Memory may be exercised independently of such images as are presented by the imagination.

1. I shall dispense with a formal preface, and to the subject on which you have for some time wished to hear my opinion I shall address myself at once; and this I do the more willingly, because the statement must take some time.

It seems to you that there can be no exercise of memory without images, or the apprehension of some objects presented by the imagination, which you have been pleased to call "phantasiæ." For my part, I entertain a different opinion. In the first place, we must observe that the things which we remember are not always things which are passing away, but are for the most part things which are permanent. Wherefore, seeing that the function of memory is to retain hold of what belongs to time past, it is certain that it embraces on the one hand things which leave us, and on the other hand things from which we go away. When, for example, I remember my father, the object which memory recalls is one which has left me, and is now no more; but when I remember Carthage, the object is in this case one which still exists, and which I have left. In both cases, however, memory retains what belongs to past time. For I remember that man and this city, not by seeing them now, but by having seen them in the past.

2. You perhaps ask me at this point, Why bring forward these facts? And you may do this the more readily, because you observe that in both the examples quoted the object remembered can come to my memory in no other way than by the apprehension of such an image as you affirm to be always necessary. For my purpose it suffices meanwhile to have proved in this way that memory can be spoken of as embracing also those things which have not yet passed away: and now mark attentively how this supports my opinion. Some men raise a groundless objection to that most famous theory invented by Socrates, according to which the things that we learn are not introduced to our minds as new, but brought back to memory by a process of recollection; supporting their objection by affirming that memory has to do only with things which have passed away, whereas, as Plato himself has taught, those things which we learn by the exercise of the understanding are permanent, and being imperishable, cannot be numbered among things which have passed away: the mistake into which they have fallen arising obviously from this, that they do not consider that it is only the mental act of apprehension by which we have discerned these things which belongs to the past; and that it is because we have, in the stream of mental activity, left these behind, and begun in a variety of ways to attend to other things, that we require to return to them by an effort of recollection, that is, by memory. If, therefore, passing over other examples, we fix our thoughts upon eternity itself as something which is for ever permanent, and consider, on the one hand, that it does not require any image fashioned by the imagination as the vehicle by which it may be introduced into the mind; and, on the other hand, that it could never enter the mind otherwise than by our remembering it,--we shall see that, in regard to some things at least, there can be an exercise of memory without any image of the thing remembered being presented by the imagination.

Chap. II.--The mind is destitute of images presented by the imagination, so long as it has not been informed by the senses of external things.

3. In the second place, as to your opinion that it is possible for the mind to form to itself images of material things independently of the services of the bodily senses, this is refuted by the following argument:--If the mind is able, before it uses the body as its instrument in perceiving material objects, to form to itself the images of these; and if, as no sane man can doubt, the mind received more reliable and correct impressions before it was involved in the illusions which the senses produce, it follows that we must attribute greater value to the impressions of men asleep than of men awake, and of men insane than of those who are free from such mental disorder: for they are, in these states of mind, impressed by the same kind of images as impressed them before they were indebted for information to these most deceptive messengers, the senses; and thus, either the sun which they see must be more real than the sun which is seen by men in their sound judgment and in their waking hours, or that which is an illusion must be better than what is real. But if these conclusions, my dear Nebridius, are, as they obviously are, wholly absurd, it is demonstrated that the image of which you speak is nothing else than a blow inflicted by the senses, the function of which in connection with these images is not, as you write, the mere suggestion or admonition occasioning their formation by the mind within itself, but the actual bringing in to the mind, or, to speak more definitely, impressing upon it of the illusions to which through the senses we are subject. The difficulty which you feel as to the question how it comes to pass that we can conceive in thought, faces and forms which we have never seen, is one which proves the acuteness of your mind. I shall therefore do what may extend this letter beyond the usual length; not, however, beyond the length which you will approve, for I believe that the greater the fulness with which I write to you, the more welcome shall my letter be.

4. I perceive that all those images which you as well as many others call phantasiæ, may be most conveniently and accurately divided into three classes, according as they originate with the senses, or the imagination, or the faculty of reason. Examples of the first class are when the mind forms within itself and presents to me the image of your face, or of Carthage, or of our departed friend Verecundus, or of any other thing at present or formerly existing, which I have myself seen and perceived. Under the second class come all things which we imagine to have been, or to be so and so: e.g. when, for the sake of illustration in discourse, we ourselves suppose things which have no existence, but which are not prejudicial to truth; or when we call up to our own minds a lively conception of the things described while we read history, or hear, or compose, or refuse to believe fabulous narrations. Thus, according to my own fancy, and as it may occur to my own mind, I picture to myself the appearance of Ćneas, or of Medea with her team of winged dragons, or of Chremes, or Parmeno. [1454] To this class belong also those things which have been brought forward as true, either by wise men wrapping up some truth in the folds of such inventions, or by foolish men building up various kinds of superstition; e.g. the Phlegethon of Tortures, and the five caves of the nation of darkness, [1455] and the North Pole supporting the heavens, and a thousand other prodigies of poets and of heretics. Moreover, we often say, when carrying on a discussion, "Suppose that three worlds, such as the one which we inhabit, were placed one above another;" or, "Suppose the earth to be enclosed within a four-sided figure," and so on: for all such things we picture to ourselves, and imagine according to the mood and direction of our thoughts. As for the third class of images, it has to do chiefly with numbers and measure; which are found partly in the nature of things, as when the figure of the entire world is discovered, and an image consequent upon this discovery is formed in the mind of one thinking upon it; and partly in sciences, as in geometrical figures and musical harmonies, and in the infinite variety of numerals: which, although they are, as I think, true in themselves as objects of the understanding, are nevertheless the causes of illusive exercises of the imagination, the misleading tendency of which reason itself can only with difficulty withstand; although it is not easy to preserve even the science of reasoning free from this evil, since in our logical divisions and conclusions we form to ourselves, so to speak, calculi or counters to facilitate the process of reasoning.

5. In this whole forest of images, I believe that you do not think that those of the first class belong to the mind previous to the time when they find access through the senses. On this we need not argue any further. As to the other two classes a question might reasonably be raised, were it not manifest that the mind is less liable to illusions when it has not yet been subjected to the deceptive influence of the senses, and of things sensible; and yet who can doubt that these images are much more unreal than those with which the senses acquaint us? For the things which we suppose, or believe, or picture to ourselves, are in every point wholly unreal; and the things which we perceive by sight and the other senses, are, as you see, far more near to the truth than these products of imagination. As to the third class, whatever extension of body in space I figure to myself in my mind by means of an image of this class, although it seems as if a process of thought had produced this image by scientific reasonings which did not admit of error, nevertheless I prove it to be deceptive, these same reasonings serving in turn to detect its falsity. Thus it is wholly impossible for me to believe [as, accepting your opinion, I must believe] that the soul, while not yet using the bodily senses, and not yet rudely assaulted through these fallacious instruments by that which is mortal and fleeting, lay under such ignominious subjection to illusions.

Chap. III.--Objection answered.

6. "Whence then comes our capacity of conceiving in thought things which we have never seen?" What, think you, can be the cause of this, but a certain faculty of diminution and addition which is innate in the mind, and which it cannot but carry with it whithersoever it turns (a faculty which may be observed especially in relation to numbers)? By the exercise of this faculty, if the image of a crow, for example, which is very familiar to the eye, be set before the eye of the mind, as it were, it may be brought, by the taking away of some features and the addition of others, to almost any image such as never was seen by the eye. By this faculty also it comes to pass, that when men's minds habitually ponder such things, figures of this kind force their way as it were unbidden into their thoughts. Therefore it is possible for the mind, by taking away, as has been said, some things from objects which the senses have brought within its knowledge, and by adding some things, to produce in the exercise of imagination that which, as a whole, was never within the observation of any of the senses; but the parts of it had all been within such observation, though found in a variety of different things: e.g., when we were boys, born and brought up in an inland district, we could already form some idea of the sea, after we had seen water even in a small cup; but the flavour of strawberries and of cherries could in no wise enter our conceptions before we tasted these fruits in Italy. Hence it is also, that those who have been born blind know not what to answer when they are asked about light and colours. For those who have never perceived coloured objects by the senses are not capable of having the images of such objects in the mind.

7. And let it not appear to you strange, that though the mind is present in and intermingled with all those images which in the nature of things are figured or can be pictured by us, these are not evolved by the mind from within itself before it has received them through the senses from without. For we also find that, along with anger, joy, and other such emotions, we produce changes in our bodily aspect and complexion, before our thinking faculty even conceives that we have the power of producing such images [or indications of our feeling]. These follow upon the experience of the emotion in those wonderful ways (especially deserving your attentive consideration), which consist in the repeated action and reaction of hidden numbers [1456] in the soul, without the intervention of any image of illusive material things. Whence I would have you understand--perceiving as you do that so many movements of the mind go on wholly independently of the images in question--that of all the movements of the mind by which it may conceivably attain to the knowledge of bodies, every other is more likely than the process of creating forms of sensible things by unaided thought, because I do not think that it is capable of any such conceptions before it uses the body and the senses.

Wherefore, my well beloved and most amiable brother, by the friendship which unites us, and by our faith in the divine law itself, [1457] I would warn you never to link yourself in friendship with those shadows of the realm of darkness, and to break off without delay whatever friendship may have been begun between you and them. That resistance to the sway of the bodily senses which it is our most sacred duty to practise, is wholly abandoned if we treat with fondness and flattery the blows and wounds which the senses inflict upon us.


[1454] Dramatis personæ in Terence. [1455] Referring to Manichæan notions. [1456] Numeri actitantur occulti. [1457] Pro ipsius divini juris fide.

Letter VIII.

(a.d. 389.)

To Augustin Nebridius Sends Greeting.

1. As I am in haste to come to the subject of my letter, I dispense with any preface or introduction. When at any time it pleases higher (by which I mean heavenly) powers to reveal anything to us by dreams in our sleep, how is this done, my dear Augustin, or what is the method which they use? What, I say, is their method, i.e. by what art or magic, by what agency or enchantments, do they accomplish this? Do they by their thoughts influence our minds, so that we also have the same images presented in our thoughts? Do they bring before us, and exhibit as actually done in their own body or in their own imagination, the things which we dream? But if they actually do these things in their own body, it follows that, in order to our seeing what they thus do, we must be endowed with other bodily eyes beholding what passes within while we sleep. If, however, they are not assisted by their bodies in producing the effects in question, but frame such things in their own imaginative faculty, and thus impress our imaginations, thereby giving visible form to what we dream; why is it, I ask, that I cannot compel your imagination to reproduce those dreams which I have myself first formed by my imagination? I have undoubtedly the faculty of imagination, and it is capable of presenting to my own mind the picture of whatever I please; and yet I do not thereby cause any dream in you, although I see that even our bodies have the power of originating dreams in us. For by means of the bond of sympathy uniting it to the soul, the body compels us in strange ways to repeat or reproduce by imagination anything which it has once experienced. Thus often in sleep, if we are thirsty, we dream that we drink; and if we are hungry, we seem to ourselves to be eating; and many other instances there are in which, by some mode of exchange, so to speak, things are transferred through the imagination from the body to the soul.

Be not surprised at the want of elegance and subtlety with which these questions are here stated to you; consider the obscurity in which the subject is involved, and the inexperience of the writer; be it yours to do your utmost to supply his deficiencies.

Letter IX.

(a.d. 389.)

To Nebridius Augustin Sends Greeting.

1. Although you know my mind well, you are perhaps not aware how much I long to enjoy your society. This great blessing, however, God will some day bestow on me. I have read your letter, so genuine in its utterances, in which you complain of your being in solitude, and, as it were, forsaken by your friends, in whose society you found the sweetest charm of life. But what else can I suggest to you than that which I am persuaded is already your exercise? Commune with your own soul, and raise it up, as far as you are able, unto God. For in Him you hold us also by a firmer bond, not by means of bodily images, which we must meanwhile be content to use in remembering each other, but by means of that faculty of thought through which we realize the fact of our separation from each other.

2. In considering your letters, in answering all of which I have certainly had to answer questions of no small difficulty and importance, I was not a little stunned by the one in which you ask me by what means certain thoughts and dreams are put into our minds by higher powers or by superhuman agents. [1458] The question is a great one, and, as your own prudence must convince you, would require, in order to its being satisfactorily answered, not a mere letter, but a full oral discussion or a whole treatise. I shall try, however, knowing as I do your talents, to throw out a few germs of thought which may shed light on this question, in order that you may either complete the exhaustive treatment of the subject by your own efforts, or at least not despair of the possibility of this important matter being investigated with satisfactory results.

3. It is my opinion that every movement of the mind affects in some degree the body. We know that this is patent even to our senses, dull and sluggish though they are, when the movements of the mind are somewhat vehement, as when we are angry, or sad, or joyful. Whence we may conjecture that, in like manner, when thought is busy, although no bodily effect of the mental act is discernible by us, there may be some such effect discernible by beings of aërial or etherial essence whose perceptive faculty is in the highest degree acute,--so much so, that, in comparison with it, our faculties are scarcely worthy to be called perceptive. Therefore these footprints of its motion, so to speak, which the mind impresses on the body, may perchance not only remain, but remain as it were with the force of a habit; and it may be that, when these are secretly stirred and played upon, they bear thoughts and dreams into our minds, according to the pleasure of the person moving or touching them: and this is done with marvellous facility. For if, as is manifest, the attainments of our earth-born and sluggish bodies in the department of exercise, e.g. in the playing of musical instruments, dancing on the tight-rope, etc., are almost incredible, it is by no means unreasonable to suppose that beings which act with the powers of an aërial or etherial body upon our bodies, and are by the constitution of their natures able to pass unhindered through these bodies, should be capable of much greater quickness in moving whatever they wish, while we, though not perceiving what they do, are nevertheless affected by the results of their activity. We have a somewhat parallel instance in the fact that we do not perceive how it is that superfluity of bile impels us to more frequent outbursts of passionate feeling; and yet it does produce this effect, while this superfluity of bile is itself an effect of our yielding to such passionate feelings.

4. If, however, you hesitate to accept this example as a parallel one, when it is thus cursorily stated by me, turn it over in your thoughts as fully as you can. The mind, if it be continually obstructed by some difficulty in the way of doing and accomplishing what it desires, is thereby made continually angry. For anger, so far as I can judge of its nature, seems to me to be a tumultuous eagerness to take out of the way those things which restrict our freedom of action. Hence it is that usually we vent our anger not only on men, but on such a thing, for example, as the pen with which we write, bruising or breaking it in our passion; and so does the gambler with his dice, the artist with his pencil, and every man with the instrument which he may be using, if he thinks that he is in some way thwarted by it. Now medical men themselves tell us that by these frequent fits of anger bile is increased. But, on the other hand, when the bile is increased, we are easily, and almost without any provocation whatever, made angry. Thus the effect which the mind has by its movement produced upon the body, is capable in its turn of moving the mind again.

5. These things might be treated at very great length, and our knowledge of the subject might be brought to greater certainty and fulness by a large induction from relevant facts. But take along with this letter the one which I sent you lately concerning images and memory, [1459] and study it somewhat more carefully; for it was manifest to me, from your reply, that it had not been fully understood. When, to the statements now before you, you add the portion of that letter in which I spoke of a certain natural faculty whereby the mind does in thought add to or take from any object as it pleases, you will see that it is possible for us both in dreams and in waking thoughts to conceive the images of bodily forms which we have never seen.


[1458] Dæmonibus. [1459] See Letter VII.

Letter X.

(a.d. 389.)

To Nebridius Augustin Sends Greeting,

1. No question of yours ever kept me so disturbed while reflecting upon it, as the remark which I read in your last letter, in which you chide me for being indifferent as to making arrangements by which it may be possible for us to live together. A grave charge, and one which, were it not unfounded, would be most perilous. But since satisfactory reasons seem to prove that we can live as we would wish to do better here than at Carthage, or even in the country, I am wholly at a loss, my dear Nebridius, what to do with you. Shall such a conveyance as may best suit your state of health be sent from us to you? Our friend Lucinianus informs me that you can be carried without injury in a palanquin. But I consider, on the other hand, how your mother, who could not bear your absence from her when you were in health, will be much less able to bear it when you are ill. Shall I myself then come to you? This I cannot do, for there are some here who cannot accompany me, and whom I would think it a crime for me to leave. For you already can pass your time agreeably when left to the resources of our own mind; but in their case the object of present efforts is that they may attain to this. Shall I go and come frequently, and so be now with you, now with them? But this is neither to live together, nor to live as we would wish to do. For the journey is not a short one, but so great at least that the attempt to perform it frequently would prevent our gaining the wished-for leisure. To this is added the bodily weakness through which, as you know, I cannot accomplish what I wish, unless I cease wholly to wish what is beyond my strength.

2. To occupy one's thoughts throughout life with journeyings which you cannot perform tranquilly and easily, is not the part of a man whose thoughts are engaged with that last journey which is called death, and which alone, as you understand, really deserves serious consideration. God has indeed granted to some few men whom He has ordained to bear rule over churches, the capacity of not only awaiting calmly, but even desiring eagerly, that last journey, while at the same time they can meet without disquietude the toils of those other journeyings; but I do not believe that either to those who are urged to accept such duties through desire for worldly honour, or to those who, although occupying a private station, covet a busy life, so great a boon is given as that amid bustle and agitating meetings, and journeyings hither and thither, they should acquire that familiarity with death which we seek: for both of these classes had it in their power to seek edification [1460] in retirement. Or if this be not true, I am, I shall not say the most foolish of all men, but at least the most indolent, since I find it impossible, without the aid of such an interval of relief from care and toil, to taste and relish that only real good. Believe me, there is need of much withdrawal of oneself from the tumult of the things which are passing away, in order that there may be formed in man, not through insensibility, not through presumption, not through vainglory, not through superstitious blindness, the ability to say, "I fear nought." By this means also is attained that enduring joy with which no pleasurable excitement found elsewhere is in any degree to be compared.

3. But if such a life does not fall to the lot of man, how is it that calmness of spirit is our occasional experience? Wherefore is this experience more frequent, in proportion to the devotion with which any one in his inmost soul worships God? Why does this tranquillity for the most part abide with one in the business of life, when he goes forth to its duties from that sanctuary? Why are there times in which, speaking, we do not fear death, and, silent, even desire it? I say to you--for I would not say it to every one--to you whose visits to the upper world I know well, Will you, who have often felt how sweetly the soul lives when it dies to all mere bodily affections, deny that it is possible for the whole life of man to become at length so exempt from fear, that he may be justly called wise? Or will you venture to affirm that this state of mind, on which reason leans has ever been your lot, except when you were shut up to commune with your own heart? Since these things are so, you see that it remains only for you to share with me the labour of devising how we may arrange to live together. You know much better than I do what is to be done in regard to your mother, whom your brother Victor, of course, does not leave alone. I will write no more, lest I turn your mind away from considering this proposal.


[1460] Text, "deificari" for "ædificari" (?).

Letter XI.

(a.d. 389.)

To Nebridius Augustin Sends Greeting.

1. When the question, which has long been brought before me by you with something even of friendly chiding, as to the way in which we might live together, was seriously disturbing my mind, and I had resolved to write to you, and to beg an answer from you bearing exclusively on this subject, and to employ my pen on no other theme pertaining to our studies, in order that the discussion of this matter between us might be brought to an end, the very short and indisputable conclusion stated in your letter lately received at once delivered me from all further solicitude; your statement being to the effect that on this matter there ought to be no further deliberation, because as soon as it is in my power to come to you, or in your power to come to me, we shall feel alike constrained to improve the opportunity. My mind being thus, as I have said, at rest, I looked over all your letters, that I might see what yet remained unanswered. In these I have found so many questions, that even if they were easily solved, they would by their mere number more than exhaust the time and talents of any man. But they are so difficult, that if the answering of even one of them were laid upon me, I would not hesitate to confess myself heavily burdened. The design of this introductory statement is to make you desist for a little from asking new questions until I am free from debt, and that you confine yourself in your answer to the statement of your opinion of my replies. At the same time, I know that it is to my own loss that I postpone for even a little while the participation of your divine thoughts.

2. Hear, therefore, the view which I hold concerning the mystery of the Incarnation which the religion wherein we have been instructed commends to our faith and knowledge as having been accomplished in order to our salvation; which question I have chosen to discuss in preference to all the rest, although it is not the most easily answered. For those questions which are proposed by you concerning this world do not appear to me to have a sufficiently direct reference to the obtaining of a happy life; and whatever pleasure they yield when investigated, there is reason to fear lest they take up time which ought to be devoted to better things. With regard, then, to the subject which I have at this time undertaken, first of all I am surprised that you were perplexed by the question why not the Father, but the Son, is said to have become incarnate, and yet were not also perplexed by the same question in regard to the Holy Spirit. For the union of Persons in the Trinity is in the Catholic faith set forth and believed, and by a few holy and blessed ones understood, to be so inseparable, that whatever is done by the Trinity must be regarded as being done by the Father, and by the Son, and by the Holy Spirit together; and that nothing is done by the Father which is, not also done by the Son and by the Holy Spirit; and nothing done by the Holy Spirit which is not also done by the Father and by the Son; and nothing done by the Son which is not also done by the Father and by the Holy Spirit. From which it seems to follow as a consequence, that the whole Trinity assumed human nature; for if the Son did so, but the Father and the Spirit did not, there is something in which they act separately. [1461] Why, then, in our mysteries and sacred symbols, is the Incarnation ascribed only to the Son? This is a very great question, so difficult, and on a subject so vast, that it is impossible either to give a sufficiently clear statement, or to support it by satisfactory proofs. I venture, however, since I am writing to you, to indicate rather than explain what my sentiments are, in order that you, from your talents and our intimacy, through which you thoroughly know me, may for yourself fill up the outline.

3. There is no nature, Nebridius--and, indeed, there is no substance--which does not contain in itself and exhibit these three things: first, that it is; next, that it is this or that; and third, that as far as possible it remains as it is. The first of these three presents the original cause of nature from which all things exist; the second presents the form [1462] according to which all things are fashioned and formed in a particular way; the third presents a certain permanence, so to speak, in which all things are. Now, if it be possible that a thing can be, and yet not be this or that, and not remain in its own generic form; or that a thing can be this or that, and yet not be, and not remain in its own generic form, so far as it is possible for it to do so; or that a thing can remain in its own generic form according to the force belonging to it, and yet not be, and not be this or that,--then it is also possible that in that Trinity one Person can do something in which the others have no part. But if you see that whatever is must forthwith be this or that, and must remain so far as possible in its own generic form, you see also that these Three do nothing in which all have not a part. I see that as yet I have only treated a portion of this question, which makes its solution difficult. But I wished to open up briefly to you--if, indeed, I have succeeded in this--how great in the system of Catholic truth is the doctrine of the inseparability of the Persons of the Trinity, and how difficult to be understood.

4. Hear now how that which disquiets your mind may disquiet it no more. The mode of existence (Species--the second of the three above named) which is properly ascribed to the Son, has to do with training, and with a certain art, if I may use that word in regard to such things, and with the exercise of intellect, by which the mind itself is moulded in its thoughts upon things. Therefore, since by that assumption of human nature the work accomplished was the effective presentation to us of a certain training in the right way of living, and exemplification of that which is commanded, under the majesty and perspicuousness of certain sentences, it is not without reason that all this is ascribed to the Son. For in many things which I leave your own reflection and prudence to suggest, although the constituent elements be many, some one nevertheless stands out above the rest, and therefore not unreasonably claims a right of possession, as it were, of the whole for itself: as, e.g., in the three kinds of questions above mentioned, [1463] although the question raised be whether a thing is or not, this involves necessarily also both what it is (this or that), for of course it cannot be at all unless it be something, and whether it ought to be approved of or disapproved of, for whatever is is a fit subject for some opinion as to its quality; in like manner, when the question raised is what a thing is, this necessarily involves both that it is, and that its quality may be tried by some standard; and in the same way, when the question raised is what is the quality of a thing, this necessarily involves that that thing is, and is something, since all things are inseparably joined to themselves;--nevertheless, the question in each of the above cases takes its name not from all the three, but from the special point towards which the inquirer directed his attention. Now there is a certain training necessary for men, by which they might be instructed and formed after some model. We cannot say, however, regarding that which is accomplished in men by this training, either that it does not exist, or that it is not a thing to be desired [i.e. we cannot say what it is, without involving an affirmation both of its existence and of its quality]; but we seek first to know what it is, for in knowing this we know that by which we may infer that it is something, and in which we may remain. Therefore the first thing necessary was, that a certain rule and pattern of training be plainly exhibited; and this was done by the divinely appointed method of the Incarnation, which is properly to be ascribed to the Son, in order that from it should follow both our knowledge, through the Son, of the Father Himself, i.e. of the one first principle whence all things have their being, and a certain inward and ineffable charm and sweetness of remaining in that knowledge, and of despising all mortal things,--a gift and work which is properly ascribed to the Holy Spirit. Wherefore, although in all things the Divine Persons act perfectly in common, and without possibility of separation, nevertheless their operations behoved to be exhibited in such a way as to be distinguished from each other, on account of the weakness which is in us, who have fallen from unity into variety. For no one ever succeeds in raising another to the height on which he himself stands, unless he stoop somewhat towards the level which that other occupies.

You have here a letter which may not indeed put an end to your disquietude in regard to this doctrine, but which may set your own thoughts to work upon a kind of solid foundation; so that, with the talents which I well know you to possess, you may follow, and, by the piety in which especially we must be stedfast, may apprehend that which still remains to be discovered.


[1461] A liquid præter invicem faciunt. [1462] Species. [1463] An sit, quid sit, quale sit.

Letter XII.

(a.d. 389.)

Omitted, as only a fragment of the text of the letter is preserved.

Letter XIII.

(a.d. 389.)

To Nebridius Augustin Sends Greeting.

1. I do not feel pleasure in writing of the subjects which I was wont to discuss; I am not at liberty to write of new themes. I see that the one would not suit you, and that for the other I have no leisure. For, since I left you, neither opportunity nor leisure has been given me for taking up and revolving the things which we are accustomed to investigate together. The winter nights are indeed too long, and they are not entirely spent in sleep by me; but when I have leisure, other subjects [than those which we used to discuss] present themselves as having a prior claim on my consideration. [1464] What, then, am I to do? Am I to be to you as one dumb, who cannot speak, or as one silent, who will not speak? Neither of these things is desired, either by you or by me. Come, then, and bear what the end of the night succeeded in eliciting from me during the time in which it was devoted to following out the subject of this letter.

2. You cannot but remember that a question often agitated between us, and which kept us agitated, breathless, and excited, was one concerning a body or kind of body, which belongs perpetually to the soul, and which, as you recollect, is called by some its vehicle. It is manifest that this thing, if it moves from place to place, is not cognisable by the understanding. But whatever is not cognisable by the understanding cannot be understood. It is not, however, utterly impossible to form an opinion approximating to the truth concerning a thing which is outside the province of the intellect, if it lies within the province of the senses. But when a thing is beyond the province of the intellect and of the senses, the speculations to which it gives rise are too baseless and trifling; and the thing of which we treat now is of this nature, if indeed it exists. Why, then, I ask, do we not finally dismiss this unimportant question, and with prayer to God raise ourselves to the supreme serenity of the Highest existing nature?

3. Perhaps you may here reply: "Although bodies cannot be perceived by the understanding, we can perceive with the understanding many things concerning material objects; e.g. we know that matter exists. For who will deny this, or affirm that in this we have to do with the probable rather than the true? Thus, though matter itself lies among things probable, it is a most indisputable truth that something like it exists in nature. Matter itself is therefore pronounced to be an object cognisable by the senses; but the assertion of its existence is pronounced to be a truth cognisable by the intellect, for it cannot be perceived otherwise. And so this unknown body, about which we inquire, upon which the soul depends for its power to move from place to place, may possibly be cognisable by senses more powerful than we possess, though not by ours; and at all events, the question whether it exists is one which may be solved by our understandings."

4. If you intend to say this, let me remind you that the mental act we call understanding is done by us in two ways: either by the mind and reason within itself, as when we understand that the intellect itself exists; or by occasion of suggestion from the senses, as in the case above mentioned, when we understand that matter exists. In the first of these two kinds of acts we understand through ourselves, i.e. by asking instruction of God concerning that which is within us; but in the second we understand by asking instruction of God regarding that of which intimation is given to us by the body and the senses. If these things be found true, no one can by his understanding discover whether that body of which you speak exists or not, but the person to whom his senses have given some intimation concerning it. If there be any living creature to which the senses give such intimation, since we at least see plainly that we are not among the number, I regard the conclusion established which I began to state a little ago, that the question [about the vehicle of the soul] is one which does not concern us. I wish you would consider this over and over again, and take care to let me know the product of your consideration.


[1464] We leave untranslated the words "quæ diffirmando sunt otio necessaria," the text here being evidently corrupt.

Letter XIV.

(a.d. 389.)

To Nebridius Augustin Sends Greeting.

1. I have preferred to reply to your last letter, not because I undervalued your earlier questions, or enjoyed them less, but because in answering you I undertake a greater task than you think. For although you enjoined me to send you a superlatively long [1465] letter, I have not so much leisure as you imagine, and as you know I have always wished to have, and do still wish. Ask not why it is so: for I could more easily enumerate the things by which I am hindered, than explain why I am hindered by them.

2. You ask why it is that you and I, though separate individuals, do many things which are the same, but the sun does not the same as the other heavenly bodies. Of this thing I must attempt to explain the cause. Now, if you and I do the same things, the sun also does many things which the other heavenly bodies do: if in some things it does not the same as the others, this is equally true of you and me. I walk, and you walk; it is moved, and they are moved: I keep awake, and you keep awake; it shines, and they shine: I discuss, and you discuss; it goes its round, and they go their rounds. And yet there is no fitness of comparison between mental acts and things visible. If, however, as is reasonable, you compare mind with mind, the heavenly bodies, if they have any mind, must be regarded as even more uniform than men in their thoughts or contemplations, or whatever term may more conveniently express such activity in them. Moreover, as to the movements of the body, you will find, if you reflect on this with your wonted attention, that it is impossible for precisely the same thing to be done by two persons. When we walk together, do you think that we both necessarily do the same thing? Far be such thought from one of your wisdom! For the one of us who walks on the side towards the north, must either, in taking the same step as the other, get in advance of him, or walk more slowly than he does. Neither of these things is perceptible by the senses; but you, if I am not mistaken, look to what we know by the understanding rather than to what we learn by the senses. If, however, we move from the pole towards the south, joined and clinging to each other as closely as possible, and treading on a sheet of marble or even ivory smooth and level, a perfect identity is as unattainable in our motions as in the throbbings of our pulses, or in our figures and faces. Put us aside, and place in our stead the sons of Glaucus, and you gain nothing by this substitution: for even in these twins so perfectly resembling each other, the necessity for the motions of each being peculiarly his own, is as great as the necessity for their birth as separate individuals.

3. You will perhaps say: "The difference in this case is one which only reason can discover; but the difference between the sun and the other heavenly bodies is to the senses also patent." If you insist upon my looking to their difference in magnitude, you know how many things may be said as to the distances by which they are removed from us, and into how great uncertainty that which you speak of as obvious may thus be brought back. I may, however, concede that the actual size corresponds with the apparent size of the heavenly bodies, for I myself believe this; and I ask you to show me any one whose senses were incapable of remarking the prodigious stature of Nævius, exceeding by a foot that of the tallest man. [1466] By the way, I think you have been just too eager to discover some man to match him; and when you did not succeed in the search, have resolved to make me stretch out my letter so as to rival his dimensions. [1467] If therefore even on earth such variety in size may be seen, I think that it need not surprise us to find the like in the heavens. If, however, the thing which moves your surprise is that the light of no other heavenly body than the sun fills the day, who, I ask you, has ever been manifested to men so great as that Man whom God took into union with Himself, in another way entirely than He has taken all other holy and wise men who ever lived? for if you compare Him with other men who were wise, He is separated from them by superiority greater far than that which the sun has above the other heavenly bodies. This comparison let me charge you by all means attentively to study; for it is not impossible that to your singularly gifted mind I may have suggested, by this cursory remark, the solution of a question which you once proposed to me concerning the humanity of Christ.

4. You also ask me whether that highest Truth and highest Wisdom and Form (or Archetype) of things, by whom all things were made, and whom our creeds confess to be the only-begotten Son of God, contains the idea [1468] of mankind in general, or also of each individual of our race. A great question. My opinion is, that in the creation of man there was in Him the idea only of man generally, and not of you or me as individuals; but that in the cycle of time the idea of each individual, with all the varieties distinguishing men from each other, lives in that pure Truth. This I grant is very obscure; yet I know not by what kind of illustration light may be shed upon it, unless perhaps we betake ourselves to those sciences which lie wholly within our minds. In geometry, the idea of an angle is one thing, the idea of a square is another. As often, therefore, as I please to describe an angle, the idea of the angle, and that alone, is present to my mind; but I can never describe a square unless I fix my attention upon the idea of four angles at the same time. In like manner, every man, considered as an individual man, has been made according to one idea proper to himself; but in the making of a nation, although the idea according to which it is made be also one, it is the idea not of one, but of many men collectively. If, therefore, Nebridius is a part of this universe, as he is, and the whole universe is made up of parts, the God who made the universe could not but have in His plan the idea of all the parts. Wherefore, since there is in this idea of a very great number of men, it does not belong to man himself as such; although, on the other hand, all the individuals are in wonderful ways reduced to one. But you will consider this at your convenience. I beg you meanwhile to be content with what I have written, although I have already outdone Nævius himself.


[1465] The phrase used by Nebridius had been "longior quam longissima," which Augustin here quotes, and afterwards playfully alludes to in sec. 3. [1466] The text contains the word "sex" here, which is omitted in the translation. The reading is uncertain. [1467] See note on sec. 1. [1468] Ratio.

Letter XV.

(a.d. 390.)

To Romanianus Augustin Sends Greeting.

1. This letter indicates a scarcity of paper, [1469] but not so as to testify that parchment is plentiful here. My ivory tablets I used in the letter which I sent to your uncle. You will more readily excuse this scrap of parchment, because what I wrote to him could not be delayed, and I thought that not to write to you for want of better material would be most absurd. But if any tablets of mine are with you, I request you to send them to meet a case of this kind. I have written something, as the Lord has deigned to enable me, concerning the Catholic religion, which before my coming I wish to send to you, if my paper does not fail me in the meantime. For you will receive with indulgence any kind of writing from the office of the brethren who are with me. As to the manuscripts of which you speak, I have entirely forgotten them, except the books de Oratore; but I could not have written anything better than that you should take such of them as you please, and I am still of the same mind; for at this distance I know not what else I can do in the matter.

2. It gave me very great pleasure that in your last letter you desired to make me a sharer of your joy at home; but

"Wouldst thou have me forget how soon the deep,

So tranquil now, may wear another face,

And rouse these slumbering waves?" [1470]

Yet I know you would not have me forget this, nor are you yourself unmindful of it. Wherefore, if some leisure is granted you for more profound meditation, improve this divine blessing. For when these things fall to our lot, we should not only congratulate ourselves, but show our gratitude to those to whom we owe them; for if in the stewardship of temporal blessings we act in a manner that is just and kind, and with the moderation and sobriety of spirit which befits the transient nature of these possessions,--if they are held by us without laying hold on us, are multiplied without entangling us, and serve us without bringing us into bondage, such conduct entitles us to the recompense of eternal blessings. For by Him who is the Truth it was said: "If ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who will give you that which is your own?" Let us therefore disengage ourselves from care about the passing things of time; let us seek the blessings that are imperishable and sure; let us soar above our worldly possessions. The bee does not the less need its wings when it has gathered an abundant store; for if it sink in the honey it dies.


[1469] Charta. [1470] "Mene salis placidi vultum fluctusque quietos Ignorare jubes?"--Ćn. v. 848, 849.

Letter XVI.

(a.d. 390)

From Maximus of Madaura to Augustin.

1. Desiring to be frequently made glad by communications from you, and by the stimulus of your reasoning with which in a most pleasant way, and without violation of good feeling, you recently attacked me, I have not forborne from replying to you in the same spirit, lest you should call my silence an acknowledgment of being in the wrong. But I beg you to give these sentences an indulgent kindly hearing, if you judge them to give evidence of the feebleness of old age.

Grecian mythology tells us, but without sufficient warrant for our believing the statement, that Mount Olympus is the dwelling-place of the gods. But we actually see the market-place of our town occupied by a crowd of beneficient deities; and we approve of this. Who could ever be so frantic and infatuated as to deny that there is one supreme God, without beginning, without natural offspring, who is, as it were, the great and mighty Father of all? The powers of this Deity, diffused throughout the universe which He has made, we worship under many names, as we are all ignorant of His true name, the name God [1471] being common to all kinds of religious belief. Thus it comes, that while in diverse supplications we approach separately, as it were, certain parts of the Divine Being, we are seen in reality to be the worshippers of Him in whom all these parts are one.

2. Such is the greatness of your delusion in another matter, that I cannot conceal the impatience with which I regard it. For who can bear to find Mygdo honoured above that Jupiter who hurls the thunderbolt; or Sanæ above Juno, Minerva, Venus, and Vesta; or the arch-martyr Namphanio (oh horror!) above all the immortal gods together? Among the immortals, Lucitas also is looked up to with no less religious reverence, and others in an endless list (having names abhorred both by gods and by men), who, when they met the ignominious end which their character and conduct had deserved, put the crowning act upon their criminal career by affecting to die nobly in a good cause, though conscious of the infamous deeds for which they were condemned. The tombs of these men (it is a folly almost beneath our notice) are visited by crowds of simpletons, who forsake our temples and despise the memory of their ancestors, so that the prediction of the indignant bard is notably fulfilled: "Rome shall, in the temples of the gods, swear by the shades of men." [1472] To me it almost seems at this time as if a second campaign of Actium had begun, in which Egyptian monsters, doomed soon to perish, dare to brandish their weapons against the gods of the Romans.

3. But, O man of great wisdom, I beseech you, lay aside and reject for a little while the vigour of your eloquence, which has made you everywhere renowned; lay down also the arguments of Chrysippus, which you are accustomed to use in debate; leave for a brief season your logic, which aims in the forthputting of its energies to leave nothing certain to any one; and show me plainly and actually who is that God whom you Christians claim as belonging specially to you, and pretend to see present among you in secret places. For it is in open day, before the eyes and ears of all men, that we worship our gods with pious supplications, and propitiate them by acceptable sacrifices; and we take pains that these things be seen and approved by all.

4. Being, however, infirm and old, I withdraw myself from further prosecution of this contest, and willingly consent to the opinion of the rhetorician of Mantua, "Each one is drawn by that which pleases himself best." [1473]

After this, O excellent man, who hast turned aside from my faith, I have no doubt that this letter will be stolen by some thief, and destroyed by fire or otherwise. Should this happen, the paper will be lost, but not my letter, of which I will always retain a copy, accessible to all religious persons. May you be preserved by the gods, through whom we all, who are mortals on the surface of this earth, with apparent discord but real harmony, revere and worship Him who is the common Father of the gods and of all mortals.


[1471] Deus. [1472] "Inque Deum templis jurabit Roma per umbras," Lucan, Pharsalia, vii. 459. [1473] Virg. Eclog. ii. 65: "Trahit sua quemque voluptas."

Letter XVII.

(a.d. 390.)

To Maximus of Madaura.

1. Are we engaged in serious debate with each other, or is it your desire that we merely amuse ourselves? For, from the language of your letter, I am at a loss to know whether it is due to the weakness of your cause, or through the courteousness of your manners, that you have preferred to show yourself more witty than weighty in argument. For, in the first place, a comparison was drawn by you between Mount Olympus and your market-place, the reason for which I cannot divine, unless it was in order to remind me that on the said mountain Jupiter pitched his camp when he was at war with his father, as we are taught by history, which your religionists call sacred; and that in the said market-place Mars is represented in two images, the one unarmed, the other armed, and that a statue of a man placed over against these restrains with three extended fingers the fury of their demonship from the injuries which he would willingly inflict on the citizens. Could I then ever believe that by mentioning that market-place you intended to revive my recollection of such divinities, unless you wished that we should pursue the discussion in a jocular spirit rather than in earnest? But in regard to the sentence in which you said that such gods as these are members, so to speak, of the one great God, I admonish you by all means, since you vouchsafe such an opinion, to abstain very carefully from profane jestings of this kind. For if you speak of the One God, concerning whom learned and unlearned are, as the ancients have said, agreed, do you affirm that those whose savage fury--or, if you prefer it, whose power--the image of a dead man keeps in check are members of Him? I might say more on this point, and your own judgment may show you how wide a door for the refutation of your views is here thrown open. But I restrain myself, lest I should be thought by you to act more as a rhetorician than as one earnestly defending truth.

2. As to your collecting of certain Carthaginian names of deceased persons, by which you think reproach may be cast, in what seems to you a witty manner, against our religion, I do not know whether I ought to answer this taunt, or to pass it by in silence. For if to your good sense these things appear as trifling as they really are, I have not time to spare for such pleasantry. If, however, they seem to you important, I am surprised that it did not occur to you, who are apt to be disturbed by absurdly-sounding names, that your religionists have among their priests Eucaddires, and among their deities, Abaddires. I do not suppose that these were absent from your mind when you were writing, but that, with your courtesy and genial humour, you wished for the unbending of our minds, to recall to our recollection what ludicrous things are in your superstition. For surely, considering that you are an African, and that we are both settled in Africa, you could not have so forgotten yourself when writing to Africans as to think that Punic names were a fit theme for censure. For if we interpret the signification of these words, what else does Namphanio mean than "man of the good foot," i.e. whose coming brings with it some good fortune, as we are wont to say of one whose coming to us has been followed by some prosperous event, that he came with a lucky foot? And if the Punic language is rejected by you, you virtually deny what has been admitted by most learned men, that many things have been wisely preserved from oblivion in books written in the Punic tongue. Nay, you ought even to be ashamed of having been born in the country in which the cradle of this language is still warm, i.e. in which this language was originally, and until very recently, the language of the people. If, however, it is not reasonable to take offence at the mere sound of names, and you admit that I have given correctly the meaning of the one in question, you have reason for being dissatisfied with your friend Virgil, who gives to your god Hercules an invitation to the sacred rites celebrated by Evander in his honour, in these terms, "Come to us, and to these rites in thine honour, with auspicious foot." [1474] He wishes him to come "with auspicious foot;" that is to say, he wishes Hercules to come as a Namphanio, the name about which you are pleased to make much mirth at our expense. But if you have a penchant for ridicule, you have among yourselves ample material for witticisms--the god Stercutius, the goddess Cloacina, the Bald Venus, the gods Fear and Pallor, and the goddess Fever, and others of the same kind without number, to whom the ancient Roman idolaters erected temples, and judged it right to offer worship; which if you neglect, you are neglecting Roman gods, thereby making it manifest that you are not thoroughly versed in the sacred rites of Rome; and yet you despise and pour contempt on Punic names, as if you were a devotee at the altars of Roman deities.

3. In truth however, I believe that perhaps you do not value these sacred rites any more than we do, but only take from them some unaccountable pleasure in your time of passing through this world: for you have no hesitation about taking refuge under Virgil's wing, and defending yourself with a line of his:

"Each one is drawn by that which pleases himself best." [1475]

If, then, the authority of Maro pleases you, as you indicate that it does, you will be pleased with such lines as these: "First Saturn came from lofty Olympus, fleeing before the arms of Jupiter, an exile bereft of his realms," [1476] --and other such statements, by which he aims at making it understood that Saturn and your other gods like him were men. For he had read much history, confirmed by ancient authority, which Cicero also had read, who makes the same statement in his dialogues, in terms more explicit than we would venture to insist upon, and labours to bring it to the knowledge of men so far as the times in which he lived permitted.

4. As to your statement, that your religious services are to be preferred to ours because you worship the gods in public, but we use more retired places of meeting, let me first ask you how you could have forgotten your Bacchus, whom you consider it right to exhibit only to the eyes of the few who are initiated. You, however, think that, in making mention of the public celebration of your sacred rites, you intended only to make sure that we would place before our eyes the spectacle presented by your magistrates and the chief men of the city when intoxicated and raging along your streets; in which solemnity, if you are possessed by a god, you surely see of what nature he must be who deprives men of their reason. If, however, this madness is only feigned, what say you to this keeping of things hidden in a service which you boast of as public, or what good purpose is served by so base an imposition? Moreover, why do you not foretell future events in your songs, if you are endowed with the prophetic gift? or why do you rob the bystanders, if you are in your sound mind?

5. Since, then, you have recalled to our remembrance by your letter these and other things which I think it better to pass over meanwhile, why may not we make sport of your gods, which, as every one who knows your mind, and has read your letters, is well aware, are made sport of abundantly by yourself? Therefore, if you wish us to discuss these subjects in a way becoming your years and wisdom, and, in fact, as may be justly required of us, in connection with our purpose, by our dearest friends, seek some topic worthy of being debated between us; and be careful to say on behalf of your gods such things as may prevent us from supposing that you are intentionally betraying your own cause, when we find you rather bringing to our remembrance things which may be said against them than alleging anything in their defence. In conclusion, however, lest this should be unknown to you, and you might thus be brought unwittingly into jestings which are profane, let me assure you that by the Christian Catholics (by whom a church has been set up in your own town also) no deceased person is worshipped, and that nothing, in short, which has been made and fashioned by God is worshipped as a divine power. This worship is rendered by them only to God Himself, who framed and fashioned all things. [1477]

These things shall be more fully treated of, with the help of the one true God, whenever I learn that you are disposed to discuss them seriously.


[1474] Virg. Ćneid, viii. 302: "Et nos et tua dexter adi pede sacra secundo." [1475] "Trahit sua quemque voluptas." [1476] "Primus ab æthereo venit Saturnis Olympo Arma Jovis fugiens et regnis exsul ademptis." Ćn. viii. 319, 320. [1477] We give the original of this important sentence: "Scias a Christianis catholicis (quorum in vestro oppido etiam ecclesia constituta est) nullum coli mortuorum, nihi denique ut numen adorari quod sit factum et conditum a Deo, sed unum ipsum Deum qui fecit et condidit omnia."

Letter XVIII.

(a.d. 390.)

To Coelestinus Augustin Sends Greeting.

1. Oh how I wish that I could continually say one thing to you! It is this: Let us shake off the burden of unprofitable cares, and bear only those which are useful. For I do not know whether anything like complete exemption from care is to be hoped for in this world. I wrote to you, but have received no reply. I sent you as many of my books against the Manichæans as I could send in a finished and revised condition, and as yet nothing has been communicated to me as to the impression they have made on your [1478] judgment and feelings. It is now a fitting opportunity for me to ask them back, and for you to return them. I beg you therefore not to lose time in sending them, along with a letter from yourself, by which I eagerly long to know what you are doing with them, or with what further help you think that you require still to be furnished in order to assail that error with success.

2. As I know you well, I ask you to accept and ponder the following brief sentences on a great theme. There is a nature which is susceptible of change with respect to both place and time, namely, the corporeal. There is another nature which is in no way susceptible of change with respect to place, but only with respect to time, namely, the spiritual. And there is a third Nature which can be changed neither in respect to place nor in respect to time: that is, God. Those natures of which I have said that they are mutable in some respect are called creatures; the Nature which is immutable is called Creator. Seeing, however, that we affirm the existence of anything only in so far as it continues and is one (in consequence of which, unity is the condition essential to beauty in every form), you cannot fail to distinguish, in this classification of natures, which exists in the highest possible manner; and which occupies the lowest place, yet is within the range of existence; and which occupies the middle place, greater than the lowest, but coming short of the highest. That highest is essential blessedness; the lowest, that which cannot be either blessed or wretched; and the intermediate nature lives in wretchedness when it stoops towards that which is lowest, and in blessedness when it turns towards that which is highest. He who believes in Christ does not sink his affections in that which is lowest, is not proudly self-sufficient in that which is intermediate, and thus he is qualified for union and fellowship with that which is highest; and this is the sum of the active life to which we are commanded, admonished, and by holy zeal impelled to aspire.


[1478] The sense here obviously requires "vestri" instead of " nostri," which is in the text.

Letter XIX.

(a.d. 390.)

To Gaius Augustin Sends Greeting.

1. Words cannot express the pleasure with which the recollection of you filled my heart after I parted with you, and has often filled my heart since then. For I remember that, notwithstanding the amazing ardour which pervaded your inquiries after truth, the bounds of proper moderation in debate were never transgressed by you. I shall not easily find any one who is more eager in putting questions, and at the same time more patient in hearing answers, than you approved yourself. Gladly therefore would I spend much time in converse with you; for the time thus spent, however much it might be, would not seem long. But what avails it to discuss the hindrances on account of which it is difficult for us to enjoy such converse? Enough that it is exceedingly difficult. Perhaps at some future period it may be made very easy; may God grant this! Meanwhile it is otherwise. I have given to the brother by whom I have sent this letter the charge of submitting all my writings to your eminent wisdom and charity, that they may be read by you. For nothing written by me will find in you a reluctant reader; for I know the goodwill which you cherish towards me. Let me say, however, that if, on reading these things, you approve of them, and perceive them to be true, you must not consider them to be mine otherwise than as given to me; and you are at liberty to turn to that same source whence proceeds also the power given you to appreciate their truth. For no one discerns the truth of that which he reads from anything which is in the mere manuscript, or in the writer, but rather by something within himself, if the light of truth, shining with a clearness beyond what is men's common lot, and very far removed from the darkening influence of the body, has penetrated his own mind. If, however, you discover some things which are false and deserve to be rejected, I would have you know that these things have fallen as dew from the mists of human frailty, and these you are to reckon as truly mine. I would exhort you to persevere in seeking the truth, were it not that I seem to see the mouth of your heart already opened wide to drink it in. I would also exhort you to cling with manly tenacity to the truth which you have learned, were it not that you already manifest in the clearest manner that you possess strength of mind and fixedness of purpose. For all that lives within you has, in the short time of our fellowship, revealed itself to me, almost as if the bodily veil had been rent asunder. And surely the merciful providence of our God can in no wise permit a man so good and so remarkably gifted as you are to be an alien from the flock of Christ.

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