Skip to main content

Full text of "The Fathers Of The Church A New Translation Volume 20 Saint Augustine Letters Volume III"

See other formats


261.1 F252 v. 20 '^ ; ' 

Fathers of the Church, 





0307170 



THE FATHERS 
OF THE CHURCH 

A NEW TRANSLATION 
VOLUME 20 



A NEW TRANSLATION 

Founded by 
LUDWIG SCHOPP 



EDITORIAL BOARD 
ROY JOSEPH DEFERRARI 

The Catholic University of America 
Editorial Director 



RUDOLPH ARBESMANN, O.S.A. BERNARD M. PEEBLES 

Fordham University The Catholic University of America 

STEPHAN KUTTNER ROBERT P. RUSSELL, O.S.A, 

The Catholic University of America Villanova College 

MARTIN R. P. McGuiRE ANSELM STRITTMATTER, O.S.B. 

The Catholic University of America St. Anselm's Priory 

WILFRID PARSONS, S.J. JAMES EDWARD TOBIN 

The Catholic University of America Queens College 

GERALD G. WALSH, S J. 

Fordham University 



VOLUME III (131-164) 



Translated by 
SISTER WILFRID PARSONS, S.N.D. 



New York 
FATHERS OF THE CHURCH, INC. 

1953 



NIHIL OBSTAT: 

JOHN M. A. FEARNS, S.T.D. 
Censor Librorum 



IMPRIMATUR: 

^ FRANCIS CARDINAL SPELLMAN 

Archbishop of New York 



June 18, 1953 

The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are official declarations that a book or 

pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No implication is contained 

therein that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur 

agree with contents, opinions or statements expressed. 



Copyright, 1953 by 
FATHERS OF THE CHURCH, INC. 

475 Fifth Avenue, New York 17, N.Y. 
All rights reserved 



Lithography by Bishop Litho f Inc. 
V. S, A. 



-WRITINGS 
OF 

SAINT AUGUSTINE 



VOLUME 11 



CONTENTS 



Letter Page 

131 To Proba 3 

132 To Volusian 5 

133 To Marcellinus 6 

134 To Apringius 9 

135 Volusian to Augustine 12 

136 Marcellinus to Augustine 15 

137 To Volusian 18 

138 To Marcellinus 36 

139 To Marcellinus 53 

140 To Honoratus [The Book of Grace] 58 

141 To the Donatists 136 

142 To Saturninus and Eufrata 147 

143 To Marcellinus 150 

144 To the Citizens of Cirta 159 

145 To Anastasius 162 

146 To Pelagius 169 

147 To Paulina [The Book of the Vision of God] . . 170 

148 To Fortunatianus 224 

149 To Paulinus 239 

150 To Proba and Juliana 266 

151 To Caecilian 268 



vu 



Letter 

152 Macedonius to Augustine 279 

153 To Macedonius 281 

154 Macedonius to Augustine 303 

155 To Macedonius 305 

156 Hilarius to Augustine 318 

157 To Hilarius 319 

158 Evodius to Augustine 354 

159 To Evodius 363 

160 Evodius to Augustine 367 

161 Evodius to Augustine . 371 

162 To Evodius 374 

163 Evodius to Augustine 381 

164 To Evodius 382 



VUl 




INTRODUCTION 



| HE LETTERS INCLUDED in this Volume (131-164) 
cover the short period from 412 to 414. This was a 
time of intense activity for Augustine and his cor- 
respondence shows him straining every fiber in defense of 
the Church. His overriding preoccupation was with the newly 
rising Pelagian heresy, which he instantly recognized as 
more dangerous to the faith than any that had hitherto chal- 
lenged him. Letter 140, which he called 'The Book of Grace 
according to the New Testament', is his first polemical letter 
in this campaign, and it is appropriately addressed to a 
catechumen, Honoratus, who had submitted five questions 
on points of Scripture. Augustine used these questions to 
develop his own teaching on grace and free will. Subsequently, 
he took up the origin of the soul (143), so closely connected 
with the question of redemptive grace, and the fate of in- 
fants who die without baptism (156, 157). Hilarius had 
raised this question and Augustine saw it as part of the 
doctrine of grace then under attack by Pelagius. There is 
one letter to Pelagius himself (146), short and non-com- 
mittal, but conciliatory in tone, showing that Augustine 
must have hoped to reclaim him by the charitable treat- 
ment he was always advocating toward heretics. When the 
heresiarch made a dishonest use of this letter as part of his 
defense at the Synod of Diospolis, Augustine was forced 
to express himself more vigorously. He was to be deeply 



IX 



INTRODUCTION 



concerned with these problems to the end of his life, even in 
letters not dealing specifically with them. 

With his energies so thoroughly absorbed in this new con- 
flict, it was well for Augustine that Donatism was dying out, 
The Conference held at Carthage in 411, at which Marcel- 
linus had presided as representative of the emperor, had 
resulted in a complete exposure and condemnation of this 
violent sect, and was followed by some extremely severe 
imperial decrees. The subsequent letters on this subject show 
a different tone. As the Donatists have lost their case and 
have now been shown up for what they are, it is no longer 
necessary to thunder at them. Instead, the bishop addresses 
himself to the civil authorities (133, 134, 139) to beg that 
the ultimate punishment may not be inflicted, because this 
would appear like revenge on the part of Catholics, and be- 
sides, what is really wanted is the conversion of the Donatists, 
not their destruction. He was now convinced that the inter- 
vention of the secular arm. to curb religious strife was not only 
beneficial to the public weal but was also helpful to individual 
souls. Some encouraging conversions, among them that of the 
whole city of Cirta (144), had resulted when well-meaning 
persons were released from the fear of retaliation on the part 
of vengeful Donatist clerics. This schism did not die out at 
once however; there were a few expiring flare-ups before it 
was extinguished, and there will be other letters on this 
subject. 

The active and anuXDonatist part played by the tribune 
Marcellinus at the Conference of Carthage was to bring 
tragedy to him and great sorrow to Augustine. After the 
revolt of Heraclian against Honorius, Marcellinus and his 
brother, the proconsul Apringius, were arrested by Count 
Marinus, who was supposed to restore order in Africa. The 



INTRODUCTION 

Donatists, smarting from their defeat, found Marinus a 
compliant official, and hurried the execution of the two 
brothers without trial and before an effort could be made 
to rescue them. In Letter 151 to Caecilian we have a sad 
description of this travesty of justice as well as a noble tribute 
to Marcellinus, who must have been a perfect Christian 
gentleman. Caecilian, who was prefect of the province, does 
not escape the suspicion of being accessory to the deed, at 
least to the extent of doing nothing to prevent it. Augustine 
gives him the benefit of the doubt, but the reader is not so 
sure. 

There are two letters from Marcellinus and two to him 
in this series, and in one of them (138) Augustine shows 
that Christ's exhortation to meekness and forgiveness of 
injuries is not inconsistent with the duty of maintaining 
discipline in a Christian commonwealth. In discussing this 
problem, the writer repeats the generally received definition 
of the state according to the ancient philosophers as "the 
generality of men united by the bond of common agree- 
ment," but goes on to show that these principles of agree- 
ment have not been worked out by human arguments but 
have been written in human hearts by divine authority. He 
shows that there has to be a kind severity in dealing with 
delinquency, and adds that war could be a sign of God's 
mercy if it were waged by the good in order to put down 
evil and destroy vice which should have been curbed by 
the rightful government. Pacifists of today might be in- 
terested to know that Christian practice does not condemn 
war in general and that St. Augustine proves this point by 
texts from Scripture. 

As in other periods of his life the busy and harassed bishop 
continued to be assailed with all kinds of questions. To Paulina 



INTRODUCTION 

(147) he explained at length, with a wealth of Scriptural 
proof, how we see God, and he prefaced his arguments with 
a careful little lesson, as if he were teaching a class, on the 
nature and operation of the five senses and the difference 
between visual and mental images. Paulinus of Nola re- 
ceived an answer in 149 to his letter of four years before 
(121), and with it came a lesson in semantics, with some 
subtle hair-splitting in the meanings of words. Apparently, 
Augustine could never resist the fascination of words and he 
let himself go to some length, even drawing on Greek to 
make his meaning clear, as he might have done when he was 
a teacher of rhetoric. The words in question were those used 
by St. Paul, and also in the Mass, to express adoration, 
prayer, and thanksgiving, Macedonius, Vicar of Africa, 
made a rueful but respectful complaint on what looked to 
him like interference with justice on the part of the Bishop of 
Hippo, who too often came to beg leniency for culprits, 
especially heretics, when they appeared before him for judg- 
ment. He asked if that were a religious thing for a bishop to 
do, Augustine assured him that it was fully in accord with 
a bishop's office to intervene between crime and punishment 
when there was hope of saving the sinner. This Macedonius 
gives us a contemporary reference to the City of God, of 
which, in 414, he had just received the first three books. 
Fortunatianus, one of the seven bishops chosen to represent 
the Catholic side at the Conference of Carthage, had evidently 
given Augustine to understand that a brother bishop, not 
named, had taken offense at some strong language used 
by Augustine in his argument that we do not see God with 
bodily eyes. This anonymous bishop seems to have been an 
anthropomorphist who could not imagine any other kind of 
sight than that of the eyes. This letter shows the tender 



Xll 



INTRODUCTION 

charity felt by Augustine for all his colleagues and he 
apologizes for the vigor of his language, but nevertheless 
reaffirms all that he had said. Proba reappears in the cor- 
respondence with her daughter-in-law Juliana. Their re- 
spective granddaughter and daughter, Demetrias, had be- 
come a consecrated virgin and the noble ladies received a 
graceful and almost effusive note of congratulation from 
the Bishop of Hippo. The Volusian of Letters 132, 135, and 
137 was a member of the family of Melania, being the brother 
of Albina and the uncle of the younger Melania. He seems 
to have been a highly educated aristocrat with a strong taste 
for Scriptural and theological studies. Augustine urged him 
strongly to apply himself to the sacred letters and to send 
on any passages he did not understand. This was an in- 
vitation not to be overlooked and Volusian sent in a set of 
difficulties, embellished with a quotation from Vergil's 
Eclogues, and including such abstruse points as the reality 
of Christ's Body in the Incarnation and the ever-troublesome 
question of miracles. 

The last seven letters of this volume form a series ex- 
changed between Augustine and his boyhood friend, Evodius, 
Bishop of Uzala. The latter asked some complicated questions 
and because of their friendship Augustine could exclaim 
impatiently : 'You ask too many questions of a busy man and 
you seem to think that they can be answered offhand and at 
once.' He goes on to suggest that Evodius can quite well hunt 
up his own answers in some of Augustine's treatises. One of 
his difficulties was in his inability to conceive of a purely 
spiritual substance. He seems to have had apparitions or 
dreams in which he saw angels or spirits from the dead, and 
he argued that these must have some kind of body or how 
could they be seen, how could they go from place to place, 



xin 



INTRODUCTION 

and how could they be numbered? Augustine referred his 
friend to his work on Genesis (De Genesi ad litter am], re- 
minded him of the discussions they had together which were 
committed to writing in De quantitate animae y and urged him 
to do some thinking of his own. But, busy as he was, Augus- 
tine could not resist telling a ghost story of his own in which 
an angel proved to a certain Gennadius, a pious doctor, that 
what he saw in vision was not seen by bodily eyes, and there- 
fore was not corporeal. 

Much of Augustine's thinking during these years was con- 
cerned with the distinction between matter and spirit and it 
overflows into several of his letters. The more practical mat- 
ters of earlier years were quite evidently giving way to 
purely intellectual questions, and in these there was no one 
of his time who could find the heart of a difficulty so keenly 
or answer it so lucidly, whether his correspondent was an in- 
tellectual like himself or just one of average mentality. That 
was why all these questions found their way to him. 



xiv 



LETTERS 



131-164 



Translated 
by 

SISTER WILFRID PARSONS, S.N.D. 

Emmanuel College 
Boston, Mass. 



13 1. Augustine to the noble lady, his deservedly esteemed 
and most excellent daughter, Proba 1 (c. 412) 

It is true, as you say, that the soul, housed in a corruptible 
body, is affected by a certain earthly contagion, and is, in a 
sense, bowed down and bent under such a burden that it more 
readily covets and thinks of the many things in the depths 
than of the one thing on high. 'For the corruptible body 
is a load upon the soul, and the earthly habitation presseth 
down the mind that museth upon many things.' 2 With one 
saving word, our Saviour raised up that woman in the 
Gospel 3 who had been bowed down for eighteen years 
perhaps she is signified by these words and His purpose 
was that the Christian soul should not listen in vain to "Lift 
up your heart," nor answer in vain that she had lifted it up 
to the Lord. 4 Considering this, you do well to regard the 

1 Cf. Letter 130. 

2 Wisd. 9.15. 

3 Luke 13.11-13. 

4 These words are part of the responses sung or recited before the 
Preface o the Mass. 



4 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

evils of this world as bearable, in view of our hope of the 
future. For, thus these things are changed into good by our 
good use of them, so long as they exercise our patience 
without increasing our covetous desire. Of this the Apostle 
says: 'We know that to them that love God, all things work 
together unto good/ 5 He says 'All things'; therefore, not 
only those that are sought after as pleasant, but also those 
that are avoided as unpleasant, since we use the former 
without being ensnared, and we beat off the latter without 
being bruised, while we follow the divine precept by giving 
thanks in all to Him of whom we say: 'I will bless the Lord 
at all times, his praise shall be always in my mouth,' 6 It is 
good for me that thou hast humbled me, that I may learn 
thy justifications.' 7 Indeed, noble lady, deservedly esteemed 
and most excellent daughter, the human soul would not sigh 
for that harbor of true and certain salvation if the calm of a 
deceitful prosperity were always to smile upon us here. I 
return to your Excellency the courtesy of your greeting, and I 
thank you for the very religious solicitude you show for 
my health. I ask the Lord to grant you the rewards of the 
life to come as well as comfort in this present life, and I 
commend myself to the affection and prayer of all your 
household in whose hearts Christ dwells by faith. 

May the true and truth-giving God truly console your 
heart and keep you safe, noble lady, deservedly esteemed and 
most excellent daughter. 8 

5 Rom. 8.28. 

6 Ps. 33.2. 

7 Ps. 118.71. 

8 This last sentence is in another handwriting. 



LETTERS 5 

132. Augustine, bishop, to the noble lord, his deservedly 
esteemed son, Volusian 1 (412) 

I trust I do not fall short of the prayer of your holy 
mother 2 in wishing your welfare both in this world and in 
Christ. Therefore, as you deserve, I return the courtesy of 
your greeting and, as strongly as I can, I urge you not to 
shrink from applying yourself to the study of the truly and 
surely Sacred Letters. This is a sound and substantial 
study; it does not allure the mind with fanciful language, nor 
strike a flat or wavering note by means of any deceit of the 
tongue. 3 It appeals strongly to him who is more desirous of 
reality than of words, but it strikes fear into him who puts 
his trust in created things. I urge you especially to read the 
language of the Apostles; by these you will be roused to make 
the acquaintance of the Prophets, to whose testimony the 
Apostles appeal. And if, in your reading or meditation, 
some difficulty arises, and it seems that I could be useful in 
solving it, write to me and I will answer. It may even be, 
with the help of the Lord, that I shall do more that way than 
I should by speaking to you in person, partly because of 
your and my varied duties since it might happen that you 
and I should not be free at the same time and partly 
because of the importunate presence of other persons, who 
are usually not disposed to this pursuit, and who take more 
pleasure in the sword-play of words than in the enlighten- 
ment of knowledge. But, what is set down in writing is 
always ready to be read when the reader is ready, and its 
presence never becomes burdensome because it is taken up 
and laid aside at your pleasure. 

1 Uncle of the younger Melania, brother of her mother, Albina. 
Cf. Letter 124. 

2 The older Melania. 

3 This phrase is imitated from Persius, Satire 5.24: 'Dignoscere cautus, 
Quid solidum crepet et pictae tectoria linguae/ 



6 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

133. Augustine the bishop gives greeting in the Lord to the 

noble and justly distinguished lord, his very dear 

son y Marcellinus 1 (412) 

I have been informed by your Excellency that those 
Gircumcellions and clerics of the Donatist sect, whom the 
law-enforcement authority had removed from Hippo for trial 
of their misdeeds, have had a hearing, and that several of 
them have confessed to having murdered Restitutus, 3 a 
Catholic priest, and having beaten Innocentius, another 
Catholic priest, after putting out his eye and cutting off his 
finger. As a result, I have been a prey to the deepest anxiety 
for fear your Highness might perhaps decree that they be 
sentenced to the utmost penalty of the law, by suffering a 
punishment in proportion to their deeds. Therefore, in this 
letter, I beg you by the faith which you have in Christ, and 
by the mercy of the same Lord Christ, not to do this, nor 
to let it be done under any circumstances- For, although we 
can refuse to be held responsible for the death of men 
who were manifestly presented for trial on no charge of 
ours, but on the indictment of officers whose duty it is to 
safeguard the public peace, we do not wish that the martydom 
of the servants of God should be avenged by similar suffering, 
as if by way of retaliation. However, we do not object to 
wicked men being deprived of their freedom to do wrong, 
but we wish it to go just that far, so that, without losing 
their life or being maimed in any part of their body, they 
may be restrained by the law from, their mad frenzy, 
guided into the way of peace and sanity, and assigned to 
some useful work to replace their criminal activities. It is 
true, this is called a penalty, but who can fail to see that it 

1 Cf. Letter 128 n. 3. 

2 One of two delegates sent to the imperial court after the Council of 
Carthage in 408 to protest the cruelty and violence of the Donatists. 



LETTERS 7 

should be called a benefit rather than a chastisement when 
violence and cruelty are held in check, but the remedy of 
repentance is not withheld? 

As a Christian judge, you must play the part of a loving 
father, you must show anger for wrong-doing, but remember 
to make allowance for human weakness; do not indulge your 
inclination to seek vengeance for the vile acts of sinners, 
but direct your effort to the cure of the sinners' wounds. 
Do not lose that fatherly care which you maintained 
throughout the inquiry, when you secured the confession 
of such monstrous crimes, not by stretching the defendants 
on the rack, nor by tearing them with hooks, nor by burning 
them with fire, but by beating them with rods 3 a form 
of discipline used by schoolmasters, by parents themselves, 
and often even by bishops in their courts. Do not, then, 
punish more harshly what you discovered by gentler measures. 
It is more important to find out than to punish; that is why 
even the kindest of men search into hidden crime carefully 
and insistently, so as to find out whom to treat leniently. 
Hence it is generally necessary to carry out an inquiry 
ruthlessly, so that, when the guilt has been uncovered, there 
may be scope for moderation. Indeed, all good works love 
to be set in the light, not for the sake of human glory, but, 
as the Lord says: 'That they may see your good works and 
glorify your Father who is in heaven.' 4 Thus, the Apostle 
was not satisfied with having us preserve moderation, but 
he urged us to make it known to all. 'Let your modesty,' he 
says, 'be known to all men,' 5 and elsewhere, 'showing mildness 
to all men.' 6 There is also that well-known example of for- 
bearance on the part of holy David, when his enemy 7 was 

3 According to Roman ideas of law, an accused person could be supposed 
to make a true confession of guilt only under torture. 

4 Matt. 5.16. 

5 Phil. 4.5. 

6 Tit. 3.2. 

7 Saul, in the cave of Engaddi; cf. 1 Kings 24.1-8. 



8 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

delivered into his hands and he spared him, an example 
which shines with greater lustre from the fact that he had 
power to act otherwise. Do not, then, let your power of 
punishment make you harsh, when the necessity of inquiry 
did not shake your spirit of mildness. Do not seek out the 
executioner now that you have established the guilt, when 
you refused the services of the torturer in order to discover the 
guilt, 

Finally, you have been delegated to this task for the 
benefit of the Church. I maintain that this course of action 
is advantageous to the Catholic Church, or, at least, not 
to go outside the limits of my diocese, that it is advantageous 
to the Church at Hippo Regius. If you will not hear the 
request of a friend, hear the considered opinion of a bishop; 
in fact, since I am speaking to a Christian, I may say without 
conceit, in a matter of such importance, that it is your duty 
to listen when a bishop commands, noble Sir, my deservedly 
illustrious and well-loved son. I know the origin of the 
ecclesiastical cases which have mostly been referred to your 
Excellency, but, as I believe, the responsibility belongs to that 
distinguished man, the estimable proconsul. 8 I have written 
a letter to him, too, which I ask you to deliver to him yourself, 
and to call to his attention, in case of need, if you do not 
mind. Again I beseech both of you not to think me importu- 
nate in my intervention or advice or anxiety, not to allow 
the sufferings of the Catholic servants of God, which ought 
to be of value for the spiritual encouragement of the weak, 
to be cheapened by a retaliatory punishment of the enemies 
who made them suffer. Instead, lay aside the severity of the 
judge and, since you are sons of the Church, be zealous 
in showing approval of the moderation of your holy Mother. 
May the almighty God enrich your Excellency with all good 
things, noble lord, deservedly distinguished and well-beloved 
son. 



8 Apringius, brother of Marcellinus. Cf. Letter 134, 



LETTERS 9 

134. Augustine to the noble lord, Apringius^ his justly 
exalted and distinguished son (412) 

In exercising the power which God has given you, a man 
over men, I am sure you call to mind the divine judgment 
at which judges, too, will have to give an account of their 
judgments. I know, of course, that you are steeped in the 
Christian faith, and this gives me greater confidence in 
addressing your Excellency not only with a request, but even 
with a warning, because of the Lord, in whose heavenly 
household you are enrolled along with us, in whom we have 
the same hope of eternal life, and to whom we pray for 
you during the holy Mysteries. Therefore, noble lord, 
deservedly exalted and distinguished son, I ask first of all that 
I may not seem unmannerly in thus intruding upon your 
field of action with the anxiety which I must needs feel deeply 
for the Church entrusted to me, whose interests I am bound 
to serve, and which I desire to benefit rather than to rule. 
Secondly, I beg that you do not refuse to hear nor delay to 
agree to what I urge or request. 

An indictment, despatched in advance through the 
vigilance of the guardians of public order, has brought 
certain Circumcellions and Donatists under the authority 
of the courts and the law. These were examined by your 
brother, my son Marcellinus, a distinguished man and 
estimable tribune and legate, and without the use of hooks 
or fire, but solely under the constraint of the rod, they 
confessed that they had committed revolting crimes against 
my brothers and fellow priests, as, for example, that they 
had waylaid one of these and killed him, and that they had 
abducted another from his house and mutilated him by 
putting out his eye and cutting off his finger. When I heard 
that they had confessed to these crimes, I had not the 

1 Proconsul of Africa, brother of Marcellinus. Cf. Letter 128. 



10 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

slightest doubt that they would be subject to capital punish- 
ment at your hands, so I have made haste to write this 
letter to your Nobility, begging and praying you by the 
mercy of Christ, as we rejoice in your great and certain 
happiness, not to allow similar tortures to be inflicted on 
them, although, to be sure, the law cannot punish them by 
stoning or by cutting off a finger or plucking out an eye, acts 
which their cruelty made possible for them. Therefore, I am 
at ease about the men who have confessed these deeds that 
they will not suffer reciprocal treatment, but what I fear is 
that either they or the others who have been convicted of 
murder may be sentenced according to the full weight of 
your authority. As a bishop I warn a Christian, as a Christian 

1 appeal to a judge not to let this happen. 

It is of you that the Apostle spoke, as we read it, that you 
bear not the sword in vain, and that you be God's ministers, 
avengers against those that do evil. 2 But, ruling a province is 
different from ruling a Church; the former must be governed 
by instilling fear, the latter is to be made lovable by the 
use of mildness. If I were making my plea to a non-Christian 
judge, I should deal differently with him, but even so I 
should not fail to present the case of the Church and, as far 
as he would allow, I should insist that the sufferings of the 
servants of God, which ought to serve as a pattern of 
patience, should not be sullied with the blood of their enemies. 
If, however, he would not agree to this, I should suspect 
that his opposition came from a hostile source. But now, 
since the matter is being brought before you, I follow another 
method, another argument. We see in you a governor of 
exalted power, but we also recognize you as a son with a 
Christian idea of duty. Leaving out of consideration your 
exalted position and your faith, I am treating a matter 

2 Rom. 13.4. 



LETTERS 



11 



of common interest with you; you can act in it as I cannot; 
consult with us about it and lend us a helping hand. 

As a result of prudent action, the enemies of the Church 
have confessed the revolting crimes which they have 
committed against Catholic clerics, and they have incrimi- 
nated themselves by their own words, whereas they usually 
ensnare inexperienced souls with their false and seductive 
talk, boasting of the persecution which they claim to suffer. 
The court records should be read in order to heal the souls 
which they have envenomed with their deadly enticement. 
Surely it would not please you that we should fear to read 
to the end of these records, if they should include the blood- 
thirsty punishment of these culprits, supposing we laid aside 
our conscientious fear that those who have suffered should 
seem to have rendered evil for evil. 3 Therefore, if there were 
no other punishment decreed for curbing the wickedness of 
desperate men, extreme necessity might require that such men 
be put to death, although, as far as we are concerned, if no 
lesser punishment were possible for them, we should prefer 
to let them go free, rather than avenge the martyrdom of 
our brothers by shedding their blood. But, now that there is 
another possible punishment by which the mildness of the 
Church can be made evident, and the violent excess of 
savage men be restrained, why do you not commute your 
sentence to a more prudent and more lenient one, as judges 
have the liberty of doing even in non-ecclesiastical cases? 
Share, then, our fear of the judgment of God the Father, 
and show forth the mildness of our Mother. For, when you 
act, the Church acts, for whose sake and as whose son you 
act. Strive to outdo the wicked in goodness. By a monstrous 
crime they tore limbs from a living body; do you by a work 
of mercy make them apply to some useful work the wholly 

3 Rom. 12,17. 



12 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

intact limbs which they exercised in their unspeakable deeds. 
They did not spare the servants of God who were preaching 
repentance to them; do you spare them, now that you have 
arrested, summoned, and convicted them. They shed 
Christian blood with impious sword; do you, for Christ's 
sake, withhold even the sword of the law from their blood. 
They cut short the life-span of a minister of the Church by 
killing him; do you lengthen the span of years for the living 
enemies of the Church that they may repent. It befits you, 
a Christian judge, in a case involving the Church, to be 
such as this; for this we beg, we urge, we intervene. Men arc 
wont to appeal from a too light sentence when their convicted 
enemies are treated too leniently, but we so love our enemies 
that we would appeal from your severe sentence if we did 
not rely on your Christian obedience. May the almighty God 
preserve your Excellency to a richer and happier life, 
illustrious lord justly exalted and most excellent son. 



735. Volusian 1 to Bishop Augustine, truly holy lord, his 
deservedly revered father (412) 

You ask me, upright man that you are and model of 
righteousness, to list for you some doubtful points, met in 
my learned reading, about which I need to be instructed. 
I embrace as a favor the duty enjoined on me, and I enroll 
myself with eagerness in your school, following the authority 
of the old saying that no age has a monopoly on learning. Not 
without reason did the wise man refuse to set limits or 
bounds to the study of prudence, since virtue, a long way 
from its beginnings, would never be so open to those who 
approach it that it would be fully and immediately revealed 
to our recognition, truly holy lord and deservedly revered 

I Cf. Letter 132. 



LETTERS 13 

father. It is worth our while to recall that we recently had 
a conversation together. We were present at certain assemblies 
of friends where many sentiments were expressed according 
to their several dispositions and pursuits. The talk was 
rhetorically arranged in parts. I am speaking to an adept, 
for you taught that subject not so long ago. One topic was 
piled on another: what should be the forcefulness of arrange- 
ment; how much effort to expend on the presentation; what 
pleasure is afforded by transposition and what beauty by 
imagery; even what eloquence of style is adapted to one's 
native ability and the nature of the subject. Some also 
extolled the poetic art which they favored, and you do not 
leave even this department of style unsung and unhonored, 2 
as the poet appropriately said: 'Allow the ivy to twine your 
brow, amid the laurels of victory.' 3 The next topic discussed 
was the amount of adornment to be attributed to the arrange- 
ment of one's material: how much charrn is afforded by 
metaphor, and how much loftiness by comparison. Again, we 
discussed smooth and polished verse, and, if I may say so, the 
controlled variety of pauses. Then the conversation turned to 
your beloved philosophy, which you were accustomed to 
cherish as something reserved to the initiate, 4 in the Aristote- 
lian manner. We also inquired into what the master of the 
Lyceum 5 achieved; what was the object of the complicated 
and long-drawn-out dallying of the Academy; 6 what the 
value of that debate from the Arcade; 7 what skill the nature- 

2 This seems to be a reference to Augustine's praise of poetry in his 
De musica. 

3 Vergil, EC. 8.13. Poets were crowned with ivy, as victorious generals 
were with laurel. The appropriateness of this quotation is not clear. 
Vergil was addressing Pollio, a general, fresh from military victory. 

4 Another text has Isocraticam, like Isocrates, instead of esotericam, 
followed in this version. 

5 Aristotle taught in the Lyceum, a school near Athens. 

6 Cf. Letter 118 n. 18. Plato taught in the Academe or Grove. 

7 Cf. Letter 118 n. 17. 



14 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

philosophers had; 8 what was the Epicurean idea of pleasure; 9 
and why there was an unlimited passion for debate among 
them, with truth only the more unknown in spite of their 
preliminary agreement about what can be known. 

In the midst of this, the memory of our conversation 
lingered with me, and one of many asked: 'Who is endowed 
with wisdom to the perfect measure of the Christian; who 
can solve the doubts in which I am entangled; who can 
enlighten my doubting faculties and strengthen them with 
true or probable systems of belief?' We were struck dumb. 
Then he rushed on of his own accord, in this fashion: C I 
wonder whether the Lord and Ruler of the world filled the 
womb of the chaste Virgin; whether that mother "bore the 
long weariness of ten months," 10 and nevertheless brought 
Him forth as, a virgin according to the usual method of 
birth, and afterwards was reputed an inviolate virgin.' He 
added other objections to these. e He to whom the universe 
can scarcely be compared lies hid within the tiny body of 
a wailing infant; He endures the years ofc childhood, He 
grows to be a youth, His strength develops into manhood, and 
so long a time that Ruler is absent from His throne, and all 
the care of the whole world is transferred into one small 
body ! Moreover, He relaxes in sleep, He is nourished by food, 
He is subject to all the feelings of mortals, and gives no clear 
indication of such great majesty by any suitable signs. As 
for driving out evil spirits, cure of the sick, life restored to 
the dead, if you consider other men, 11 these are small things 
for a god to do.' We interrupted him before he raised further 
questions, the meeting was broken up, and we referred these 
points to one endowed with greater knowledge. This was 

8 Cf. Letter 118 nn. 9,13. 

9 Cf. Letter 118 n. 16. 

10 Vergil, EC. 4.61. 

11 Such as the Prophets who preceded Christ, and the Apostles who 
followed Him, some of whom performed similar miracles. 



LETTERS 15 

to avoid any unconsidered probing into secret matters, or 
turning a harmless error into a guilty one. So now, Sir, with 
your universal reputation, you have the confession of our 
ignorance. You know what is wanted from your side. It is 
important for your good name that we learn the answers 
to what is asked. It is true that ignorance is tolerated in other 
priests without any discredit to divine worship, but, when one 
turns to Bishop Augustine, whatever happens not to be 
known needs only to be read. May the supreme Divinity 
keep your Reverence safe, truly holy lord and deservedly 
revered father. 



136. Marcellinus 1 to my father, Augustine, greatly revered 
lord, worthly of my entire respect in the perform- 
ance of my duties 

The noble Volusian has read me a letter from your 
Beatitude in fact, he read it to several people at my 
suggestion and I was in great admiration of it, although I 
find admirable everything that you say. The grace of your 
divine speech, rising from your humility, easily wins the 
prize in the matter of giving pleasure. And it was especially 
pleasing because you hasten to support and strengthen a 
man's somewhat wavering footsteps by encouraging him to 
have a strong purpose for good. I have a daily discussion 
with him, as far as my strength and my poor ability allow, 
because I have been constrained by the request of his holy 
mother 2 to make an effort to greet him often, although he is 
kind enough on his side to return the courtesy. The receipt 
of your Reverence's letter made such an impression on the 
man, who was being drawn away from adherence to the faith 

1 Cf. Letter. 128. 

2 The older Melania. 



16 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

by the influence of many and there are plenty of them in 
this city that, as he admitted himself, he would not have 
recoiled from the length of such a letter if he could have 
confided to your Beatitude every doubting thought he had. 
And, to the extent that you yourself will deign to agree, he 
has earnestly asked to have certain difficulties solved for 
him in that cultured and exact language of yours, and that 
shining splendor of Roman eloquence. The question has 
become a much-discussed one and the cleverness of those 
who defame the dispensation of the Lord's Incarnation is 
quite well known in this group. Because I trust that whatever 
you write in answer will be profitable to many in this group, 
I approach you as a petitioner, asking you to be so kind as to 
answer that point carefully, in which they falsely maintain 
that the Lord did no more than other men were able to do, 
and they bring up for our benefit their Apollonius, 3 and 
Apuleius, 4 and other men adept in magic, who, according to 
their claim, worked greater miracles, 

But, that above-mentioned illustrious man said in the 
presence of several people that there were many questions 
which could fitly be added to this one, as I said before, except 
that he, on his side, had some regard for epistolary brevity. 
But he did not pass them over in silence, even though he 
would not write them, for he said that, even if an explanation 
of the Lord's Incarnation were given him today, it would still 
be hard to make plain to him why this God, who is 
pronounced the God of the Old Testament, should spurn the 
ancient sacrifices and delight in new ones. He insisted that 
a thing cannot be corrected unless it was proved to have 
been wrongly done before, or at least, that what was rightly 

3 A famous impostor and magician of the 1st century, credited with many 
miraculous deeds. 

4 Cf. Letter 102 n, 42. 



LETTERS 17 

done once should never be changed. He said it was wrong to 
change right things, largely because such useless action could 
ascribe fickleness to God, and he added that His preaching 
and doctrine were not adaptable to the customs of the state* 
This, indeed, is said by many, such, for instance, as His 
teaching that we should not return evil for evil to anyone, 
that we should turn the other cheek when anyone strikes us; 
that we should let go our cloak when anyone takes our coat; 
and, when anyone forces us to go with him, we should go 
twice as far; 5 all of which he says is contrary to the laws of 
the state. For, who could allow anything to be taken from 
him by an enemy, or who would not wish to return evil, as 
the law of war allows, to the ravager of a Roman province? 
Your Reverence understands what can be said about the rest. 
Thus, he believes, even if he says nothing on this score, that 
all those points can be related to this same question, that at 
least to this extent it is evident that great evils befall the state 
when Christian rulers generally observe the Christian religion. 
Consequently, as your Beatitude is so good as to agree with 
me in recognizing that, as the much-desired answer of your 
Holiness to all this will pass through many hands, it should 
be full in appearance and carefully worked out, a brilliant 
solution; especially as the excellent landlord and ruler of 
the countryside of Hippo was present when these questions 
were raised, and he praised your Holiness with sarcastic 
flattery, insisting that he had not been at all satisfied when 
these queries were made. So, then, in the midst of all this, 
I do not forget your promise; I insist on it, and I ask for the 
completion of works which will be unbelievably useful to the 
Church, especially at this time. 

5 Rom. 12.17; Matt. 5.3941. 



18 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

137, Augustine gives greeting in the Lord to the noble 

lord, his justly distinguished and excellent son, 

Volusian 1 (412) 

I have read your letter In which I saw a sort of sample of 
a lengthy dialogue compressed into a praiseworthy conciseness, 
so I ought to answer it without offering any excuses by way of 
delay. Fortunately, I happen to have a little respite from 
external affairs, so I have decided to spend my leisure in 
dictating your answer, and I have delayed as little as 
possible in the belief that it is not fair to put off someone 
who appeals to me when I had personally invited him to 
appeal. But who of us who dispense the grace of Christ as 
best we can would wish, after reading your words, that you 
should be instructed in Christian doctrine just enough to 
give you security in this life, which, as the divine Word is 
at pains to warn us, is very like a vapor which appears for 
a little while and straightway vanishes and disappears, 2 and 
not rather to enable you to attain to and lay hold on that 
salvation which is eternal, for the sake of which we are 
Christians? It is not worth while for us to instruct you merely 
to free you from error, for your mind and your gift of speech 
are so exceptional and so attractive that they ought to be 
helpful to others. And it is most opportune to defend the 
ministry of grace against the sloth and willful error of 
such as these, proud little minds who make no account of 
grace, who make a great show of their ability, but can do 
nothing either to cure their own faults or even to check them. 

You ask, then, whether the Lord and Ruler of the universe 
filled the womb of the chaste virgin; whether that mother 
bore the long weariness of ten months, and nevertheless 
brought Him forth as a virgin, according to the usual method 

1 Cl Letter 132. 

2 Cf, James 4.15. 



LETTERS 19 

of birth, and after this remained an inviolate virgin; whether 
He to whom the universe can scarcely by compared lies hid 
within the tiny body of a wailing infant; whether He 
endured the years of childhood, grew to be a youth, developed 
His strength into manhood; whether for so long a time that 
Ruler was absent from His throne while all the care of the 
world was transferred into one small body; then, whether 
He relaxed in sleep, was nourished by food, and was subject 
to all the feelings of mortals. You add that He gave no 
clear indication of such great majesty by any suitable signs, 
since the driving out of evil spirits, the cure of the sick 
and life restored to the dead, if we consider other men, are 
small things for a god to do. 3 You write that this question 
was raised at a certain gathering of friends, by one of the 
many who were there, but you interrupted him before he 
raised further questions, that the meeting was broken up, and 
these points referred to one endowed with greater knowledge, 
to avoid any unconsidered probing into secret matters, or 
turning a harmless error into a guilty one. 

Then you direct the purpose of your letter to me, and, 
after this confession of ignorance, you warn me what is 
wanted from my side. You add that it is important for my 
good name that you learn the answers to what is asked, 
because, whereas ignorance is tolerated in other priests 
without any discredit to divine worship, when you turn 
to me, a bishop, whatever happens not to be known needs 
only to be read. In the first place, then, I ask you to lay 
aside that opinion of me too easily taken for granted, to put 
off and give up that altogether too kind attitude toward me, 
and not to think better of me than of any other, if you 
really return my affection. But, Christian learning is so deep 
a study that I might have made some progress in it daily 
if I had tried to apply myself to it exclusively from my 

3 A summary of Letter 135. 



20 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

earliest childhood to extreme old age, spending on it all my 
time, all my effort, and a better gift of mind. I do not say 
that it is too difficult to attain to the knowledge necessary to 
salvation, but whoever remains firm in the faith, without 
which one cannot live religiously and uprightly, finds so many 
truths which have to be learned, shrouded in the manifold 
darkness of mystery, he finds such a depth of wisdom lying 
hidden, not only in the words in which the truths are 
expressed, but also in the truths themselves, which are to be 
known, that even the most advanced in years, the most 
penetrating in mind, the most ardent in zeal for learning, 
might find himself described by what the same Scripture says 
elsewhere; 'When a man hath done, then shall be begin.' 4 

But, why delay on this? Let us rather get to the point of 
what you ask. In the first place, I would have you know that 
Christian doctrine does not hold that God took on the flesh, 
in which He was born of the Virgin, in such wise as to 
abandon or lose His care of the government of the world, or 
to transfer this care, reduced and concentrated, so to speak, 
to that small body. That idea belongs to men who are 
not able to imagine any substance except what is corporeal, 
whether those substances be grosser, like water and earth, 
or finer, like air and light, but still corporeal. None of these 
can be wholly everywhere, since they are necessarily composed 
of numberless parts, some here and some there; however large 
or however small the substance may be, it occupies an 
amount of space, and it fills that space without being entire 
in any part of it. Consequently, it is a characteristic of 
corporeal substances alone to be condensed and rarefied, 
contracted and expanded, divided into small bits and enlarged 
into a great mass. The nature of the soul is very different 
from that of the body, and much more different is the 
nature of God who is the Creator of both body and soul. 

4 Eccli. 18.6. 



LETTERS 



21 



God cannot be said to fill the world as water or air or even 
light do, filling a smaller part of the world with a smaller 
part of Himself, and the same with a larger part. He knows 
how to be wholly everywhere without being confined to any 
place; He knows how to come without leaving the place 
where He was; He knows how to go away without aban- 
doning the place to which He had come. 

The human mind marvels at this, and, because it does 
not grasp it, perhaps does not believe it. Let it first examine 
and marvel at itself; let it lift itself out of the body for a 
little while, if it can, and rise above those things which it 
is wont to experience through the body and let it see itself 
what it is that uses the body. Perhaps it cannot do that, 
since a certain one said: 'It is a mark of great genius to 
withdraw the mind from the senses and turn thought from 
its customary course.' 5 Let him, then, examine the very senses 
of the body somewhat more carefully than usual. Certainly, 
the senses of the body are fivefold; they cannot exist without 
either the body or the soul, because sensation is found only 
in what is living, and life comes to the body from the soul. 
Yet, we do not see or hear or use the other three senses 
without the bodily instruments which are, so to speak, their 
vessels and organs. Let the rational soul note this, and let 
it consider its bodily senses, not by means of the bodily senses, 
but by the mind itself and reason. Certainly, man cannot 
experience sensation unless he is alive, but he lives in the 
flesh until the two are parted by death. How, then, does 
the soul perceive things outside the flesh, since it lives only in 
the flesh? Are not the stars in heaven very far away from 
its flesh? And does it not see the sun in heaven? Or is 
seeing not a faculty of perception, although sight is pre- 
eminent among the five senses? Or perhaps it lives in heaven, 
also, because it perceives what is in heaven, and there can be 

5 Cicero. Tusculan Disputations 1.16.38. 



22 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

no sense-perception where there is no life? Or has it sense- 
perception beyond the range of its life, and, although it lives 
only in its own flesh, it also sees things contained in those 
places outside its own flesh, things which it touches by sight? 
Do you see how obscure a matter this is, even in the case 
of a sense as well known as sight is admitted to be? Take the 
case of hearing. This sense spreads outside the body in some 
way. Why do we say: It sounds outdoors/ if we do not 
hear where the sound is? Do we, then, on that account, live 
outside our flesh, or can we also experience sensation where 
we do not live, although sensation cannot exist without life? 
The other three senses experience sensation within them- 
selves, although, even so, there might be some doubt about 
smell. But there is no question about taste and touch, since 
the things we taste and touch can be experienced only in our 
flesh. Let us, then, pass over these three senses in this 
consideration. Sight and hearing raise a singular question: 
either how the soul perceives beyond its range of life, or how 
it lives where it does not exist. For, it does not exist except 
in its own flesh, but its perception extends beyond the flesh. 
Certainly, it perceives where it sees, because to see is to 
perceive; and it perceives where it hears, because to hear is to 
perceive. Therefore, its life either extends that far, and by this 
very fact it exists there, too, or its perception extends beyond its 
range of life, or its life is found even where it does not also 
exist. All these are strange thoughts; none of them can be 
asserted without a certain amount of absurdity. And what 
we are speaking of is a sense-organ destined to die. What, 
then, is the nature of the soul itself, outside the range of 
bodily sensation, that is, in the mind by which it considers 
these ideas? For, it does not use the bodily senses to form 
an opinion of those same bodily senses. And we think 
that something impossible to believe is told us about the 
omnipotence of God, when we are told that the Word of 



LETTERS 23 

God, by whom all things were made, 6 took flesh from 
a virgin and appeared to mortal senses without destroying 
His immortality or infringing on His eternity, or diminishing 
His power, or neglecting the government of the world, or 
leaving the bosom of the Father, where He is intimately 
with Him and in Him ! 

You must understand the Word of God, by whom all things 
were made, without thinking that anything of Him passes 
away or changes from future to past. He remains as He 
is and He is everywhere totally present. But He comes when 
He reveals Himself and goes away when He is hidden. 
However, He is present whether He is revealed or hidden, 
as light is present to the eyes of one who sees as well as of 
one who is blind, but it is present to him who sees as 
something actual, while to the blind it is something missing. 
So, also, the sound of the voice is present to ears that hear; 
it is also present to deaf ears : to the former it is actual, from 
the latter it is hidden. What more strange than what happens 
when our voices utter words in obviously rapid sequence? 
For, when we speak, there is no chance for even a second 
syllable until the first has stopped sounding, yet, if one 
hearer is present, he hears all that we say; and if two are 
present, both hear the same whole sound which each one 
hears; and if a silent crowd hears it, they do not divide the 
sounds among them by particles as if it were food, but the 
whole sound is heard wholly by all and by each. So, then, is it 
harder to believe that the eternal Word of God should have 
the same effect on material things as the word of a man has on 
human ears, and that the Word should be wholly present 
everywhere, as the sound is heard entirely by each one? 

Therefore, we need have no fear about that tiny body 
of infancy, that so great a God should seem to be confined 
in it. God's greatness is not in mass but in power; He has 

6 John 1.1,3. 



24 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

given a greater sense of foresight to tiny ants and bees than to 
asses and camels; He creates the immense spread of the 
fig tree from the smallest seed, while many much smaller 
things grow from much larger seeds; He has endowed the 
minute pupil of the eye with the power of sight by which in 
an instant it sweeps across almost half the sky; He has 
centered all the senses in one spot of the brain, and from 
there sends out their fivefold activity; He radiates the life- 
giving impulse through all the parts of the body from the 
heart, an organ of insignificant size: in these and other 
like instances. He who is not small in small things produces 
great things from the least. For, that very greatness of His 
power, which feels no narrowness in narrow quarters, 
enriched the Virgin's womb, not by an externally caused 
but by an intrinsic childbirth; that power took to itself a 
rational soul and thereby also a human body, and chose to 
better all mankind without suffering any diminution itself, 
deigning to take the name of humanity from man, while 
granting him a share in the divinity. That same power 
brought forth the body of the infant from the inviolate 
virginal womb of the mother, as afterward the Body of the 
Man penetrated closed doors. 7 It will not be wondered at if 
an explanation is asked of this; it will not be remarkable if 
an example is demanded. Let us grant that God can do 
something which we confess we cannot fathom. In such 
matters the whole explanation of the deed is in the power of 
the doer. 

Turning, now, to that fact of his relaxing in sleep and being 
nourished by food, and experiencing all human feelings: it 
proves to men that He took on human nature, He did not 
destroy it. Behold, that is how it happened, yet certain 
heretics, by excessive admiration and praise of His power, 
refuse to acknowledge the human nature which is undoubt- 

7 John 20.19,26. 



LETTERS 25 

edly His. Herein is all the worth of grace, by which He saves 
those who believe, containing in itself deep treasures of 
wisdom and knowledge, 8 and steeping in faith the minds 
which it draws to the eternal contemplation of unchangeable 
truth. Suppose the omnipotent had created His manhood by 
forming it otherwise than in a mother's womb, and had 
presented Himself suddenly to our sight ; suppose He had not 
passed through the stages from childhood to youth, had 
taken no food, no sleep: would He not have given ground 
for the erroneous opinion which believed that He had not 
really become man? And by doing everything miraculously, 
would He not have obscured the effect of His mercy? But 
now He has appeared as Mediator between God and men, in 
such wise as to join both natures in the unity of one Person, 
and has both raised the commonplace to the heights of the 
uncommon and brought down the uncommon to the 
commonplace . 

What wonders does God not perform in the activities of 
created life, and how commonplace they have become 
through daily usage ! Again, how many customary things are 
trampled under foot which would fill us with awe, if we 
considered them carefully! Take the force which is found 
in seeds: who can grasp in his thought or describe in 
language their numbers, their urge to live and grow, their 
hidden strength, their power to unfold their littleness into 
something great? He, then, who in the world of nature does 
not need seeds to make seeds, did not need seed to make him- 
self a human body; He who, without any change in Himself, 
has woven the course of centuries by means of change 
submitted His Body to the sequence of time and the 
limitations of age. What began outside of time took growth 
in the course of time, but in the beginning the Word by 
whom all time was made chose the time when He was to 

8 Col. 2.3. 



26 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

take flesh; He did not wait for the time that He might 
become flesh, for, in truth, it was man who drew near to 
God, not God who went far off from Himself. 

But there are some who request an explanation of how 
God is joined to man so as to become the single person of 
Christ, as if they themselves could explain something that 
happens every day, namely, how the soul is joined to the 
body so as to form the single person of a man. For, as the 
soul makes use of the body in a single person to form a 
man, so God makes use of man in a single Person to form 
Christ. In the former person there is a mingling of soul 
and body; in the latter Person there is a mingling of God and 
man; but the hearer must abstract from the property of 
material substance by which two liquids are usually so 
mingled that neither retains its separate character, although 
among such substances, light mingled with air remains 
unchanged. Therefore, the person of man is a mingling of 
soul and body, but the Person of Christ is a mingling of God 
and man, for, when the Word of God is joined to a soul 
which has a body, it takes on both the soul and the body at 
once. The one process happens daily in order to beget 
men; the other happened once to set men free. However, it 
ought to be easier to believe in the intermingling of two 
incorporeal things than of one incorporeal and the other 
corporeal. For, if the soul is not deceived about its own 
nature, it grasps the fact that it is incorporeal, but the 
Word of God is much more incorporeal, and for this reason 
it ought to be easier to believe in the intermingling of the 
Word of God and a soul than of a soul and a body. The one 
truth we experience in ourselves; the other we are bidden to 
believe in Christ. But, if we were ordered to believe both 
these truths, and they were both equally outside our 
experience, which of them would we be more ready to 
believe? Granted that the term mingling or intermingling is 



LETTERS 27 

not unworthily taken from the usage of corporeal things of 
far different nature and origin, would we not admit that it 
would be easier for two incorporeal things to be mingled than 
for one corporeal and the other incorporeal? 

Therefore, the Word of God and the same Son of God, 
co-eternal with the Father, and the same power and wisdom 
of God, 9 reaching mightily from the lofty end of rational 
creation to the lowly end of material creation, and ordering 
all things sweetly, 10 present and hidden, nowhere confined, 
nowhere divided, nowhere extended, but everywhere wholly 
present without physical bulk, in a far other mode than that 
in which He is present to the rest of creation; this Word 
took on human nature, and thereby became the one Jesus 
Christ, Mediator between God and men, 11 equal to the 
Father in His divinity, less than the Father according to the 
flesh, that is, as man; unchangeably immortal according to 
His divinity which is equal to the Father, but likewise 
subject to change and death according to the weakness 
derived from us. In this same Christ, at the time which 
He had recognized as most fitting, and had ordained before 
time was, there came to men a Master and helper that we 
might gain eternal salvation. He was a Master, indeed, 
whose authority, manifested here in the flesh, was to confirm 
those vital truths, previously spoken not only by the holy 
Prophets, whose utterances were wholly true, but even by 
the philosophers and the very poets and authors of various 
kinds of works and who doubts that they mingled many 
of their truths with falsehood? and even before He became 
man He was present to all who could be sharers of His truth, 
for the sake of those who were not able to penetrate into 
the depths of truth and to distinguish what truth was. But, 

9 l Col. 1.24. 

10 Wisd. 8.1. 

11 1 Tim. 2.5. 



28 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

most of all, since men generally in their intense longing for 
the divinity thought that God was to be approached 
through the powers of heaven, which they imagined to be 
gods, and through the various rites of forbidden and 
sacrilegious worship, carried out with more pride than 
piety and thus the demons, through their kinship with pride, 
substitute themselves for the holy angels by the example 
of His Incarnation He led man to know that whereas they 
had been trying to approach Him through subordinate beings, 
as though He were afar off, He was so close to their 
affectionate desire that He condescended to become man and 
to be united to him. He did this in such manner that the 
whole of man was thus joined to Him, as the soul is to the 
body, but without the changeableness of matter, into which 
God is not changed, but which we see present in the body 
and the soul. But, He is our help, because, without the grace 
of faith which comes from Him, no one can overcome Ms 
sinful lusts, or be cleansed by the remission and pardon of 
the remains of sin which he has not overcome. What 
difference, then, does it make to His teaching if some utterly 
ignorant person or some obscure and insignificant woman 
does not believe in the immortality of the soul and the reality 
of life after death? Once long ago, when the Syrian 
Pherecydes had discussed this point with the Greeks, he 
turned Pythagoras of Samos from an athlete into a 
philosopher, so impressed was he by the novelty of that 
argument. 12 But, as Vergil said, and we all see: 'The 
Assyrian balm grows commonly everywhere.* 13 However, 
regarding the assistance of grace, which is in Christ, He 

12 Cicero, Tusc. Disp. 1.16.38, Pherecydes (c. 600 B.C.) , a native of the 
island of Scyros, said to have been the first to compose a theogony in 
prose, and to treat of the immortality of the soul. Pythagoras, his 
disciple, taught the doctrine of transmigration of souls. 

13 Vergil, EC. 4.25. It was to be one of the signs of the Golden Age that 
plants producing precious perfumes would grow freely everywhere. 



LETTERS 29 

is absolutely 'the leader who will free the earth from endless 
fear, if there still remain any unredeemed traces of our sin.' 14 
'But,' they say, c no clear indication of such great majesty 
was manifested by suitable signs, since the driving out of evil 
spirits, the cure of the sick, life restored to the dead, if 
other men are considered, are small things for a god to do.' 15 
We agree, also, that the Prophets performed such deeds. 
Among these signs, what more arresting than to give life to 
the dead? Elias did this, 16 Eliseus did this, 17 but as far as the 
miracles of magicians are concerned, whether they raised the 
dead to life is something for those to look to who try to 
prove that Apuleius, defending himself vigorously against 
the charge of practising magic arts, was not a subject of 
blame but of praise. 18 We read that the magicians of the 
Egyptians were very skilled in those arts, but they were 
outdone by Moses, the servant of God, for, when they 
performed certain wonders by their forbidden arts, he over- 
turned all their trickery by simply calling on God. 19 But 
Moses and the other truthful Prophets foretold the Lord 
Christ and gave Him great glory, and they prophesied His 
coming, not as one like themselves, or one not superior to 
them in the same power of miracles, but as the supreme Lord 
God of all, become man for the sake of man. The reason 
why He willed to perform such deeds Himself was that He 
might not be inconsistent in not doing personally what He 
had done through men. But, over and above that, He needed 
to perform deeds proper to Himself : to be born of a virgin, to 
rise from the dead, to ascend into heaven. If anyone thinks 

14 Ibid. 4.13,14. 

15 Quoted from Letter 135. 

16 3 Kings 17.17-22. 

17 4 Kings 4.18-35. 

18 Here they were caught on a dilemma: if Apuleius denied the practice 
of magic and they praised him for it, they could not claim that 
by magic he had raised the dead. 

19 Exod. 7-8. 



30 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

this Is too little for a god to do, I do not know what more he 
could expect. 

For my part, I think that such deeds are demanded of 
Him as anyone bearing the burden of manhood ought not 20 
to do. For, 'in the beginning was the Word, and the Word 
was with God, and the Word was God, and all things were 
made by Him/ 21 Should He, then, after becoming man, 
have made another world, so that we might believe that 
He was the one by whom the world was made? But it 
would not have been possible for a greater world, or one 
equal to this one, to be created in this world, and if He had 
made a lesser world, inferior to this one, it would likewise 
have been claimed to be too little for a god to do. Therefore, 
as it was not fitting for Him to make a new world, He did 
new things in the world. For a man born of a virgin, 
raised from the dead to eternal life, and exalted above 
the heavens is perhaps a more mighty achievement than a 
world. At this point, they probably reply that they do not 
believe this was done. What, then, are you to do with men 
who despise lesser marvels and do not believe in greater ones? 
They believe that life has been restored to the dead because 
others have done it, and it is beneath a god to do it, but 
they do not believe that a fitting body was created from a 
virgin and raised up from the dead to eternal life above 
the skies, because no one has done that, and it does befit a 
god to do it! Accordingly, 'Whatever each one believes is 
easy* not 'to do,' but to comprehend, 'he accepts readily, 
but anything beyond that he regards as fictitious and false.' 22 
Do not be like them, please. 

These points are widely argued, and all the ramifications 

20 The negative is not found in the Mss., but is supplied by the editors, 

and is required by the sense. 

21 John 1.1,3- t -, 

22 Sallust, Catiline 3,2. The words *not' and 'but to comprehend are 
added by Augustine to the original quotation. 



LETTERS 3 1 

of such important questions have been laid open, after 
examination and discussion. But it is faith that opens the 
approach to them for the intellect, and unbelief that closes it. 
Who would not be moved to believe by the impressive order of 
creation from its beginning, by the interlocking of time, 
giving credibility to the past by the present, giving authen- 
ticity to earlier happenings by later ones, and to ancient 
events by those more recent? One man, 23 endowed with the 
most faithful love of God, is chosen from the nation of the 
Chaldeans; to him are revealed the divine promises, to be 
fulfilled in these latest times, after a long stretch of ages; it 
is foretold that in his seed all nations are to receive the 
blessing. Thus, the old man, worshiper of the one true God, 
creator of the universe, begot a son of a wife whom age 
and barrenness had deprived of the hope of bearing children. 
Of him a most numerous people was generated; it increased 
in Egypt, whither a divine dispensation, multiplying promise 
and fulfillment, had led that tribe from eastern lands. A 
strong nation was led out from the slavery of Egypt in the 
midst of dread signs and wonders; was led into the land 
of promise, after the expulsion of its impious inhabitants; 
was established as a kingdom and made great. 24 Later, as sin 
prevailed with daring sacrilege, this race, too, often offended 
God, who had bestowed such benefits on it, was scourged by 
various misfortunes and consoled by successes, until it was 
brought to the time of the Incarnation and Revelation of 
Christ. All the promises made to that people, all the 
prophecies, the priesthoods, .the sacrifices, the temple, and 
all their sacred rites had announced this Christ the Word of 
God, the Son of God, the God about to come in the flesh, to 
die, to rise again, to ascend into heaven, to possess by His all- 
powerful name people dedicated to Him in all nations, to 

23 Abraham; cf. Gen. 12.1-3; 18.18, 

24 Exod. 13,17ff. 



32 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

grant remission of sin and eternal salvation to those who 
believe. 

Christ came, and in His birth, life, deeds, words, sufferings, 
death, resurrection, ascension all the pronouncements of the 
Prophets are fulfilled. He sends the Holy Spirit, 25 He fills 
the faithful gathered together in a house and awaiting this 
same promise with prayer and longing. They are filled with 
the Holy Spirit and they suddenly speak with the tongues of 
all nations; they confidently attack error; they preach the 
life-giving truth; they exhort to repentance of past sinful 
life; they promise pardon by divine grace. Their preaching 
of love of God and true worship is followed by fitting signs 
and wonders. The hatred of unbelief is roused against them; 
they bear the sufferings foretold; they hope for the promises; 
they teach what is enjoined. Though few in number, they 
are spread over the world ; with marvellous ease they convert 
whole peoples; they grow in the midst of enemies; they 
increase under persecution; and by the pressure of affliction 
they are scattered to the ends of the earth. Though once the 
most ignorant, the most lowly, the fewest in number, they 
become learned, they are ennobled, their numbers are 
multiplied. The most famous minds, the most cultured speech, 
the admirable skill of the brilliant, the eloquent and the 
learned are brought under the yoke of Christ, and turned 
to preaching the way of love of God and salvation. Amid 
varying failures and successes in their work they practise 
endurance and watchful self-control; in a world approaching 
its end 26 and declaring by its weariness that the last age is at 
hand, they await with all the greater confidence because this, 
too, has been foretold the eternal happiness of the heavenly 
City. And in the midst of all this, the unbelief of impious 

25 Acts 2.2,4. 

26 In the fifth century, with barbarians thundering at the gates of Home, 
it must have seemed to the Roman world that the end of all things 
was at hand. 



LETTERS 33 

peoples rages against the Church of Christ, but she over- 
comes them by endurance and by opposing an unshaken 
faith to the cruelty of her attackers. When the sacrifice now 
revealed by truth, which had long been veiled in mysterious 
promises, had displaced those other sacrifices by which this 
one was prefigured, they were abolished by the destruction 
of the Temple itself. The very Jewish race, cast off 
because of its unbelief, was driven out from its home and 
scattered throughout the world, so that it might carry the 
sacred Books everywhere; thus the testimony of the prophecy 
by which Christ and His Church were foretold was published 
abroad by His very enemies, thereby preventing anyone from 
thinking that, when the time of fulfillment had come, this 
testimony was invented by us. In fact, it was foretold of 
them that they would not believe. The temples and statues 
of demons and their sacrilegious worship were little by little, 
each in turn, destroyed, according to the prophetic utterances. 
Heresies against the Name of Christ, under cover even of 
the Name of Christ, swarm into existence, as they were fore- 
told, in order to strengthen the doctrine of our holy religion. 
As all these predictions can be read, so their fulfillment can 
be seen, and of the many great ones which remain the 
fulfillment is awaited. To sum up, what mind, longing for 
eternity, and impressed by the brevity of this life, could 
resist the light and completeness of this divine authority? 

What arguments, what works of any philosophers, what 
laws of any states can be compared in any way with the two 
commandments on which Christ says the whole Law and 
the Prophets depend? 27 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God 
with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy 
whole mind; and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 528 
Herein is natural science, since all the causes of all natures 

27 Matt. 22.40. 

28 Matt. 22.37-39. 



34 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

are found in God, the Creator; herein is ethics, since the 
good and honorable life is formed in no other way than 
by loving what ought to be loved as it ought to be loved, 
that is, God and our neighbor; herein is logic, since there 
is no other truth and light for the rational mind than God; 
herein is the praiseworthy security of the state, for the best 
city is erected and safeguarded on no other foundation than 
the bond of faith and unbreakable concord. This happens 
when the common good is loved, when God is the highest 
and truest good, and when men love each other most sincerely 
because they love themselves for the sake of Him from 
whom they cannot hide the true sentiment of their hearts. 

The very language in which Holy Scripture is expressed 
is easy for all, although understood by very few. In its 
easily understood parts it speaks to the heart of unlearned 
and learned like a familiar friend who uses no subterfuge, 
but, in those truths which it veils in mystery, it does not 
raise itself aloft with proud speech. Hence, the backward 
and untutored mind dares to draw near to it as a poor man 
to a rich one, because it invites all in simple language, and 
feeds their minds with its teaching in plain words, while 
training them in the truth by its hidden message, having the 
same effect in both the obvious and the obscure. But, lest 
the obvious should cause disgust, the hidden truths arouse 
longing; longing brings on certain renewal; renewal brings 
sweet inner knowledge. By these means depraved minds are 
set right, small ones are nourished, great ones are filled 
with delight. The mind which is an enemy to this teaching is 
the one that errs in not knowing its power to save, or, in 
its sickness, hates its curative power. 

You see what a lengthy letter I have written. If, then, 
some difficulty disturbs you, and you set great store on having 
it thoroughly worked out between us, do not let the usual 
length of ordinary letters constrain you, as if it had to be 



LETTERS 35 

observed, because you know quite well what long letters 
the ancients wrote when they were dealing with something 
that could not be explained in a few words. And, if some 
writers had one way and others another of dealing with 
letters, the precedent of our own authors can be set before 
us as something more worthy of imitation. Take the case of 
the apostolic letters, or of those writers who have made 
commentaries on the divine teachings, and do not be back- 
ward in either proposing many objections if many disturb 
you, or in discussing what you ask at some length, so that, 
as far as may be possible with minds such as ours are, there 
may not remain the least cloud of doubt to darken the 
light of truth. 

I know that your Excellency suffers from the extremely 
obstinate contradictions of certain people who think, or 
wish others to think, that Christian teaching is not conducive 
to the welfare of the state, and their reason is that they 
prefer to safeguard the state by tolerating crime rather 
than by strengthening virtue. But God does not act as a 
mortal king or ruler of a state acts, in leaving unpunished 
offenses committed by everybody. His mercy and grace, 
preached to men by the Man, Christ; imparted by God 
and the Son of God, the same Christ, do not forsake 
those who live by faith in Him and who worship Him 
devoutly; whether they bear the evils of this life patiently 
and bravely, or make use of His good gifts charitably 
and temperately; in both cases they will receive their reward 
in the heavenly and divine City. There we shall no longer 
have to bear painful trials or curb our passions with laborious 
effort, but there we shall possess the pure love of God and 
neighbor, without any trouble, and with perfect freedom. 
May the most merciful power of God keep you safe and 
happy, noble lord, justly distinguished and excellent son. I 



36 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

dutifully greet your holy mother, 29 most worthy to be honored 
in Christ. May God hear her prayers for you as you deserve. 
My holy brother and fellow bishop, Possidius, 30 gives friendly 
greeting to your Excellency. 

138. Augustine gives greeting in the Lord to Marcellinus* 
excellent and justly distinguished lord, and his 
very dear and much-cherished son (412) 

In my answer to Volusian, 2 that distinguished and eloquent 
man, most dear to us, I felt the need of dealing with the 
matter at as great length as he had thought fit to do in his 
question. But, in those points in your letter which you sent 
me for analysis and solution, whether they were raised or 
repeated by him or by others, I thought it would be better 
to analyze and solve them according to my abliity and then 
send them to you, as far as they can be thus handled in a 
conversation by letter, without having to deal with them 
in the form of treatises. Thus, if you think well since you 
have experience of their doings in daily debates you may 
have this letter read to them. But, if these words do not 
sufficiently impress ears not attuned to faith and piety, let 
us first plan out together what you think will impress them, 
and then send them what we have worked out, for, if their 
taste is still fastidious and superficial, there are many ways 
by which, perhaps, they may sometime be convinced, either 
by a fuller or more acute reasoning, or at least by an authority 
which they would think it improper to refuse to recognize. 

29 Cf. Letter 136 n. 2. 

30 Bishop o Calama, Augustine's biographer. Cf. Letter 101. 

1 Cf. Letter 136, to which this is an answer, 

2 Cf. Letter 137. 



LETTERS 37 

So, then, you wrote in your letter that certain ones were 
disturbed by the question: 'Why God who is pronounced 
the God of the Old Testament should spurn the ancient 
sacrifices and delight in new ones. They insist that a thing 
cannot be corrected unless it was proved to have been wrongly 
done before, or at least that what was rightly done once 
should never be changed. For, they say it is wrong to change 
things.' 3 I have copied these words from your letter into 
mine. If I were inclined to answer them in detail, I should 
more quickly run out of time than out of examples, showing 
how the world of nature itself, and human works as well, 
change by a regular method, according to the occurrence of 
the seasons, yet the same method by which they change is not 
changeable. Let me instance a few examples, so that your 
attention, roused by them, may run attentively over many 
similar ones. Does not summer follow winter, with a gradual 
increase of heat? Childhood, never to return, gives place 
to youth; vigorous manhood, doomed not to last, succeeds to 
youth; old age, putting an end to vigorous manhood, is itself 
ended by death. All these are changes, yet the method of 
Divine Providence by which they are made to change does 
not change. When the farmer gives one sort of orders in the 
summer and another in the winter, I do not suppose that any 
change is made in the method of agriculture. And when 
someone who has slept at night rises in the morning, he has not 
changed the pattern of his life. The master gave a different 
task to the youth from the one assigned to the boy; therefore, 
learning is constant though the teaching change; itself 
unchanged, it changes its instruction. 

Vindician, a great physician of our times, when consulted 
by a certain patient, ordered the remedy for his illness which 
seemed right at that time; when it had been applied, the 
cure followed. But, several years later, when the same bodily 

3 Quoted from Letter 136. 



38 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

distemper befell him, he thought fit to apply the same 
remedy, and grew worse. Astonished, he went back to the 
doctor and described his case, but the doctor said very 
sharply: c You suffered the bad effect of the medicine because 
I had not ordered it.' As a result, those who heard him and 
knew the man but slightly thought that he was not relying on 
his medical skill, but on some unlawful power. Questioned by 
those of the astonished bystanders who had the opportunity, 
he disclosed what they had not known, namely, that he 
would not have prescribed that remedy for that patient at 
that age. Thus, without any change in method or medical 
skill, the effect is attained by changing what needs change 
according to the difference brought about by time. 

Therefore, it is not true to say that a thing rightly done 
once should not be changed. Obviously, right reason demands 
a change in what was right to do at some earlier time, if 
the time circumstance is changed, so, when these objectors 
say it is not right to make a change, truth answers with 
a shout that it is not right not to make a change, because 
then it will be right both ways, if the change accords with 
the variation in time. This may happen, too, with different 
persons at the same time, so that 'One may, the other may 
not do something without harm, the difference lying not in 
the deed but in the doer.' 4 Similarly, in the case of one and 
the same person at different times, it may be proper to do 
something now but not at another time, the difference lying 
not in the doer but in the time of the deed. 

Anyone can see what a wide application this principle 
has, if he relies on and does not fail to observe the difference 
between beauty and fitness, which is spread far and wide, so 
to speak, in the generality of things. For, beauty is looked 
upon and praised for its own sake, and its contrary is ugliness 
and unsightliness. But fitness, whose opposite is unfitness, 

4 Terence, Ad. 824.25. 



LETTERS 39 

depends on something else, and is, in a sense, fastened to it; 
it is not prized for its own value, but for that to which it is 
joined. Doubtless, the words 'suitable' and 'unsuitable' are 
synonyms, or are so considered. Let us now apply what we 
said before to this point under discussion. The sacrifice which 
God had commanded was fitting in those early times, but now 
it is not so. Therefore, He prescribed another one, fitting for 
this age, since He knew much better than man what is 
suitably adapted to each age, and, being the unchangeable 
Creator as well as Ruler of the world of change, He knows 
as well what and when to give, to add to, to take away, to 
withdraw, to increase, or to diminish, until the beauty of the 
entire world, of which the individual parts are suitable each 
for its own time, swells, as it were, into a mighty song of 
some unutterable musician, and from thence the true adorers 
of God rise to the eternal contemplation of His face, even in 
the time of faith. 

But those who think that God commands these things for 
His own profit or pleasure are wrong, and they deserve to be 
puzzled at God's changing things as if His pleasure changed, 
ordering one kind of sacrifice to be offered to Him at that 
early period and another at this time. It is not that way. God 
commands nothing for His own advantage, but for the benefit 
of the one on whom the commandment rests. Therefore, that 
man is a true master who does not need his slave, but whose 
slave needs him. Thus, in the part of Scripture which is 
called the Old Testament, and at that time when those 
sacrifices were still offered which are not offered now, this 
was said : C I have said to the Lord, thou art my God for thou 
hast no need of my goods.' 5 Similarly, God has no need of 
those sacrifices,, nor does He ever need any, but they are signs 
of divinely bestowed favors, intended either to endow the 
mind with virtues or to help in the attaining of eternal 

5 PS. 15.2. 



40 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

salvation. Their observance and performance are exercises of 
devotion, useful to us, not to God. 

It would take too long to discuss adequately the variety 
of signs which are called sacraments when they are applied 
to divine things. Therefore, as God is not changeable because 
morning is different from evening, or this happens one month 
and that another, or things are not the same this year as they 
were last, so God is not changeable because in the earlier 
Book He ordered one kind of offering to be made to Him, 
and in the later one another, in order to give fitting meaning 
to the saving doctrine of religion in varying times, without 
any variation in Himself. Those who are troubled by these 
changes should know that this has long been a part of the 
divine plan, and when the new rites were instituted there 
was no question of the old ones having suddenly become 
displeasing, as if by a change of will, but that this has long 
ago been determined and ordained by the very wisdom of 
God, to whom the same Scripture says, speaking of greater 
changes in nature: 'Thou shalt change them and they shall be 
changed, but thou art the self same.' 6 Let these be instructed 
that the change of ceremonial from the Old to the New 
Testament had also been foretold by prophetic utterances. 
Thus they will see, if they are able, that what is new in time is 
not new with Him, since He created time, and, timeless Him- 
self, contains all things which He allots to all the several 
periods of time according to their diversity. For, in that psalm 
from which I quoted a verse to show that God has no need of 
our sacrifices, to whom it is said : 'I said to the Lord : Thou art 
my God for thou hast no need of my goods,' we read a little 
further along, of the person of Christ: C I will not gather 
together their meetings for blood-offerings/ 7 that is, for 
animal victims, for which the meetings of the Jews used to be 

6 Ps. 101.27,28. 

7 Ps. 15.2-4. 



LETTERS 41 

gathered together. Elsewhere it says: 'I will not take calves 
out of thy house, nor he-goats out of thy flocks/ 8 and 
another Prophet says: 'Behold the days shall come, saith the 
Lord, and I shall strengthen upon the house of Jacob a new 
convenant, not as the covenant which I disposed to their 
fathers when I led them out of the land of Egypt.' 9 There 
are many other proofs of this matter, showing by prophecy 
that God would do this, but it would take too long for me to 
list them now. 

If it is sufficiently clear that what was rightly instituted at 
one time can equally rightly be changed at another time by 
the action of the changer without any change in His plan 
and that this plan belongs to a reasonable and intelligent 
being in a state of existence where all happenings are viewed 
simultaneously without the limitations of time, although they 
cannot happen simultaneously in time because time is not 
simultaneous. Someone may possibly expect to learn from us 
the causes of this same change, but you know what a lengthy 
performance that would be. However, it is possible to say in a 
few words what will probably satisfy a man of keen under- 
standing, that it was fitting for Christ before His coming to be 
foretold by certain symbolic ceremonies, but after His coming 
He was to be announced by others, just as, when we speak, 
the difference of time obliges us to change our expressions, 
since 'foretell' is not the same as 'announce/ and 'before His 
coming' is different from 'after His coming.' 

Now let us see what is the nature of the next point in your 
letter. You added that they say that Christ's preaching and 
doctrine are not adaptable in any way to the customs of the 
state, and they give as an example the precept that we are 
not to return evil for evil to anyone; that we should turn the 
other cheek when anyone strikes us; that we should let go 

8 Ps. 49.9. 

9 Jer. 38.3132 (Septuagint) . 



42 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

our cloak when anyone takes our coat; and when anyone 
forces us to go with him we should go twice as far: all of 
which things are contrary to the customs of the state. Tor 
who/ they say, 'could allow anything to be taken from him 
by an enemy, or who would not wish to return evil, as the 
law of war allows, to the ravager of a Roman province?' 10 1 
might find it a laborious task to refute these and other such 
words of critics, or of men who say things by way of inquiry 
rather than of criticism, if it were not that this discussion is 
directed to men of culture and education. So, what use is it 
for me to labor the point; rather, why not ask them how 
those early patriots were able to govern and enlarge the state 
which they had changed from a small, poor one to a great, 
rich one, 11 when 'they preferred to pardon the wrongs they 
had suffered rather than avenge them?' 12 How could Cicero, 
praising the conduct of Caesar as ruler of the state, say that 
he never forgot anything but wrongs? 13 He said this either as 
high praise or as high flattery: if it was praise, he knew that 
Caesar was like that; if it was flattery, he was showing that 
the ruler of a state ought to be such as he falsely described 
him. But, what is the meaning of not returning evil for evil, 
if it is not abhorrence of the passion of revenge; and what 
is the meaning of preferring to pardon wrongs suffered rather 
than avenge them, if it is not forgetfulness of wrongs? 

When men read of these traits in their authors, they 
publish and applaud them; such conduct as is described and 
praised seems to them worthy of the beginning of a state 
which was to rule over so many nations, as when they say 
that 'they preferred to pardon wrongs suffered rather than 
avenge them/ But, when they read the command of divine 
authority that evil is not to be returned for evil, when this 

10 Quoted from Letter 136. 

11 Sallust, Cat. 52.19. 

12 Ibid. 9.5. 

13 Cicero, Pro tig. 12.35. 



LETTERS 43 

advice is preached from the pulpit to congregations of people, 
in these universal schools of both sexes and of every age and 
rank, religion is charged with being an enemy of the state. If 
this teaching had been heard as it deserved to be, it would 
have founded, sanctified, strengthened, and enlarged the 
state very much more sucessfully than Romulus, Numa, 
Brutus and those other famous men of Roman birth did. 14 
For, what is the commonwealth if not the common property? 
Therefore, the common property is the property of the state. 
And what is the state but the generality of men united by the 
bond of common agreement? In their authors we read: 'In a 
short time a scattered and wandering mob became a state by 
mutual agreement.' 15 But, indeed, what precept of agreement 
did they ever decree to be read in their temples, when they 
were unhappily obliged to find out how they could worship 
gods without offense to any of them, when these disagreed 
among themselves? For, if they chose to imitate them in their 
discord, their state was likely to fall apart, by the breaking of 
the bond of agreement, so that, as their morals declined and 
lost their purity, they began to be involved in civil war. 

But, who is so ill-versed in our religion, or so deaf, as not 
to know the great precepts of agreement, not worked out 
by human arguments but written by divine authority, which 
are read in the Churches of Christ? To this teaching those 
precepts belong which look rather to action than to learning : 
to turn the other cheek to the striker; to give the coat to him 
who tries to take away the cloak; to make a double journey 
when forced to go with anyone. 16 Thus it happens that the 
evil man is overcome by the good one, or, rather, evil is 

14 Romulus, founder and first king of Rome; Numa Pompilius, second 
king of Rome, who gave the Romans their religious institutions; 
Brutus, founder of the Roman republic. 

15 Cicero, De re publica, frag. 1.1.25.39.40. 

16 Matt, 5.39-41. 



44 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

overcome by good 17 in the evil man, and the man Is set free, 
not from an exterior foreign evil, but from an interior, personal 
one, by which he is more grievously and ruinously laid waste 
than he would be by the inhumanity of any enemy from 
without. Therefore, he overcomes evil by good who suffers 
the loss of temporal goods with patience, in order to show 
how far these goods are to be despised for the sake of faith 
and justice. And the one who becomes evil by loving these 
goods to excess, -and who does the wrong, is to learn from the 
very one to whom he did the wrong what kinds of goods 
these are that made him do the wrong, and so he is to be 
brought to repentance and to agreement than which nothing 
is more useful to the state overcome by the goodness of his 
victim rather than by the strength of an avenger. The right 
time for this to be done is when it seems likely to benefit the 
one for whose sake it is done, in order to bring about 
correction and a return to agreement. And this certainly is the 
intention one must have when this remedy is applied to 
correct and win over the offender, and, in a sense, to cure 
and restore him to sanity, and it must be done even if the 
outcome is otherwise and he refuses to accept either correction 
or peace-making. 

Otherwise, if we notice the words and imagine that they 
are to be kept literally, we might suppose the right cheek is 
not to be offered if the left is struck, since it says: 'If one 
strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the left. 918 The 
left is much more likely to be struck, because it is easier to 
strike a blow with the right hand. But it is usually understood 
as if it were said : If anyone makes an attempt on your best 
possessions, give him your less precious ones, too; otherwise, 
you might show vengeance rather than patience, and thereby 
despise eternal goods in favor of temporal ones, whereas 

17 Rom. 12.21. 

18 Cf, Matt, 539. 



LETTERS 45 

temporal goods are to be despised in favor of eternal ones, as 
things on the left are to be despised in favor of those on the 
right. This has always been the aim of the holy martyrs. A 
final just vengeance is looked for, that is, the last supreme 
judgment, only when no chance of correction remains. But, 
now, we must be on our guard, more than anything else, 
not to lose patience in our eagerness to be justified, for 
patience is to be more highly prized than anything an enemy 
can take from us against our will. Another Evangelist, 
expressing the same thought, makes no mention of right 
cheek, but says, 'the other cheek/ 19 and in order to make this 
expression 'other' more intelligible, he simply recommends 
the same patience. Therefore, an upright and devout man 
ought to bear with patience the malice of those whom he 
seeks to make good, in order to increase the number of the 
good rather than add himself to the number of the bad. 

Finally, those precepts refer rather to the interior disposition 
of the heart than to the act which appears exteriorly, and 
they enjoin on us to preserve patience and kindly feeling 
in the hidden places of the soul, revealing them openly 
when it seems likely to be beneficial to those whose welfare 
we seek. This is clearly shown in the case of the Lord Christ 
Himself, a unique model of patience, who was struck on the 
face and answered: 'If I have spoken evil, give testimony 
of the evil, but if well, why strikest thou me?' 20 If we look 
at the words literally, He obviously did not fulfill His own 
precept, for He did not offer His other cheek to the striker; on 
the contrary, He forbade the one who did it to augment the 
wrong, yet He carne prepared not only to be struck on the 
face, but even to die on the cross for those from whom He 
suffered these wrongs, and when He hung on the cross He 
prayed for them: 'Father, forgive them, for they know not 

19 Luke 6.29. 

20 John 18.23. 



46 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

what they do.' 21 The Apostle Paul apparently did not keep 
the command of his Lord and Master either, when he was also 
struck on the face, and said to the chief priest: 'God shall 
strike thee, thou whited wall. Thou sittest to judge me 
according to the law, and contrary to the law, thou 
commandest me to be struck.'- 2 And when the bystanders 
said : Dost thou revile the high priest?' 23 he chose to give them 
a warning by speaking in mockery, so that those who were 
wise might understand that the whited wall, that is, the 
hypocrisy of the Jewish priesthood, had been destroyed at the 
coming of Christ; for he said: \ knew not, brethren, that 
he is the high priest, for it is written: Thou shalt not speak 
evil of the prince of thy people.' 24 Now, undoubtedly, since 
he had grown up among those same people and had there 
been instructed in the Law, he could not but know that that 
person was the high priest, nor could he, in any wise, deceive 
those to whom he was known into believing that he did not 
know. + 

Therefore, those precepts of patience are always to be 
preserved in the heart, to keep it in readiness, and those 
kindly feelings which keep us from returning evil for evil are 
always to be developed in the will. But, we often have to act 
with a sort of kindly harshness, when we are trying to make 
unwilling souls yield, because we have to consider their 
welfare rather than their inclination, and this sort of thing has 
been lavishly praised in their literature describing the begin- 
nings of the state. For, in punishing a son, however harshly, 
a father's love is certainly not cast aside, yet what he does 
not want, and what makes him suffer, happens because it 
appears that he can be cured only by unwilling suffering. 
Thus, if the earthly state observes those Christian teachings, 

21 Luke 23.34. 

22 Acts 23.3. 

23 Acts 23.4. 

24 Acts 23.5; Exod, 22.28. 



LETTERS 47 

even war will not be waged without kindness, and it will be 
easier for a society whose peace is based on piety and justice 
to take thought for the conquered. He whose freedom to do 
wrong is taken away suffers a useful form of restraint, since 
nothing is more unfortunate than the good fortune of sinners, 
who grow bold by not being punished a penalty in itself 
and whose evil will is strengthened by the enemy within. But 
the depraved and distorted hearts of men esteem human 
fortunes happy when the splendor of buildings is in evidence, 
and the collapse of souls is not noticed; when magnificent 
theatres are erected, and the foundations of virtue are under- 
mined; when the madness of extravagance is glorified, and 
the works of mercy are scoffed at; when actors live in 
luxury at the expense of the excessively wealthy, and the poor 
scarcely have the necessaries of life; when God, who thunders 
against this public evil through the public voices of His 
doctrine, is blasphemed by impious nations, and the kind of 
gods sought after are those whose worship is attended by 
that theatrical degradation of body and soul. If God permits 
these abuses to flourish, it is a sign of His greater wrath; if He 
lets them go unpunished, that is a very deadly punishment. 
But, when He withdraws the sustenance of vice and impover- 
ishes the riches of lust, He opposes them in mercy, for it would 
be a sign of mercy if that were possible that even wars 
should be waged by the good, in order to curb licentious 
passions by destroying those vices which should have been 
rooted out and suppressed by the rightful government. 

If Christian practice condemned war in general, then the 
soldiers in the Gospel who asked how they were to be saved 
should have been given the advice to throw down their arms 
and give up military service entirely. But what was told them 
was: 'Do violence to no man, neither calumniate any man; 
and be content with your pay.' 25 When he told them they 

25 Luke 3.14. 



48 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

ought to be content with their pay, he obviously did not forbid 
them to serve in the army. Therefore, let those who say that 
the teaching of Christ is opposed to the welfare of the state 
produce such provincial administrators, such husbands, such 
wives, such parents, such sons, such masters, such slaves, 
such kings, such judges, and finally such tax-payers and 
collectors of public revenue as Christian teaching requires 
them to be, and then let them dare to say that this teaching 
is opposed to the welfare of the state, or, rather, let them even 
hesitate to admit that it is the greatest safety of the state, if it 
is observed. 

But what am I to reply to those who say that many evils 
have befallen the Roman state at the hands of Christian 
emperors? This is a sweeping complaint and a tricky one. 
For, if I were to relate frankly certain facts about past 
emperors, I could detail similar things, or perhaps even worse 
ones, about the non-Christian emperors, and so they would 
understand either that the fault was in the men, not in the 
teaching, or that it was not in the emperors but in those other 
men without whom emperors cannot get anything done. Their 
own literature speaks plainly of the time when the Roman 
state began to decline; long before the name of Christ had 
shed light upon the earth this was said: C O mercenary city 
and ripe for the plucking if it could find a buyer!' 26 And in 
the book on the war with Catiline, which was certainly 
written before the coming of Christ, this most famous of 
their historians does not pass over in silence the time when 
'first the army of the Roman people began to become adept 
in making love; in drinking; in admiring statues, pictures, 
engraved vases; in looting these privately and publicly; in 
ravaging shrines; in defiling everything both sacred and 
common, 327 Therefore, when the avarice and greed of corrupt 

26 Sallust, Jug, 35,10. 

27 Sallust, Cat. 11.6, 



LETTERS 49 

and abandoned morals ceased to spare even those men whom 
they considered gods, at that moment the much-praised glory 
and even the survival of the state began to be endangered. 
It would take too long to tell the outcome of those worst of 
vices, and of the decline of human fortunes brought on by 
the increase in wickedness. Let them listen to their own satirist 
babbling the truth: 'Modest fortune kept the Latin women 
chaste in the old times, and these things kept their humble 
homes safe from the touch of vice: toil and brief sleep, and 
hands hardened and roughened by carding the Tuscan fleece, 
and Hannibal's approach to the city, and their husbands' 
having to stand guard on the Colline rampart. But now we 
suffer the evil effects of long-continued peace; luxury, more 
cruel than warfare, weighs upon us and takes vengeance of 
our conquered city. No crime, no deed of lust has been alien 
to us since Roman poverty perished.' 28 How, then, can you 
expect me to exaggerate the great misfortunes brought on by 
an immorality carried aloft by its successful onset, when they 
themselves, though taking a more moderate view, saw that 
loss of poverty at Rome, rather than of wealth, was a subject 
of mourning? For, by the former their purity of morals was 
preserved, but by the latter a dread wickedness, worse than 
any enemy, invaded, not the walls of the city, but the minds of 
the citizens. 

Thanks to the Lord our God, who has sent us a sovereign 
help against those evils! Where would that stream of the 
repulsive malice of the human race not have carried us, who 
would not have been swept along with it, in what depths 
would it not have overwhelmed us, if the cross of Christ had 
not been planted, firm and high, in the great rock of authority, 
so that we might take hold of its strength and be steadied, 
and might not be drawn under the vast current of the ruined 
world by listening to evil advisers, urging us to evil? For, in 

28 Juvenal, Sat. 6.287-296. 



50 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

the midst of that filth of depraved morals, and of an ancient 
decadent learning, it was eminently right for a heavenly 
authority to come and to bring relief by counseling voluntary 
poverty, chastity, kindness, justice, concord, true filial love, 
and those other virtues which are the light and strength of life, 
not only to make us lead this life with the utmost regard for 
honor, nor only for the sake of making the society of the 
earthly city as united as possible, but also that we may attain 
salvation and reach that heavenly and divine country, whose 
peoples are immortal. Faith, hope, and charity enroll us as 
citizens in that country, but, as long as we voyage far from it, 
we are to bear with those if we cannot bring about their 
amendment who hold that without punishing vice that 
state can survive, that state which the first Romans founded 
and increased by their virtues. For, although they did not 
have true devotion to the true God, which could have 
led them by a saving religion to the eternal City, they did 
preserve a certain characteristic uprightness, sufficient to 
found, increase, and preserve an earthly city. God showed in 
the rich and far-famed Roman Empire how much can be 
achieved by natural virtues without true religion, so that we 
might understand how, with this added, men can become 
citizens of another state whose king is truth, whose law is 
love, whose measure is eternity. 

Who could think it a fit matter for laughter that men 
should try to compare or even prefer Apollonius and Apuleius 
and other adepts of the magic arts to Christ? Yet, it is more 
readily bearable for them to compare men to Him rather 
than their gods, for we have to admit that Apuleius was 
much better than that originator and perpetrator of so many 
debaucheries whom they call Jupiter. 'Oh, those things,' they 
say, 'are imaginary tales.' Then let them go on praising the 
debauched, licentious, and wholly sacrilegious good fortune of 
the state which imagined such vileness in their gods, and 



LETTERS 5 1 

which not only set them forth in tales to be listened to, but 
even acted them in the theatre to be looked at, where there 
would be more criminal acts than divinities and such acts as 
those gods took pleasure in having displayed in their presence, 
whereas they ought to have punished their worshipers for even 
looking on them with patience. 'But,' they say, 'it is not they 
who are honored by such lying tales.' Who, then, are the 
beings who are appeased by such vile observances? Because 
the teaching of Christianity has uncovered the malice and 
deceit of those demons through whose power magic arts lead 
human minds astray, because it has revealed this to the 
whole world, because it has made a distinction between their 
wickedness and the holy angels, because it has warned us 
whom to guard against and how to guard against them, it is 
called hostile to the state. As if we should not rather choose 
any misfortune if temporal good fortune were to be obtained 
exclusively through them! But God did not wish us to have 
any doubt on this point, as long as the Old Testament, which 
is the veil of the New Testament, remained unknown, and 
He treated that people who first adored the one true God and 
despised the utterly false gods by honoring them with such 
good fortune of earthly goods that anyone might understand 
that the gift of such fortune was not in the power of demons, 
but of Him alone whom the angels serve, 'before Whom the 
devils' tremble.' 29 

But,, to speak more especially of Apuleius, who as an 
African 30 is better known to us Africans, he was not able, for 
all his magic arts, to achieve any judicial power in the state, 
much less anything like a throne, although he was born to a 
position respected in his own country, received the education 
of a gentleman, and was gifted with stirring eloquence. But, 
perhaps you may say, as a philosopher he voluntarily looked 

29 James 2.19. 

30 He came from Madaura. 



52 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

down on such things, since he was a priest of such influence 
in the province that he provided the public games, clothed 
the wild-beast fighters, and even undertook a law suit against 
certain citizens who were opposed to setting up a statue to 
him at Oea, 31 the city from which his wife came. And so 
that posterity would know about it, he handed down in 
writing a speech which he made in that law suit. So, as far 
as achieving earthly prosperity was concerned, he was a 
magician, because that much he could do, but it is clear that 
he was nothing more, not because he would not, but because 
he could not be such. Yet, he defended himself with the 
utmost eloquence against certain persons who accused him 
of practising magic arts, which makes me marvel at his 
admirers, who claim that by those arts he performed some 
miracles or other, trying to set themselves up as witnesses 
against his own defense. They had better see whether they are 
offering true evidence or whether he made up a false defense. 
Those who pry into magic arts either to gain earthly 
prosperity or out of a culpable curiosity, or those who praise 
such practices with dangerous admiration, though innocent 
themselves, should take note, if they are wise, and look at our 
David, a shepherd who rose to the position of king without 
any such arts. The Scripture has faithfully recorded both his 
sins and his good deeds, so that we may know what does not 
offend God, and what wins His favor when He has been 
offended. 

So, with regard to the miracles which are displayed for 
the stupefaction of human senses, those persons are very 
wrong who compare magicians to the holy Prophets, well 
known for the fame of their great miracles, but how much 
worse to compare them to Christ, whose coming those 
Prophets and no magicians of any sort are to be compared 
to them foretold both according to the flesh, which He took 

SI A town of Africa, now Tripoli. 



LETTERS 53 

from a virgin, and according to the divinity by which He is 
never separated from the Father! 

I see that I have written a very lengthy letter, yet I have 
not said everything about Christ that could fully satisfy 
either those 32 who cannot fathom divine truths because of a 
slow mind, or those who are easily impressed, but are held 
back from understanding either by a stubborn zeal or the 
prejudice of long-standing error. But, find out what urges 
them to oppose us, and let me know, and I will try to answer 
all their objections in letters or treatises, with the help of 
God. By His grace and mercy, may you be happy in the 
Lord, excellent and justly distinguished Sir, my most dear and 
cherished son. 



739. Augustine gives greeting in the Lord to the justly 
distinguished lord, his most dear and much 
cherished son, Marcellinus 1 (412) 
(412) 

I am eagerly awaiting the records 2 which your Excellency 
promised, and I am more and more anxious to have them 
read in the church at Hippo, and also in all the churches 
established in the diocese, that men may hear them and 
fully recognize the confessors of iniquity. It was not the fear 
of God that drove them to repentance, but the alertness of 
the court that revealed the hardness of the cruel hearts 
of those who admitted 3 the murder, as well as the blinding 
and maiming of a priest; and of those who dared not deny 

32 A lacuna is noted here in the Vienna text. 



1 Cf. Letter 128 n. 3. 

2 The minutes of the meeting between Donatists and Catholics over 
which Marcellinus presided. Cf. Letters 128,129. 

3 This word is missing from the Mss. and is supplied by the editors. 
The murdered priest was Restitutus; the maimed one, Innocentius. 
Cf. Letter 133. 



54 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

that they could have known of those excesses, although they 
said they were displeased by them, they refused to make 
peace with the Catholic Church on pretext of not being defiled 
by others' crimes, and they remained in the sacrilege of schism 
in the midst of a mob of monstrous criminals. Those also 
were shown up who said they would not give up the 
wrongness of the Donatists even after the truth of Catholicism 
had been proved to them. It is no slight thing that God is 
doing by your agency; may you hear many such cases about 
them and their misdeeds, may their senseless obstinacy be 
as frequently made public, and may these same public 
records be produced for the information of all. As to what 
your Excellency wrote about doubting whether you ought to 
order these same records to be posted in the Theoprepia, 4 
do so, if a large crowd can gather there; otherwise, some 
more roomy place should be provided, for the matter should 
under no circumstances be neglected. 

But, I ask you that the punishment of the crimes, how- 
ever great, which they have confessed, may be something 
short of death, and I ask it for the sake of my own conscience, 
as well as to give an example of Catholic moderation. For, 
the very fruit which has accrued to us from their confession 
is that the Catholic Church has found an opportunity for 
maintaining and displaying her leniency toward her most 
savage enemies, since, of a truth, after such cruelty as theirs, 
any penalty which is inflicted, short of bloodshed, will 
seem like leniency. Although this seems to some of ours, 
wrought up by their inhumanity, to be unjust, and a sign of 
laxity and indifference, still, when their emotions have 
calmed down and they were naturally deeply affected by 
recent happenings this goodness will shine out as something 
exceedingly beautiful, and this will be a greater reason for 
you to take pleasure in reading and displaying these same 

4 A church at Carthage belonging to the Donatists. 



LETTERS 55 

records, deservedly illustrious Sir, my very dear and cherished 
son. My holy brother and fellow bishop, Boniface, 5 is there, 
and I have sent a letter of instructions through the deacon 
Peregrinus, 6 who traveled with him; take this as if I were 
there in person, and, whatever you decide in common is for 
the good of the Church, do that with the help of the Lord, 
who is able to aid you with His mercy in the midst of such 
evils. Recently, Macrobius, 7 their bishop, went about here 
and there, escorted by bands of desperate characters, of both 
sexes; he opened basilicas 8 which some modest fear of their 
owners had closed. But, in the presence of the procurator, 
Spondeus, son of the noble Celer, whom I have recommended 
and do earnestly recommend to your Charity, their boldness 
has somewhat broken down. However, since Macrobius has 
gone to Carthage, he has now opened basilicas on the very 
estates of the procurator, and is gathering in the people. With 
him is that deacon, Donatus, who was rebaptized, although 
he was a tenant-farmer of the Church; he took an active part 
in that murder. 9 What kind of men must have been with him 
when he was with Macrobius? If the proconsul, 10 or both 
of you, intend to pass sentence on them, and he persists in 
wanting to behead them, although he is a Christian, and as 
far as I can see, not inclined to bloodshed, then, if it should 
be necessary, order my letters, which I thought wise to write 
to you individually, 11 to be forwarded with the records. I hear 
that a judge generally has power to lighten a sentence and 
to inflict a punishment lighter than the law requires. If, how- 

5 Bishop of Cataquas, a town near Hippo. Cf. Letters 96,98. 

6 Companion to Boniface at the Conference. Two years later he was 
made bishop, but it is not known of what locality. Letter 149 is 
addressed to him. 

7 Donatist bishop at Hippo. Letters 106 and 108 are addressed to him. 

8 Probably basilicas which the Donatists had been ordered to return 
to the Catholics. 

9 Of the priest, Restitutus. 

10 Cf. Letter 134. 

11 Letters 133,134. 



56 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

ever, he will not yield to this request in my letter, let him at 
least grant that they be kept under guard. We have arranged 
to refer this matter to the clemency of the emperors, so that 
the sufferings of the servants of God, which ought to be the 
glory of the Church, may not be dishonored by the blood of 
their enemies. I know that in the case of the clerics of 
Anaunia, 12 who were killed by pagans and are now honored 
as martyrs, the emperor was petitioned, and readily granted 
that the murderers, who had been captured and imprisoned, 
should not suffer the death penalty. 

I have forgotten why I received back the copy of the book 
on the baptism of children which I had sent to your 
Excellency, unless, perhaps, it was because I found it faulty 
when I had looked it over, and I wanted to correct it, but 
I have been so unbelievably busy that I have not done so. 
There was also a letter to be written and added to the 
manuscript, and I began to dictate it while 1 was there, but 
you must know that I have added a little to it and it is 
still unfinished. If I could give you an account of my days 
and of the labor I expend at night on other pressing duties, 
you would be surprised and very sorry at the great burdens 
which weigh me down, which cannot be put off, and which 
prevent me from doing those things which you ask and urge 
me to do, willing though I am and more grieved than I can 
say at not being able to do them. When I get a little time, free 
from my obligations to those men who put such pressure 
upon me that I cannot in any way avoid them, and I ought 
not to show them contempt, there are plenty of details having 
a priority on the scraps of time devoted to dictation, and 
they are such as will not bear delay. There was, for instance, 
that summary of our conference, a laborious task which fell 
to me when I saw that no one was willing to lend himself to 
the reading of such a pile of documents; there was also the 

12 A valley near the city of Trent, where Sisinnius, Martyrius, and 

AlpxanrW wprf kill^rl hv nacran rmrir<c in SQ7 



LETTERS 57 

letter to the Donatist laity regarding this same conference of 
ours, which I finished only after several nights of work; there 
were the two long letters, one to your Charity, the other to the 
worthy Volusian, which I believe you have now received. At 
present, I have in hand a book 13 for our friend, Honoratus, in 
answer to some five questions which he proposed to me, and 
insisted upon in a letter, and you can see how unsuitable it 
would be for me not to answer him as soon a possible. Charity, 
like a nurse caring for her children, gives the weak preference 
over the strong, not that they are more worthy of love, but 
more needy of help, and she wishes them to be like the others 
whom she passes over for a time as a mark of trust, not of 
contempt. Such necessities cannot be lacking for dictating 
something, and they prevent me from dictating what I 
ardently long to do, when a small bit of time is left me 
between my piled-up duties, which keep me weighed down 
with other people's ambitions and necessities, and I do not 
know what else I can do. 

You have heard enough to make you pray to the Lord with 
me, but in the matter of your urging me so earnestly and so 
often I do not want you to stop, seeing that you do accomplish 
something. I also recommend to your Excellency the church 
established in Numidia. It is to represent the interests of that 
church that my holy brother and fellow bishop Delphinus 14 
has been sent by my brothers and fellow bishops, who labor 
and face danger there together. I shall not write more on 
this matter, because you will see him in person. You will find 
the other points in the instructions which I sent to the priest 
recently, or through the deacon Peregrinus, and so I shall not 
have to repeat them so many times. May your heart always 
be strong and rejoice in Christ, deservedly distinguished lord, 
my very dear and much cherished son. I recommend to your 
Excellency my son Rufinus, the chief official of Cirta. 

13 Letter 140. 

14 Coadjutor bishop to Fortunatus, Bishop of Cirta. 



58 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

140. Addressed to Honoratus 1 (412) 
THE BOOK ON GRACE, AS SET FORTH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT 

You proposed to me, dear brother Honoratus, five 
questions 2 to discuss and to solve, picked out at random, as 
they either impressed you in your reading or came to your 
mind in thought, and you presented them to me in a certain 
order. It seems to me it would be a hard task to weave them 
and join them together into a single coherent whole, if I 
tried to arrange the solution by discussing them singly and 
piecemeal as they are proposed. Yet, I think they will be 
more easily answered if I do join them, because they will help 
each other if one is linked to the other, until all come into the 
sequence of the discussion, not one by one in separate places, 
as if each one dwelt in its own private meaning, but directed 
to one end and working together at one thing with a share 
for each in the reasoning and a single truth for each. 

Chapter 1 

You wanted, then, and in your letter you urged me to 
explain and make clear for you the meaning of those words 
of the Lord: 'My God, why hast thou forsaken me?' 1 and 
what the Apostle meant when he said e that being rooted 

1 A catechumen, not yet baptized, who later was ordained a priest. 

2 His five questions gave Augustine the opportunity to marshal 
arguments against the rising power of the Pelagians. Peiagius, a 
monk who fled from Rome to Africa to escape the barbarians, denied 
the necessity of grace for good works, its purely gratuitous character, 
and the moral weakness of man wounded by original sin. He gave the 
chief part in Christian perfection to the action of the human will. 
Augustine speaks of the origin of this letter-tra'ct in Retractations 2.36, 

1 Ps. 21.2; Matt. 27.46; Mark 15.34. 



LETTERS 59 

and founded in charity you may be able to comprehend with 
all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and 
depth'; 2 and who the foolish virgins were and who the 
wise; 3 and what the exterior darkness is; 4 and how we are 
to understand The word of God was made flesh.' 5 These five 
questions have been as briefly reviewed by me as they were 
proposed by you. Therefore, if you agree, let us add a sixth, 
and let us, before all, seek out the meaning of grace in the 
New Testament. Let all of yours be referred to that, and let 
each one, as it conveniently can, do its part for us, not, 
evidently, in the order in which you proposed and I recalled 
them, but let each one, when needed, answer the call, so to 
speak, and fulfill its duty. Let this do for an introduction. 



Chapter 2 

There is a certain life of man involved in the carnal senses, 
given up to carnal joys, avoiding carnal hurt, seeking carnal 
pleasure. The happiness of this life is temporal: to begin 
with this life is a matter of necessity; to continue in it a matter 
of choice. Doubtless, the infant issues forth into this life from 
the womb of its mother; as far as it can, it avoids the hurts, 
seeks the pleasures of this life; nothing else counts. But, after 
it reaches the age at which the use of reason awakens, and 
its will is divinely aided, it can choose another life whose 
joy is in the mind, whose happiness is interior and eternal. 
Truly there is in man a rational soul, but it makes a difference 
which way he turns the use of the reason by his will : whether 
to the goods of his external and lower nature or to the goods of 

2 Eph. 3.18. 

3 Matt. 25.2. 

4 Matt. 8.12; 22.13. 

5 John 1.14. 



60 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

his interior and higher nature, that is, whether his enjoyment 
is corporeal and temporal, or divine and eternal. This soul 
is placed in a middle state, having below it the physical 
creation and above it the Creator of itself and its body. 

The rational soul can, then, make good use of temporal 
and corporeal pleasure, provided it does not give itself up 
entirely to created things, and thereby abandon the Creator, 
but, rather, finds its happiness in serving the Creator, who 
has enriched it with the overflowing abundance of His own 
goodness. For, just as all the things which God has created 
are good, from the rational being itself to the lowest form 
of physical life, so the rational soul acts rightly toward these 
things if it preserves due order among them, and by distin- 
guishing, choosing, weighing them, subordinates the lesser to 
the greater, the corporeal to the spiritual, the lower to the 
higher, the temporal to the eternal, lest by a neglect of the 
higher things and a craving for the lower it bring itself and 
its body into a worse state, whereas it should rather bring 
itself and its body to a better state by putting charity in its due 
place. And, since all substances are naturally good, a praise- 
worthy rank among them is honored, but a culpable disorder 
is condemned. The soul which makes a bad use of created 
things does succeed in escaping the rule of the Creator, 
since, if it makes a bad use of good, He likewise makes a good 
use of evil; then the soul, by using good things badly, becomes 
evil,, but He, by making an orderly use of evil, remains 
good. Whoever unjustly gives himself over to sin is justly given 
over to punishment. 

Therefore, when God wished to show that even earthly 
and temporal happiness is His gift and is not to be hoped for 
from any other than Him, He decreed that the Old Testament 
should be imparted to those early ages of the world which 
belonged to primitive man, from whom that life necessarily 
took its rise. But, those joys of the patriarchs, although 



LETTERS 61 

belonging to this transitory life, are spoken of as granted by 
the bounty of God. Doubtless, those earthly gifts were 
promised and granted openly, but the New Testament was 
secretly foreshadowed in figure by all those things, and was 
so accepted by the understanding of a few, whom that same 
grace had made worthy of the gift of prophecy. Those saints 
therefore made known the Old Testament in accord with the 
time, but they belonged to the New Testament. For, when 
they lived in temporal happiness, they understood that the 
true eternal happiness is to be preferred, and they made use 
of the former as a mystery in order to attain the latter as a 
reward. And, if ever they suffered adversity, they bore it with 
this intention, that when they were delivered by the very 
evident divine help, they might glorify God, the Giver of all 
good things, not only the eternal which they devoutly hoped 
for, but even the temporal over which they prophetically 
exercised dominion. 



Chapter 3 

'But when the fulness of the time was come, 3 that the 
grace which was concealed in the Old Testament should now 
be revealed, 'God sent his Son, made of a woman,' 1 the 
peculiarity of the Hebrew tongue uses this word 2 to apply 
to every member of the female sex, 3 whether married or 
unmarried. That you may know what Son He sent, whom 
He willed to be made of a woman, and how great a God 
He is, give attention now to the Gospel : 'In the beginning was 
the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was 
God; the same was in the beginning with God. All things 

1 Gal. 4.4. 

2 In Latin, mulier was used of a married woman; virgo, of an unmarried 
one. 

3 There is no way in English of distinguishing the more general word 
femina from mulier. 



62 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

were made by him and without him was made nothing that 
was made. In him was life and the life was the light of men, 
and the light shineth in darkness and the darkness did not 
comprehend it,' 4 This God, then, the Word of God by whom 
all things were made, is the Son of God, remaining unchange- 
able, everywhere present, neither enclosed in any space, nor 
distributed in parts through all space, as if He should have 
a smaller part of Himself in a smaller space, and a larger 
part in a larger space, but wholly present everywhere, and thus 
not absent even from the minds of the wicked, although they 
do not see Him; just as this light is not seen by the blind, 
though present to their eyes. Therefore, it shines in the 
darkness, such as the Apostle indicates when he says: Tor 
you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord,' 5 
but such darkness did not comprehend it. 

Thus, He became a man whom men could see, so that, 
healed by faith, they might afterwards see what then they 
could not see. But, lest the man, Christ, by the very fact of 
appearing visibly, should not be believed to be God, and only 
that much high grace and wisdom should be attributed to 
Him as is fitting for a man, There was a man sent from God, 
whose name was John. This man came for a witness to give 
testimony of the light, that all men might believe through 
Him. He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the 
light.' 8 It was fitting, then, for a man to give testimony of 
Him who was not only man, but God, who should be so 
great that 'there hath not risen among them that are born 
of women a greater than John the Baptist,' 7 for so it would 
be understood that the one to whom the greater John gave 
testimony was greater than he, inasmuch as He was not 
only man but even God. Therefore, John was a light, and 

4 John 1.1-5. 

5 Eph 5.8. 

6 John 1.6-8. 

7 Matt. 11.11. 



LETTERS 63 

such a light that the Lord Himself gives testimony to him, 
saying: 'He was a burning and a shining light,' 8 as He also 
said to His disciples: 'You are the light of the world;* and to 
show them what kind of light. He went on and added: 'No 
one lights a candle and puts it under a bushel, but upon a 
candlestick that it may shine to all that are in the house. So 
let your light shine before men. 59 These comparisons are 
given so that, as far as possible, we may understand, or, if this 
is not yet possible, that we may believe without any doubt, 
that the rational soul is not the nature of God for that, 
indeed, is unchangeable but still the soul can share in it by 
being illumined, since candles need to be lighted and can be 
extinguished. Therefore, the words He said of John: 'He 
was not the light,' are to be referred to that light which is 
not enkindled by sharing in another light, whereas other 
lights which are enkindled by Him share in His light. 

Finally, there follows: "He was the true light/ and as if we 
might enquire how the true light is distinguished from the 
enkindled light, that is, Christ from John, he says: 'That was 
the true light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into 
this world.' 10 If every man, then John also. And to show His 
divinity by a much more striking difference, he says : 'He was 
in this world, and the world was made by him, and the 
world knew him not.' It was not the world made by Him 
which did not know Him, for only the rational being has the 
power of knowing Him although it is true that the visible 
world, that is, heaven and earth, was made by Him but he 
indicated by His reproach the world that did not know Him, 
namely, the unbelievers who are established in the world. 

Then he adds : 'He came into his own and his own received 
him not,' either because those very unbelievers, inasmuch as 

8 John 5.35. 

9 Cf. Matt.5.14-16. 
10 John 1,9. 



64 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

they are men, are His, having been created by Him, or He 
wished it understood that the Jews were peculiarly His own, 
since He took His fleshly nature from them. However, all 
did not refuse to receive Him, for he goes on as follows and 
says: 'But as many as received him, he gave them power to 
be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name, 
who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of 
the will of man, but of God.' 11 This is the grace of the New 
Testament, which lay hid in the Old, yet was constantly 
prophesied and foretold by veiled figures, so that the soul 
might recognize its God and be reborn to Him, by His grace. 
This is truly a spiritual birth, therefore not of blood, nor of the 
will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God* 



Chapter 4 

This is called adoption. For we were something before we 
were the sons of God, and we received the benefit of 
becoming what we were not, just as the one who is adopted, 
before adoption, was not yet the son of the one who adopts 
him; still, he was one who could be adopted. From this 
begetting by grace we distinguish that son who, although He 
was the Son of God, came that He might become the son of 
man, and might give us, who were sons of man, the power to 
become the sons of God. He, indeed, became what He was 
not; nevertheless, He was something else, and this something 
was the Word of God, by whom all things were made, and 
the true light which enlightens every man, and God with 
God. Still, we were something, and this same something was 
much lower, that is, sons of men. He therefore descended 
that we might ascend, and, while remaining in His own 
nature, became a sharer in our nature, so that we, while 

11 John 1.10. 



LETTERS 65 

remaining in our own nature, might become sharers in His 
nature; but not in the same way, for He did not become 
worse by sharing in our nature, but we become better by 
sharing in His. 

Therefore, 'God sent his Son, made of a woman, made 
under the law/ 1 For, He undertook the obligations of the Law 
'that He might redeem them that were under the law, 5 that 
is, those whom the Law held as guilty by the letter which 
kills, 2 by reason of their not fulfilling the commandment, in 
the time before the spirit quickened them, because 'the 
charity of God/ which fulfills the commandment, 'is poured 
forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us/ 3 
Therefore, when he had said: 'that he might redeem them 
who were under the law/ he straightway added: 'that we 
might receive the adoption of sons,' 4 in order, no doubt, to 
distinguish the grace of this benefit from the nature of His 
son, who was sent as a son eternally begotten, not made so by 
adoption, intending by sharing the nature of the sons of men 
to adopt the sons of men into a share in His own nature. 
Therefore, also, when he had said : 'He gave them power to 
be made the sons of God,' and had immediately added : 'them 
that believe in his name,' lest they should think a carnal birth 
was being offered them, whereas they are reborn through 
spiritual grace, 'not of blood, nor of the will of man, nor of 
the will of the flesh, but of God/ he then praised the mystery 
of this change, and as if, in our wonder at so great a good, 
we might not dare to ask for it, he at once added: 'And the 
Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.' 5 And that is one 
of those five passages which you wished to have explained, as 
if He should say: 'O men, do not despair of being able to 

1 Gal. 4.4,5. 

2 2 Cor. 3.6. 

3 Rom. 5.5. 

4 Gal. 4.5. 

5 John 1.12-14. 



bb SAINT AUGUSTINE 

become the sons of God, because He Himself, the Son of 
God, that is, the Word of God, was made flesh and dwelt 
among us. Make Him a return, become spirit and dwell in 
Him who was made flesh and dwelt among us.' Since the 
Son of God by sharing in our flesh became the son of man, 
men need not despair of being able to become the sons of 
God by sharing in the Word. 

We changeable creatures, then, become sharers in the 
Word, to be changed for the better, but the unchangeable 
Word, in no wise changed for the worse, has become a sharer 
in our flesh by the medium of a rational soul. For, it was not 
true, as the Apollinarist heretics 6 thought, that the man 
Christ either did not have a soul or did not have a rational 
soul, but the Scripture, in its own way, so as not to appear 
to avoid the word 'flesh' as something unfitting, has put 'flesh' 
for 'man.' Because it is written: 'All flesh shall see the 
salvation of God/ 7 we are not to understand that souls are 
thereby excluded. Therefore, when the Scripture says: 'The 
Word was made flesh,' it is the same as if it said: The Son of 
God became a son of man.' *Who being in the form of 
God/ as the Apostle says, 'thought it not robbery to be equal 
with God/ 8 for it was not a question of usurpation, of the 
sort that could be called robbery, but it was inherent in His 
nature to be equal. Nevertheless, c he emptied himself/ not 
losing the form of God, but 'taking the form of a servant. He 
humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the 
death of the cross.' 9 See, then how the same man, whom he 
commends as God, is one Person, lest we should think that 
the Trinity is a quaternity. For, just as the number of 
persons is not increased when flesh is joined to soul to form 

6 These held that in Christ there was no human soul. Alypius, Augustine's 

close friend, held this view before this conversion. 

7 Isa. 40.5 (Septuagint) , as quoted by Luke 3.6. 

8 Phil. 2.6. 

9 Phil, 2.7,8. 



LETTERS 67 

one man, so the number of Persons is not increased when man 
is added to the Word, to form one Christ. We read, therefore: 
'the Word was made flesh/ so as to understand the oneness 
of this Person, yet not to imagine that the divinity has been 
changed into flesh. 

Chapter 5 

Thus, the man Christ was not to be recommended to us by 
reason of earthly happiness, because by Him the grace of the 
New Testament was to be revealed, which belongs to eternal 
not to temporal life. Hence, subjection, suffering, scourging, 
being spat upon, contempt, the cross, wounds, and death 
itself were to be His, as if He had been overcome and made 
prisoner by them, so that His faithful might learn what 
reward for their devotion they should ask and hope for from 
Him whose sons they had become, and might not serve God 
for the purpose of seeking to gain temporal happiness as a 
great boon, and by so serving Him should cast away and 
trample on their faith, rating it as a cheap reward. Hence, 
almighty God, by a most bountiful providence, granted 
earthly happiness to the wicked so that the good might not 
seek it as a great boon. For this reason, Psalm 72 shows us 
man repenting because at one time he had served God for 
this reward, with a heart that was not upright. Then, when he 
saw the wicked prosper and abound, he was disturbed and 
began to think that God had no care of human happenings. 
When the authority of the saints who belong to God had 
recalled him from that thought, he strove and studied to 
know this great secret, which was not revealed to him in his 
toiling until he entered into the sanctuary of God, and under- 
stood their last ends, 1 that is, until, having received the 
Holy Spirit, he learned to desire better things, and to look 

l PS. 71. 



68 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

forward to the future punishment awaiting sinners, even those 
who had flourished with a temporal prosperity as fleeting as 
the grass of the field. 2 Note this Psalm 72 carefully and read 
it attentively, as it has been interpreted by my effort on the 
night which was the eve of the feast of the most blessed 
Cyprian. 3 

Therefore the man, Christ, who is likewise the God, 
Christ, by whose most compassionate humanity and in whose 
form of servant we ought to learn what is to be despised in 
this life and what is to be hoped for in the other, in that very 
Passion in which His victorious enemies seemed great, took on 
the speech of our infirmity, in which 'our old man was cruci- 
fied with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, 4 and 
said: 'My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?' 5 And this 
is one of your five propositions. Thus Psalm 21 begins, which 
was sung so long a time ago, in prophecy of His Passion and 
the revelation of the grace which He brought to raise up His 
faithful and set them free. 



Chapter 6 

Therefore, I shall go through that same psalm, whose 
prophecy the Lord pointed out as applying to Himself, when 
He cried out its first verse, as He hung on the cross, and I 
shall review and comment upon it, so that you may under- 
stand how the grace of the New Testament was not 

2 Matt, 6.30. 

3 His feast is celebrated on September 16, 'Night' undoubtedly refers to 
the Office of Matins. It was customary to have a homily delivered 
by the officiating priest or prelate. At present, such homilies are read 
in the form of Lessons in each Nocturn. Augustine probably delivered 
his exposition of Psalm 72 on such an occasion. 

4 Rom. 6.6. 

5 Ps. 21,2; Matt. 27.46; Mark 15.34. 



LETTERS 69 

immeiitioned in that time when it was veiled in the Old 
Testament. For, it is spoken of the Person of Christ in so far 
as it refers to the form of the servant, in which He bore our 
infirmity. Isaias also said of Him: 'He bears our infirmity, 
and is in sorrow for us.' 1 Out of the voice of this infirmity 
Paul prayed and was not heard, being, in a sense, abandoned; 
nevertheless, he heard these words from the Lord : c My grace 
is sufficient for thee, for power is made perfect in infirmity.' 2 
Out of the voice, then, of this infirmity of ours, which our 
Head transferred to Himself, the psalm utters these words: 
'My God, my God, look upon me, why hast thou forsaken 
me?' 3 Doubtless, He is forsaken, inasmuch as His prayer was 
not heard; Jesus transferred this voice to Himself, the voice, 
no doubt of human weakness, to which the goods of the Old 
Testament had to be refused, that it might learn to pray 
and hope for the goods of the New Testament. 

But, among those goods of the Old Testament, which 
belonged to the old man, there is a special desire for the 
prolonging of this temporal life, so that it may be held some- 
what longer, which is not always possible. Thus, all indeed 
know that the day of death will come, yet all, or nearly all, 
strive to postpone it, even those who believe that their life 
after death will be a happier one so much force has the 
sweet partnership of flesh and soul ! Tor no man ever hated 
his own flesh/ 4 and therefore the soul does not wish to be 
parted, even for a time, from its own infirmity, although it 
hopes to receive it back again without infirmity. Therefore, 
the godly man, serving the law of God in his mind, but 
dragging about in his flesh the desires of sin, 5 which the 
Apostle bids him not obey, by his reason and mind 'desires 

1 Cf. Isa. 53.4. 

2 2 Cor. 12.9. 

3 Ps. 21.2. 

4 Ephu 5.29. 

5 Rom. 7.25. 



70 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

to be dissolved and to be with Christ/ 6 but with the instinct of 
the flesh revolts against this and runs from it, and, if it 
were possible, he does not wish to be 'unclothed but to be 
clothed upon that the mortal may be swallowed up in life,' 7 
that is, that the body itself may be transferred from infirmity 
to immortality without the intervention of death. 

But these words in which the human day and length of 
this life are desired are the words of sins, and are far from that 
salvation 8 which we now possess in hope, if not yet in fact, as 
it is written : 'f or we are saved by hope, but the hope that is 
seen is not hope.' 9 Therefore, when, in that psalm, he had 
said: 'O God, my God, look upon me, why hast thou forsaken 
me?' he immediately goes on: Tar from my salvation are 
the words of my sins, 5 that is, these are the words of my sins, 
and they are far from that salvation of mine, which the 
grace of the New, not of the Old, Testament promises me. 
But, it can also be explained thus: 'O God, my God, why 
hast thou forsaken me far from my salvation?' as if he said : 
'By forsaking me, that is, by not hearing my prayer, thou art 
far from my present salvation/ namely, the salvation of this 
life, so that another meaning may be given to 'words of my 
sins/ that is, those words which I spoke are words of sins 
because they are words of carnal desire. 

These words Christ speaks in the person of His Body, 
which is the Church; these words He speaks in the person of 
the infirmity of sinful flesh, which He transformed into that 
flesh taken from the Virgin, 'the likeness of sinful flesh'; 10 
these words the bridegroom speaks in the person of the bride, 
because, in a sense, He joined her to Himself. And in Isaias, 
where it says: 'As a bridegroom he hath decked me with a 

6 Phil. 1.23. 

7 2 Cor. 5.4. 

8 Ps. 21.2. 

9 Rom. 8.24. 
10 Rom. 8.3. 



LETTERS 7 1 

crown; and as a bride he hath adorned me with jewels, 511 the 
words, 'he decked me 5 and c he hath adorned me, 5 are spoken 
of one person, but we understand the bridegroom and the 
bride to be Christ and the Church. But 'they shall be two In 
one flesh, a great sacrament/ the Apostle says, 'in Christ and 
in the Church'; 12 'therefore now they are not two but one 
flesh.' 13 If one flesh, then they are properly one voice. What 
do you here ask, human infirmity, of the voice of the Word 
by whom all things were made? Hear, rather, the voice of the 
flesh, which was made in the midst of all things, since 'the 
Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us'; 14 here, rather, 
the voice of the cure, by which you are made whole, that you 
may see God, whom He postponed as an object of sight, but 
He brought you a man to be seen, He offered him to be 
killed, He lent him to be imitated, He gave him over to be 
believed, so that by that faith the eye of the mind might be 
healed, so as to see God. Why, then, do we disdain to hear 
the voice of the body from the mouth of our Head? The 
Church suffered in Him when He suffered for the Church, 
just as He suffered in the Church when he suffered for the 
Church, For, just as we have heard the voice of the Church 
suffering in Christ: 'O God, my God, look upon me, why hast 
thou forsaken me?' 15 so we have also heard the voice of Christ 
suffering in the Church: 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou 
me?' 16 

Chapter 7 / 

When, then, our prayers are not heard in regard to keeping 

11 Isa. 61.10. (Septuagint) . 

12 Eph. 5.31,32. 

13 Matt. 19.6. 

14 John 1.3. 

15 Ps. 2L2. 

16 Acts 9.4. 



72 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

or gaining temporal goods, when we ask God for these, 
inasmuch as He does not hear us, He forsakes us, but, in 
regard to the better gifts which He wishes us to understand 
and prefer and desire, He does not forsake us. Hence the 
psalm goes on and says: 'I have cried to thee by day, and 
thou shalt not hear, and by night' here we understand 'thou 
wilt not hear,' but see what it adds : 'it shall not be reputed 
as folly in me.' 1 This, then, is what the Psalmist says: 'Thou 
shalt not hear me crying by day, that is, in prosperity, that 
I may not lose it; nor by night, that is, in adversity, that 
what I have lost may return, but thou wilt not impute this 
to me as folly, rather thou wilt make me know what I ought 
now to expect, desire and ask of thee, through the grace of 
the New Testament. Doubtless I cry that temporal goods 
may not be taken away from me, but 'thou dwellest in the 
holy place, the praise of Israel.' 2 I do not wish that thou 
shouldst forsake my covetousness, by which I seek carnal 
happiness, but this is the soiled garment of the old, while thou 
seekest the clean garment of the new ; by not hearing me, thou 
forsakest that covetousness because thou seekest to dwell in 
charity, but 'the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts 
by the Holy Ghost who is given to us.' 3 Therefore, thou 
dwellest in the holy place, the praise of Israel; the praise of 
those who see thee, because they are not praised in themselves 
but in thee; for what have they that they have not received, 4 
that 'he that glorieth, may glory in the Lord'? 5 

This is the grace of the New Testament. For, in the Old 
Testament, when Thou didst make clear that earthly and 
temporal happiness was to be sought and hoped for from Thee 
alone : 'In thee have our fathers hoped, they have hoped and 

1 Cf. Ps. 21.3. 

2 Ps. 21.4. 

3 Rom. 5.5. 

4 1 Cor. 4.7. 

5 1 Cor. 1.31. 



LETTERS 73 

thou hast delivered them. They cried to thee and they were 
saved; they hoped in thee and were not confounded.' 6 Those 
fathers who lived among enemies Thou didst both fill with 
riches and deliver from their enemies, and make them gain 
glorious victories, and deliver from various kinds of death. 
For one Thou didst furnish a ram that he might not be 
struck; 7 another Thou didst cleanse of a foul sickness, and 
didst restore to him twice as much as he had lost; 8 another 
Thou didst preserve unhurt and untouched among hungry 
lions; 9 and Thou wert praised by the grateful voice of others,- 
walking up and down in the midst of flames. 10 The Jews 
expected some such wonders to be done in the case of Christ, 
that they might prove whether He was truly the Son of God. 
In their person the Book of Wisdom speaks: 'Let us condemn 
him to a most shameful death, for there shall be no respect 
hiad unto him by his words. For if he be the true son of God, 
he will defend him, and will deliver him from the hands of 
his enemies. These things/ it says, 'they thought and were 
deceived, for their own malice blinded them.' 11 Taking note, 
then, of the time of the Old Testament and of that temporal 
happiness of their fathers, in furnishing which God had 
proved that even such gifts were from Him, they did not see 
that the time was at hand when it would be revealed in 
Christ that God gives eternal goods exclusively to the good, 
but He bestows temporal goods even on the wicked. 

6 Ps. 21.5,6. 

7 Isaac. Gen. 22.13. 

8 Job 42.10. 

9 Dan. 14.30-40. 

10 Dan. 3.23. 

11 Wisd. 1.1-5. 



74 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

Chapter 8 

Finally, when he said: 'In thee have our fathers hoped; 
they have hoped and thou hast delivered them. They cried to 
thee, and they were saved; they hoped in thee and were not 
confounded, 3 see what he added : ' But I am a worm and no 
no man. 11 This seems to have been said simply to commend 
his humility, that he might appear in the eyes of his 
persecutors as something extremely abject and contemptible, 
but the loftiness of the secret and the depth of the mystery are 
not to be despised, especially in those words which are 
adapted, in the teaching of prophecy, to the greatness of our 
Saviour. A very subtle meaning was inferred from this by 
earlier writers: that this passage foretold Christ by name 
because the worm is produced without sexual mating, just as 
He was born of a virgin. 2 But, when Job speaks in his book of 
the heavenly bodies and says that they are scarcely pure in 
the sight of God: 'How much more, 5 he says, 'is man 
rottenness and the son of man a worm/ 3 He used the word 
'rottenness' for mortality, which even at its conception is 
stamped with its destiny of death, into which man was thrust 
by sin; he speaks of the son of man as a worm, born of 
rottenness, using 'rotten, 5 instead of 'mortal, 5 born of 
mortality. Thus he urges us to seek another meaning for these 
words of the psalm, without either accepting or rejecting the 
other, so that we are to look into what he said; not only: 'But 
I am a worm 5 but also what he added: 'and no man,' 
according to the quotation I have given from the Book of 
Job. It is as if he said: 'But I am a son of man and not a man; 
not because Christ is not a man, of whom the Apostle said: 

1 PS. 21.5,7. 

2 Origen, Homily on Luke 14; Jerome, On Ps. 21. 

3 Cf. Job 25.5,6. 



LETTERS 75 

"There is one mediator of God and men, the man Christ 
Jesus/ 4 for every son of man is a man but this inter- 
pretation applies to one who was a man without being a son 
of man, namely, Adam. Perhaps, then, it says this: 'But I 
am a worm and no man, 5 that is, I am a son of man and no 
man, as if he said: 'But I am Christ, in whom all are made 
alive, not Adam, in whom all die.' 5 

And learn from this, men, to desire eternal life now, 
through the grace of the New Testament. Why do you wish, 
as a great boon, to be delivered by the Lord from death, as 
your fathers were delivered, when God made manifest that 
He Himself and no other was the giver of earthly happiness? 
That happiness belongs to the old man, the oldness which 
Adam began; 'but I am a worm, and no man,' Christ, not 
Adam. You were old, of an old stock; be now new, of 
a new stock, men sprung from Adam, sons of men from Christ. 
Not without reason does the Lord refer to Himself familiarly 
in the Gospel as the son of man, 6 rather than as man; not 
without reason does he say in another psalm: 'Men and 
beasts thou wilt preserve, O Lord; how hast thou multiplied 
thy mercy, O God!' 7 It is true this preservation is extended 
by Thee to men and beasts alike. But the new men have an 
entirely new preservation, peculiar to themselves, separate 
from their common lot with beasts, which belongs to the 
New Testament. Of that he goes on in the same verse and 
says: 'But the children of men shall put their trust under 
the covert of thy wings. They shall be inebriated with the 
plenty of thy house, and thou shalt make them drink of 
the torrent of thy pleasure, for with thee is the fountain of 
life, and in thy light we shall see light.' Certainly, here, 
although above he had said 'men,' he said afterward 'sons of 

4 1 Tim. 2.5. 

5 1 Cor. 15,22. 

6 Matt. 17.9,12,21. 

7 Ps. 35.8-10. 



76 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

men/ as if making a distinction between c men" and "sons of 
men. 3 Doubtless, in that happiness of deliverance which is 
common to men and beasts, He willed to call them by the 
name which proves that they are derived from the first man, 
in whom oldness began and death, and who was a man with- 
out being a son of man; but to those later men who hope for 
another happiness, the indescribable joy of the fountain of 
life, and the light of eternal light, He gives this name by 
which He, their Lord, willed to be called familiarly, in which 
such a grace is revealed, and He called them sons of men, 
rather than men. 

However, you are not to think that this type of expression 
is to be used by any hard and fast rule, so that, whenever you 
read 'men' or 'sons of men/ you are always to understand 
them according to this distinction, but use them according to 
the context of your reading; if the meaning is clear, savor it, 
if it is obscure, dig it out. So, in this passage of the psalm, 
who does not feel the meaning of this distinction, when, after 
saying: In thee have our fathers hoped and thou hast 
delivered them; they cried to thee and they were saved; they 
hoped in thee and were not confounded/ he adds: 'But T? s 
He does not say 'and T; he says 'but V What distinction 
does he then make concerning himself? 'But I/ he says, 'am 
a worm and no man, 3 As if Thou didst entrust to them whom 
Thou didst hear and deliver that earthly happiness which 
belongs to the Old Testament, and was to be granted to the 
old man who had his origin in Adam: 'but I am a worm/ 
that is, a son of man, not a man like that man who was not a 
son of man. 

8 Ps. 21.5-7. 



LETTERS 77 

Chapter 9 

And to this T belongs what follows: The reproach of 
men and the outcast of the people. All they that saw me 
have laughed me to scorn; they have spoken with the lips 
and wagged the head: He hoped in God, let him deliver him; 
let him save him, seeing he delighteth in him.' 1 They said 
this insultingly with the lips, not the heart, which would not 
have been the case if they did not believe what was going to 
happen. But this happened, as it was fitting that it should 
happen to the Son of man, in whom the hope of eternal 
life was to be revealed, not as they expected it, but as befits 
the New Testament. Because they did not see it happening, 
they gloated over Him as if they had triumphed over Him, 
belonging as they did to the Old Testament and to the man 
in whom all die, not to the Son of man in whom all are 
made alive. 2 Man indeed brought death to himself and to the 
Son of man, but the Son of man, by dying and rising again, 
brought life to man, c the reproach of men and the outcast of 
the people,' even to death. He wished to suffer this in the sight 
of His enemies, that they might think Him, as it were, 
forsaken, and that the grace of the New Testament might be 
entrusted to us, to make us learn to seek another happiness, 
which we now possess by faith, but then we shall behold it. 
Tor while we are in the body,' says the Apostle, 'we are 
absent from the Lord, for we walk by faith and not by sight.' * 
Therefore,, we now live in hope, but then we shall enjoy 
reality. 

Finally, He willed to manifest His Resurrection, not to 
strangers., but to His own, since it was not fitting that His, 
like ours, should be long deferred, that we might learn from 

1 Ps. 21.7-9. 

2 1 Cor. 15.22. 

3 2 Cor. 5.6,7. 



78 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

the example of His flesh, what we should hope for in our 
own. (I call them strangers not by nature but by sin, which 
Is always contrary to nature.) Therefore, He died in the 
sight of men, but He rose again in the sight of the sons of 
men, because death belongs to man, but resurrection to the 
Son of man, 'for just as in Adam all die, so in Christ all 
shall be made alive.' 4 So, then, that He might, by the example 
of His flesh, encourage His faithful to despise temporal in 
favor of eternal happiness, He submitted unto death to those 
who persecuted Him, and raged against Him, and scornfully 
mocked at Him, as at a beaten and prostrate man. When 
He raised up His flesh, however, and presented it to be seen 
and touched by His disciples, and in their sight ascended 
into heaven, He strengthened them, and showed them by the 
clearest evidence of truth what they were to expect and what 
they were to preach. But, as for those at whose hands He 
suffered such outrages even into death, He left them in their 
belief, still boasting as if they had overthrown and destroyed 
Him. But, if any of them wished to be saved by an eternal 
salvation, he would have to believe in the fact of His resur- 
rection from the dead, according to the preaching, by 
incontestable proof, of those who had seen it, and who did 
not shrink from suffering similar trials, as a consequence of 
that preaching. 

Chapter 10 

Therefore, even James, one of the Apostles, when he was 
exhorting the faithful, who still lingered in this life after the 
Passion and Resurrection of Christ, distinguishing the Old 
Testament from the New, said in his Epistle : 'You have heard 
of the patience of Job, and you have seen the end of the 

4 I Cor. 15.22, 



LETTERS 79 

Lord.' 1 And he advised them not to endure temporal 
misfortunes merely in order to recover their loss, as we read 
that Job did. For, he was cured of that ulcer and corruption, 
and all that he had lost was restored to him twofold, 2 
whereby his faith in the resurrection was commended. His 
sons were not returned to him in double number, but he 
received as many as he had lost, which pointed to the fact 
of their rising again. Thus they, also, when joined to the 
former ones, would form a twofold restoration, but would 
not seem to be different ones. Therefore, to prevent us from 
hoping for such a reward when we endure temporal misfor- 
tunes, he does not say: 'You have heard of the patience of 
Job and his end,' but he says: 'You have heard of the 
patience of Job and you have seen the end of the Lord/ as if 
he had said : 'Bear your temporal misfortunes as Job did, but 
do not hope for temporal goods as a reward for your patience, 
such as were returned to him double; rather, hope for the 
eternal goods which the Lord went before us to secure.' Job 
was one of those fathers who 'cried to him and were saved.' 3 
For, when he says 'But I,' he points out adequately the kind of 
deliverance by which he wishes us to understand they were 
saved, namely, that in which He was forsaken; not that they 
were strangers to eternal salvation, but that the secret to be 
revealed in Christ was still hidden. Doubtless, there is a veil 
in the Old Testament, which will be removed as soon as one 
comes to Christ. At His Crucifixion, 'the veil of the temple 
was rent, 54 to signify what the Apostle said about the veil of 
the Old Testament, 'Because in Christ it is made void.' 5 

Among those fathers there were some examples of patience 
unto death, although they were very few, 'from the blood of 

1 James 5.11. 

2 Job 42.10. 

3 Ps. 21.6,7. 

4 Matt. 27.51. 

5 2 Cor. 3.14. 



80 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

Abel to the blood of Zacharias' whose blood the Lord Jesus 
said would be required of those who persisted in the 
wickedness of their fathers, by whom they had been killed. 6 
In the New Testament, also, there was not and is not lacking 
a large number of good and faithful ones who excelled even 
in the same temporal happiness, and who recognized in it the 
goodness and mercy of God, the Giver, holding, nevertheless, 
what the Apostle, as dispenser of the New Testament, charges 
to the rich of this world : 'Not to be high-minded, nor to trust 
in the uncertainty of riches, but in the living God who giveth 
us abundantly all things to enjoy; to do good, to be rich in 
good works, to give easily, to communicate to others, to lay 
up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time 
to come, that they may lay hold on the true life.' 7 Such a life 
was manifest not only in the spirit but even in the flesh of 
Christ, when He rose from the dead, but such was not the 
life which the Jews took away from Him, when God did not 
deliver Him from their hands, and seemed to forsake Him 
in spite of His cry : O God, my God, why hast thou forsaken 
me? 58 In this manner He was to transform His martyrs into 
Himself even though they did not wish to die, just as He said 
to Peter: 'Another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou 
wouldst not; signifying by what death he should glorify God,' 9 
and for this reason they were to seem to be forsaken by their 
God for a time, when He refused to grant them what they 
wished, when they uttered that cry of the heart, and offered 
Him that tribute of filial love, which the Lord, thus trans- 
forming them into Himself, repeatedly uttered with His own 
lips on the eve of His Passion: 'Nevertheless not as I will, but 
as thou wilt. 310 



6 Cf. Mart, 23.35; Luke 11.51. 

7 1 Tim, 6.17-19. 

8 Ps. 2L2. 

9 John 21.18,19. 

10 Matt. 26.39; Mark 14.36. 



LETTERS 81 

Chapter 11 

And where, except in our Head, should this first appear, 
since we are Christians because of His life? Therefore, He did 
not say: 'My God, thou hast forsaken me,' but He showed 
that the cause should be looked for, when He added: 'Why 
hast thou forsaken me?' that is, for what reason, on what 
account, for what cause? Certainly, there was a reason and 
no slight one why He delivered Noe from the flood, 1 Lot from 
the fire from heaven, 2 Isaac from the uplifted sword, 3 Joseph 
from the calumny of a woman and from imprisonment, 4 
Moses from the Egyptians, 5 Rahab from the destruction of 
the city, 6 Susanna from the false witnesses, 7 Daniel from the 
lions, 8 the three men from the flames, 9 and the other 'fathers 
who cried to Him and were saved' 10 yet did not deliver 
Christ from the hands of the Jews, but left Him in the power 
of those who raged against Him, even to the destruction of 
death. Why is this? What other reason is there for this than 
that which He expressed a little later in the same psalm: 'It 
shall not be reputed as folly in me,' 11 that is, in my Body, my 
Church, my least ones? For, He said in the Gospel: 'As long 
as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to 
me. 312 Thus, also, He said: 'It shall not be reputed as folly 
in me/ in the same way in which He said : 'You did it to me' ; 

1 Gen. 6-9. 

2 Gen. 19.29. 

3 Gen. 22.1-13. 

4 Gen. 37.7-18; 41.14. 

5 Exod. 3-14. 

6 Josue 6.16-25. 

7 Dan. 13.1-61. 

8 Dan. 27-39. 

9 Dan. 3,8-94. 

10 Ps. 21.6. 

11 Ps. 21.3. 

12 Matt. 25.40. 



82 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

and, just as He said: 'Why hast thou forsaken me?' so He 
said: 'He that receiveth you, receiveth me, and he that 
despiseth you, despiseth me.' 13 Therefore, it shall not be 
reputed as folly in us, but we are to know that we ought to be 
Christians, not for the sake of that life in which God some- 
times abandons us to the hands of persecutors, even unto 
death, but for the eternal life, because we see that this 
happens first in Him from whose name we are so called. 

That is how it happened. Yet, how many wish to be 
Christians for no other reason than to enjoy happiness in this 
life, and, therefore, when that fails, they fall away. If such 
a glorious example had not been set by our very Head 
Himself, how should we have learned to despise earthly goods 
for heavenly ones, 'while we look not at the things which are 
seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which 
are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are 
eternal'? 14 Whom did He deign to transform into Himself by 
those words? Looking only at Himself, how could He have 
wished to be saved from that hour, who for that cause came 
unto that hour? 15 Or how could He speak thus as if something 
were happening to Him against His will, when He had power 
to lay down His life, and to take it up again, 16 and no man 
took it away from Him, but He Himself laid it down and took 
it up again, as He said in the Gospel? Beyond doubt, we were 
meant by those words, and our Head was speaking for His 
body, making no distinction in His words, because there was 
no disjoining of the bond of unity. 

13 CL Luke 10.16. 

14 2 Cor. 4.18, 

15 John 12.27. 

16 John 10.18. 



LETTERS 83 

Chapter 12 

Finally he continues in the psalm, and notice what he says 
in his prayer: Tor thou art he,' says he, e who hast drawn me 
out of the womb; my hope from the breasts of my mother. I 
was cast upon thee from the womb; from my mother's womb 
thou art my God;' 1 as if he said: 'from and by one thing 
Thou hast drawn me into another thing, that Thou mightst 
be my good, instead of the earthly goods of this mortality, 
which fell to my lot from my mother's womb, because I 
sucked her breasts. For this is the oldness from which Thou 
hast drawn me, and those are the goods of carnal birth from 
which Thou art my hope; from them I turned to Thee. 5 
'And from the womb/ that is, from those things which I 
began in the womb, 'I was cast upon thee,' that is, passing 
over to Thee and trusting myself entirely to Thee. Therefore, 
'from the womb of my mother,' that is, from the goods of the 
flesh, which I took up in the womb of my mother, 'thou art 
my God,' that from these Thou mayst be my good this is 
expressed as if, for example, one were to say: 'from earth I 
make my abode in heaven,' that is, I pass from here to there. 
That is the nature of our transformation into Him when, 
through the grace of the New Testament, we change our life, 
passing from the old to the new. Signifying this change by 
the mystery of His Passion and Resurrection, He made His 
flesh change from mortality to immortality, but He did not 
change His life from old to new, because He had never lived 
in sin from which He might pass to holiness. 

Although there are not lacking some who think 2 that this 
phrase, 'from the womb of my mother, thou art my God,' 
should necessarily apply to our Head Himself, since the 
Father is His God inasmuch as He is man, in the form of a 



1 PS. 21.10,11. 

2 Ambrose, De fide 1.92. 



84 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

servant, but not inasmuch as He is equal to Him in the form 
of God; therefore, 6 froni the womb of my mother thou art my 
God' is as if He said : 'from the time of my being made man, 
Thou art my God.' But what is the meaning of 'Thou hast 
drawn me out from the womb/ if it refers personally to 
Jesus, begotten of the Virgin? As if God did not draw out 
others, when all the process of birth is ruled by His 
providence! Or did he thereby wish to indicate the Virgin 
Birth, with its miraculous preservation of the Virgin's integrity, 
when he said: c thou hast drawn me out from the womb,' 
so that what was miraculously effected there may not seem 
incredible to anyone, when God is said to have effected it? 
What, then, does the rest mean : my hope from the breasts of 
my mother'? How can this be referred to the Head of the 
Church Himself, as if His hope, which is in God, began at 
the breasts of His mother, and not before that in the womb? 
For, no other hope is to be understood than that by which 
it would come about that God would raise Him from the 
dead; obviously, all of this is said in reference to His having 
become man. The breasts of women are said to be disposed 
to productiveness by the very act of conception: did He, 
then, wish us to understand 'from the breasts' as if He said : 
'from the time when I took flesh/ flesh for which immortality 
was to be hoped not that He had this hope before, when He 
was in the form of God, in which there could be no change 
for the better but 'from the breasts of my mother,' that 
is, from My taking flesh, which was conceived in hope, a hope 
that would be fulfilled when He passed from death to 
immortality? 

But, as to the saying; *I was cast upon thee from the 
womb, 5 I do not know how it could be applied to our Head, 
as if, while He was in the womb, He was not in God, 'in 
whom we live and move and are,' 3 or as if the rational soul 

3 Acts. 17.28. 



LETTERS 85 

of that Infant began to hope in God from the time when His 
flesh came forth from the womb. Unless, perhaps, we are to 
believe that a rational soul was added to Him at birth, but 
had been lacking to Him while He was still in His mother's 
womb; since the same soul which was added to the flesh at 
birth was united to God, therefore, according to that same 
flesh, w r e have to suppose the words were said: 'I was cast 
upon thee from the womb,' as if He said: 'From the womb 
I took possession of that soul, which was united to Thee.' 
But, who would dare to launch himself rashly upon this 
opinion, when the method of the coming or origin of the soul 
lies hid in such an abyss of nature, that it is better to seek 
it out always as long as we are in this life than at any time 
to assume that we have found it? However, from that 
transformation of ourselves into Him it has been explained 
how this can be understood. If anything more suitable could 
or can be said, we forejudge no one's conclusion, we envy no 
one's learning. 

Chapter 13 

Now, as to what follows: 'Depart not from me, for 
tribulation is very near,' 1 see how it sheds light on the 
meaning of 'Why hast thou forsaken me?' How does He for- 
sake, to whom it is said : 'Depart not,' unless he forsakes the 
temporal happiness of the old life? But he is asked not to 
depart from nor abandon the hope of eternal life. What does 
he mean by 'for tribulation is very near?' as if His Passion as 
yet only threatened Him, although these words are understood 
as being said in the midst of the Passion, which was foretold 
of Him in this psalm. It is even going to say what was most 
plainly written in the Gospel: 'They parted my garments 

1 Ps. 21.12. 



86 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

among them, and on my vesture they cast lots,' 2 which 
happened while He was hanging on the cross. Why, then, 
does He say: Tribulation is very near/ when He was in the 
midst of it? No doubt, He wishes us to understand that when 
the flesh is in sorrow and suffering, the mind, at the same 
time, has a great trial of patience, and it must make an 
effort and pray that it may not fail. Nothing is nearer to the 
soul than its own flesh. Therefore, whoever has a great and 
perfect contempt for this world does not suffer at all when 
he suffers elsewhere than in his flesh. For, he can give a reason 
on the spot when he loses his goods, that they are external 
to him, and they are indisputably far away from the mind of 
the wise man who is not attached to them by covetousness; 
he has no care about what he suffers because he does not 
really suffer. But, when he loses the precious goods of the 
body, that, is, the life and health of the body, then tribulation 
is very near to the goods of the mind, over which it is 
inwardly master, as of the body. What has it to do with any 
explanation which will keep it from suffering when the body is 
wounded or burned, to which it is joined in such close 
partnership, that it can endure, but it cannot fail to suffer? 

Therefore, the Devil, holding to this order of things, first 
took power over the external goods of that great man, whom 
he asked permission to tempt. When these had been taken 
away, and he saw him unmoved for he had said : *The Lord 
gave and the Lord hath taken away; as it hath pleased the 
Lord, so is it done, blessed be the name of the Lord, 33 then 
he asked permission to torment his flesh with a wound, 
entering into a confict with him, in which he attacked his 
most intimate goods, that is, the goods of the body. When 
he had lost these, if he had yielded and turned his heart to 

2 John 19.24; Ps. 21.19. 

3 Job 1.21. 



LETTERS 87 

Irreverence, he would have lost the goods of the mind, also; 
it was to make him lose these that the tempter pressed upon 
him, cruelly tormenting his body. Finally, that man, beset 
by such a temptation, wherein tribulation was very near to 
the goods of his mind, although he speaks many things in 
prophecy, nevertheless speaks far otherwise than when he had 
lost those external goods, among which he had not so much 
lost his sons as sent them before him. 

Thus, the soul of the martyr, transformed into Christ, when 
it begins to suffer tribulation in the flesh, and speaks to God 
by whom it is forsaken in its earthly happiness, but which 
is with Him in the hope of eternal life, says : 'Depart not from 
me, for tribulation is very near' ; it is not in my land, not in 
my money, not in my flocks, not in my houses and walls, not 
in my bereavements, but in my flesh, to which' I am joined, to 
which I am tied, whose consciousness I cannot be without; 
from there it presses on me very closely, to make me fall from 
the virtue of patience. 'Depart not from me, for there is none 
to help me/ neither friend, nor relative, nor human praise, 
nor the remembrance of past pleasure, nor any of those 
supports by which the flimsy foundation of earthly felicity is 
shored up, because, if Thou abandon him, what is the strength 
of man? 'For what is man that thou art mindful of him?' 4 



Chapter 14 

'Many calves have surrounded me,' that is, the lesser folk; 
'fat bulls have besieged me,' that is, the proud and rich, the 
princes of the people; 'they have opened their mouths against 
me,' by crying 'crucify, crucify,' 'as a lion ravening and 
roaring.' 1 They seized and hurried Him along, leading Him 

4 Ps. 8.5; Heb. 2.6. 



1 Ps. 21.13,14; Luke 23.21. 



88 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

to the governor, and they roared by demanding His death. 'I 
am poured out like water/ as if all my persecutors had slipped 
and fallen upon me; 'all my bones are scattered. 52 What are 
the bones but the foundation of the body, but the Body of 
Christ is the Church, and who but the Apostles are the 
foundation of the Church, who are elsewhere called 'pillars? 33 
Certainly they were scattered when He was led to His Passion, 
or when He suffered and died. 'My heart is become like wax, 
melting in the midst of my bowels 5 ; 4 it is indeed difficult to 
see how this can be applied to our Head, the preserver of 
His own Body, for this does not happen except in time of 
great fear, which makes the human heart melt like wax. But 
how could this happen in Him who had the power of taking 
up and laying down His life? 5 Surely He took upon Himself 
the state of His weak brethren: either of those who tremble 
at the fear of death, as Peter himself, who fell into his frequent 
denials after his well-known presumption; 6 or of those who 
waste away in wholesome sadness, again like the same same 
Peter, when c he wept bitterly,' 7 for sadness seems to melt 
the heart, for which reason it is called lupe in Greek. But, 
more surely He wished us to understand a profound mystery, 
that under His word 'heart' He would signify His Scriptures, 
where His plan, formerly concealed, was revealed when He 
fulfilled by His suffering what had been foretold of Him. 
Therefore, His Scriptures were dissolved in those details which 
were carried into effect by His coming, His nativity, passion, 
resurrection, glorification. Does anyone fail to understand 
these things in the Prophets, now that they have come to the 
understanding even of the carnal multitude? Perhaps that is 

2 PS, 21.15, 

3 Gal. 2.9. 

4 Ps. 21.15. 

5 John 10.18. 

6 Matt. 26.69-95. 

7 Matt. 26.75; Luke 22.6. 



LETTERS 89 

what He means by 'the midst of my bowels, 5 that is, in His 
body, which is the Church, the weaker crowd holds the place 
of the fleshly bowels. But, if the word 'bowels' applies rather 
to the innermost parts, it has been shown to belong preferably 
to those more expert in their understanding of the Scriptures; 
when His heart, that is, His Scriptures which contain His 
plan, is melted in their midst, that is, it is melted like wax 
in their thought, it is laid open, discussed, explained by the 
warmth of their spirit. 

Chapter 15 

'My strength is dried up like a potsherd.' 1 Pottery is 
hardened by fire; so the strength of Christ's Body is not 
consumed by fire like straw, but is hardened, like pottery, 
by the fire of His Passion, for 'the furnace trieth the potter's 
vessels,' as the Scripture says in another place, 'and the trial 
of affliction just men.' 2 'And my tongue hath cleaved to my 
jaws.' 3 It seems possible that His silence can be meant by this, 
which another Prophet praised when he said : 'He was dumb 
as a lamb before his shearer'; 4 but, if by His tongue we 
understand those in His Body, which is the Church, through 
whom His Gospel speaks, then they cleave to His jaws when 
they do not withdraw from His precepts. 

As to the words that follow: 'and thou hast brought me 
down into the dust of death,' 5 how shall they be applied to our 
Head, when His Body which rose on the third day was 
certainly not scattered into dust? The Apostles expressed 
themselves no differently, as we find in another place: 

1 Ps. 21.16. 

2 Eccli. 27.6. 

3 Ps. 21.16. 

4 Or. Isa. 53.7. 

5 Ps. 21.16. 



90 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

'Neither shalt thou give thy holy one to see corruption/ 6 
because His flesh, which rose so soon, was not corrupt. In 
the same way He says in another psalm: 'What profit is 
there in my blood, whilst I go down to corruption? Shall 
dust confess to thee or declare thy truth? 17 saying this, no 
doubt, because if at death He had been scattered into dust, 
in the same manner as others, and if His flesh had been saved 
for the final resurrection, there would have been no profit in 
His Blood, because His death would have had no effect, and 
the truth of God, which had foretold that He would rise again 
speedily, would not have been preached. What, then, does He 
mean by c thou hast brought me down into the dust,' unless 
we take His Body to be the Church, in which those who have 
suffered or are suffering for His name do not rise quickly as 
He did, but are brought down into the dust of death, to rise 
again when that time conies, spoken of in the Gospel: "The 
hour will come wherein all that are in the graves shall hear 
His voice, and shall come forth'? 8 Or, surely, He wished the 
Jews themselves to be understood figuratively by the dust of 
death, for He was brought down into their hands, as it is 
written: 'not so the wicked, not so; but like dust which the 
wind driveth from the face of the earth.' 9 



Chaper 16 

Finally, it goes on: Tor many dogs have encompassed me; 
the council of the malignant hath besieged me,' 1 as if He 

6 Ps. 15.10; Act 2,27-31. 

7 Ps. 29.10. 

8 John 5.28,29. 

9 Ps. 1.4. 

1 Ps. 21.17. 



LETTERS 91 

spoke of them as the dust of death when He was brought 
down amongst them whom He calls 'many dogs/ and 'the 
council of the malignant/ naming them dogs, no doubt, 
because these often bark at harmless people with whom they 
have no acquaintance. And now, in the words which follow, 
there is a narrative like the Gospel; His crucifixion is described 
In it when it says: 'They have dug my hands and my feet; 
they have numbered all my bones; they have looked and 
stared upon me.' 2 For, His hands and feet were dug by the 
nails, and, when He was stretched upon the cross, His bones, 
in a sense, were numbered. He was looked and stared upon to 
see what would happen to Him, and whether Elias would 
come to save Him. 3 

What follows needs no explanation: 'They parted my 
garments amongst them, and upon my vesture they cast lots.' 4 
Then the words -which are joined to these are pronounced by 
our Head praying in His own person, that is, as the Mediator 
of man, as well as in the person of His Body, which is the 
Church, which He calls His only one. 5 'But thou, O Lord,' 
He says, 'remove not thy help to a distance.' 6 This refers to 
His flesh, whose resurrection was not delayed for a long time, 
as happens to others. 'Look towards my defence,' 7 lest My 
enemies do me harm, seeming, as they do, to have some 
power by destroying My flesh. They do no harm if, by the 
protection of God's grace, the soul, which is in their power, 
does not consent to their evil doings; so also it was foretold 
elsewhere: 'The earth is given into the hand of the wicked,' 8 
that is, earthly flesh. 

2 Ps. 21.17,18. 

3 Matt. 27.49. 

4 Ps. 21.19. 

5 Ps. 21.21. 

6 Ps. 21.20. 

7 Ibid. 

8 Job 9.24. 



92 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

'Deliver my soul from the sword. 59 The framea is a sword, 
but, surely, Christ was not put to death by such a weapon but 
by a cross, and they did not pierce His side with a sword, but 
with a lance. Therefore, by the word 'sword* He means in 
another sense the tongue of His persecutors, as is said in 
another psalm: 'And their tongue a sharp sword.' 10 Thus, 
because the tongue of detractors prevailed against His flesh, 
He prays that it may not harm His soul, when He says: 
'Deliver my soul from the sword/ so that the prayer in this 
prophecy, if you refer it to the Head of the Body, is not to 
seem the request of one in need, but is, rather, a foreshad- 
owing of something to come. Or, no doubt, because His Body, 
which is the Church, was going to suffer grievous persecutions, 
He spoke of the sword with which His martyrs were chiefly 
put to death, and He wishes their souls to be delivered so that 
they may not 'fear them that kill the body, but are not able to 
kill the soul,' 11 and may not consent to what is forbidden. 

In what follows: c My only one from the hand of the dog,' 12 
it seems to me that this is more correctly understood of the 
Church alone. He calls the world a dog barking against 
unaccustomed truth, not for any reason, but out of habit. 
For this is the dogs' nature that they do not bark at those they 
know, whether they are good or bad, but are enraged by the 
sight of unknown persons, even harmless ones. But, 'in the 
hand of the dog 9 signified the power of the world, whose 
sovereignty would be a danger for His Body, that is, the 
Church, as He described it under the name of lion, in that 
passage which He added: 'Save me from the lion's mouth.' 13 
For this reason it is written: 'There is no difference between 

9 Ps. 21.21. 

10 Ps. 56.5. 

11 Matt. 10.28. 
12, Ps. 21.21. 
B Ps. 21.22. 



LETTERS 93 

the threats of a king and the anger of a lion,' 14 although the 
Apostle Peter also compares the Devil to 'a roaring lion, going 
about seeking whom he may devour.' 15 Then, showing how 
the proud of this world will be the enemies of lowly Christians, 
He says next: 'and my lowness from the horns of the 
unicorns.' 16 Therefore, by unicorns the proud are obviously 
meant, because pride hates companionship, and every proud 
man aims, with all his might, to shine alone. 



Chapter 17 

Now, take note of where the fruit of this is found, that He 
was forsaken, lest He be heard in behalf of earthly happiness, 
so that it should not be reputed to Him as folly, but that 
we might learn what we ought to desire through the grace of 
the New Testament; or that He was not forsaken and was 
heard in the prayer He made: 'Depart not from me,' as He 
had said: 'Why hast thou forsaken me?' Certainly, this is 
contradictory unless the former phrase is referred to one thing 
and the latter to another. Take note and listen with all the 
intelligence you have; drink in, to your full capacity, and to 
the limit of my ability to explain so great a truth, or, rather, 
as far as He grants it who hears us : both in Christ as man, in 
so far as He is mediator between us and God, 1 and with Christ 
as God in so far as He is equal to God, 2 and 'able to do all 
things' as the Apostle says, 'more abundantly than we desire 
or understand/ 3 see in this psalm the grace of the New 
Testament. See what is accomplished by the fruit of His aban- 

14 Cf. Prov. 19.12. 

15 1 Peter 5.8. 

16 Ps. 21.22. 

1 1 Tim. 2.5. 

2 Phil. 2.6. 

3 Eph. 3.20. 



94 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

donment, suffering, prayer; what is taught, what is recom- 
mended to us, what is made clear. Behold what we read of 
as prophesied long ago, what we now see as fulfilled: *I will 
declare thy name to my brethren/ he says, 'in the midst of the 
Church will I praise thee. 34 These are the brethren of whom 
He says in the Gospel: 'Go, tell my brethren.' 5 That Church 
is the one which He just called His only one; as it is the only 
Catholic one, which is spread abroad plentifully through the 
whole world; which, as it grows, Is extended to the faraway 
nations, of which He speaks in the Gospel : 'And this Gospel 
shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all 
nations, and then shall the consummation come.' 6 

But, when He says: 'I will sing,' He refers to that new 
canticle, of which mention is made in another psalm: 'Sing 
ye to the Lord a new canticle, sing to the Lord all the earth.' 7 
You have here both points: the song He says He will sing, 
and the Church in whose midst He says He will sing it; the 
former passage refers to the new song, the latter to all the 
earth. Doubtless, He sings in us Himself, when we sing by 
His grace, as the Apostle says : 'Do you seek a proof of Christ 
that speaketh in me?' 8 You may refer 'the midst of the 
Church' either to its prominence and to its manifestation, 
because things in general, in proportion as they are better 
known, are more commonly said to be e in the midst'; or, 
surely, it may refer to the inner member of the Church, 
because the inner parts are middle parts. But, not everyone 
who sings with his lips sings a new canticle, but only the 
one who sings in the way advised by the Apostle, when he 
says: 'singing and making melody in your hearts to the 

4 Ps. 21.23. 

5 John 20.17. 

6 Matt. 24.14. 

7 Ps. 95.1. 

8 2 Cor. 13.3. 



LETTERS 95 

Lord.' 9 For this joy is within, where the voice of praise sings, 
and is heard; with this voice He is praised who is to be 
freely loved 'with the whole heart, the whole soul, the whole 
mind,' 10 and who kindles His lover with love for Himself 
by the grace of the Holy Spirit. What else is the new canticle 
but the love of God? 

Chapter 18 

Then he follows up and shows this more clearly. For, when 
he had said: 'I will declare thy name to my brethren, 51 
because c no man hath seen God at any time; but the only- 
begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath 
declared him/ 2 and had added: 'in the midst of the Church 
will I praise thee,' he at once showed how He sang, that is, 
that He sang in us when we make progress in His Name 
what he declared to his brethren, and what he sang in praise 
of God in us, saying: *Ye that fear the Lord, praise him.' 3 
Now,, who praises truly but he that loves sincerely? It is 
the same, then, as if he said: c Ye that fear the Lord, love 
Him.' For, it is written: 'And he said to the man, behold 
the filial love that is wisdom.' 4 Moreover, filial love is the 
worship of God, and He is not worshiped but by love. There- 
fore, the supreme and true wisdom is in that first command- 
ment: 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole 
heart and with thy whole soul'; 5 from this it follows that 
wisdom is love of God, which is 'poured forth in our hearts/ 

9 Eph. 5.19. 
10 Luke 10.27; Deut. 6.5. 



1 Ps. 21.23. 

2 John 1.18. 

3 Ps. 21.24. 

4 Cf. Job 28.28. 

5 Matt. 23.37; Luke 10.27; Deut. 6.5. 



96 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

not otherwise than 'by the Holy Ghost who is given to us.' 6 
But, 'the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom/ 7 and 
c fear is not in charity, but perfect charity casteth out fear.' 8 
Therefore, fear, sent ahead into our hearts, drives out the 
habit of evil-doing, and saves a place for charity, but it 
leaves at once when the mistress comes to dwell there. 

Therefore, ye that fear the Lord, praise Him, and that you 
may worship Him, not as slaves but as free men, learn to 
love Him whom you fear, and you will be able to praise 
what you love. The men of the Old Testament, fearing 
God, because of the letter which terrifies and kills, and not 
yet possessing 'the spirit which quickens,' 9 ran to the Temple 
with sacrifices and offered up bloody victims, ignorant of what 
was foreshadowed by them, although they were a figure of 
the Blood to come, by which we have been redeemed. But 
now, in the grace of the New Testament, ( y e that fear the 
Lord, praise him.' Indeed, in another psalm where he foretells 
how those offerings, which were the shadow of things to 
come, 10 were to be changed, he says: 1 will not take calves 
from thy hand, nor he-goats out of thy flocks.' 11 And a little 
later, in order to show forth the sacrifice of the New 
Testament, when those others were to come to an end, he 
says: 'Offer to God the sacrifice of praise, and pay thy vows 
to the most High.' 12 And at the end of the same psalm he 
says: The sacrifice of praise shall glorify me, and here is the 
way by which I will show him my salvation.' 13 The salvation 
of God is Christ, and when the old man, Simeon, by the 
impulse of the Spirit, had recognized Him, then an infant, 

6 Rom. 5.5. 

7 Ps. 110.10. 

8 1 John 4.18. 

9 2 Cor. 3.6. 

10 Col. 2.17. 

11 Cf. Ps. 49.9. 

12 Ps. 49.14. 

13 Cf. Ps. 49.23. 



LETTERS 97 

and had taken Him into his arms, he said, 'Now thou dost 
dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in 
peace, because my eyes have seen thy salvation/ 14 



Chapter 19 

Therefore, c Ye that fear the Lord, praise him; all ye the 
seed of Jacob glorify him/ 1 He does not fail to add 'all,' 
because it would not be enough for him to say, 'seed of 
Jacob'; otherwise, this might be understood only of the 
Israelites who were to become believers. For, the seed of 
Jacob is the same as the seed of Abraham, and the Apostle 
speaks to all who believe in Christ, not only the faithful 
who had belonged to Israel, when he says: 'Then you are the 
seed of Abraham, heirs according to the promise/ 2 There he 
called attention to the foreshadowing of the New Testament, 
by what is written: 'In Isaac shall thy seed by called;' 3 not, 
therefore, in Ismael, the son of the bondwoman. The 
Apostle, writing to the Galatians, say that in these two sons 
of Abraham, the bond and the free, and the two women, the 
bondwoman and the free, we have the two Testaments 
prefigured in allegory; 4 consequently, he says, 'not they that 
are the children of the flesh are the children of God, but they 
that are the children of the promise are accounted for the 
seed. For this is the word of promise : According to the time, 
I will come and Sara shall have a son/ 5 

It would take much too long to set forth in detail why the 

14 Luke 2.27-30. 



1 Ps. 21.4. 

2 Gal. 3.29. 

3 Gen. 12.12; Rom. 9.7. 

4 Gal. 4.22-24. 

5 Rom. 9.8,9; Gen. 18.10. 



98 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

children of the promise, belonging to Isaac/ are considered 
as belonging to the grace of the New Testament, but 1 shall 
touch upon it briefly, and you will gather more fruit from 
it by pondering on it more devoutly. God does not promise 
everything which He foretells, for He foretells even those 
things which He does not Himself perform, since He has 
foreknowledge of all future events. Thus, He foretells the 
sins of men which He can foreknow, but not commit. But He 
promises what He is going to do Himself: not evil, but 
good. For, who would promise evil? Although He brings 
evils upon evil-doers, these are not sins, but punishments; 
these He rather threatens than promises. He bestows all 
things and has foreknowledge of them, but He foretells sins, 
He threatens punishments, He promises bounties. Therefore, 
the sons of promise are the sons of His bounty. This is the 
grace which is freely given, not through the merits of the 
one who acts, but through the mercy of Him who gives. 7 
Hence, we give thanks to the Lord our God; this is the great 
act of worship in the sacrifice of the New Testament, and, 
when you have been baptized, you will learn where and 
when and how it is offered. 



Chapter 20 

Then he goes on and says: 'Let all the seed of Israel fear 
him. n As Jacob and Israel are one and the same man with 
two names, what he said above: 'all the seed of Jacob,' he 
repeats in the following: 'all the seed of Israel' This is no 
slight mystery, but in one book it is not possible for me to 

6 Gal. 4.28. 

7 Eph. 2.8,9. 

1 Ps. 21.25. 



LETTERS 99 

treat of everything; we have already made much progress, 
but we have not yet touched on the other three questions, that 
is, about the exterior darkness; the width and the length, the 
height and the depth; and of the two groups of five virgins. 
But why does he say above 'glorify him,' and, later, 'fear 
him'? Glorification belongs to praise, as when he said: 'Ye 
that fear the Lord, praise him/ as I explained at length. 
There, doubtless, is the love or charity of God, which when 
perfect casteth out fear. 2 Why, then, repeat: 'Let all the seed 
of Israel fear him? 5 Tor you have not received,' says the 
Apostle., 'the spirit of bondage again in fear. 33 But, the 
same Apostle enjoins fear on the wild olive engrafted on 
the olive tree,' 4 that is, the nations which were added to the 
root of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, that they might belong to 
the seed of Abraham. 

The Lord Himself, at His meeting with the centurion, who 
from a Gentile became a believer, foretold in the Gospel the 
engrafting of the wild olive in place of the natural branches, 
which had been cut off because of their proud unbelief. He 
then said: 'Amen I say to you I have not found so great 
faith in Israel,' and He added: 'Therefore I say to you that 
many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit 
down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom 
of heaven, but the children of the kingdom shall be cast 
out into the exterior darkness; there shall be weeping and 
gnashing of teeth.' 5 Thus He signified that engrafting of the 
wild olive because of its humility for, indeed, the centurion 
had said: 'I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under 
my roof, but only say the word and my servant shall be 
healed,' 6 and He indicated the breaking off of the natural 

2 1 John 4.18. 

3 Rom. 8.15. 

4 Rom.11.17-20. 

5 Matt. 8.10-12. 

6 Matt. 8.8. 



100 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

branches, which was the obvious consequence of their pride: 
Tor they not knowing the justice of God and seeking to 
establish their own, have not submitted themselves to the 
justice of God.' 7 Of these, swollen with their vain self-esteem, 
it is said that they shall go into exterior darkness, because, 
while boasting of themselves as the seed of Abraham, they 
refused to become the seed of Abraham, that they might be 
the children of promise, and because they did not receive 
the faith of the New Testament, where the justice of God 
is commended: 'seeking to establish their own.' Thus, as if 
trusting in their own merits and works, they scorned the 
children of promise, that is, the children of grace, the 
children of rnercy 'that he that glorieth may glory in the 
Lord, 38 believing in Him e who justifieth the ungodly/ that 
is, from ungodly He makes him a faithful son, that his faith 
'may be reputed to justice," and it is fulfilled in him, not 
because his merits call for it, but because it was promised by 
the Lord as His bounty. 

Therefore, the Apostle, dealing with those who were 
engrafted to the olive tree by grace, say: Thou sayest: the 
branches were broken off that I might be grafted in. Well; 
because of unbelief they were broken off, but do thou stand 
by faith, be not high-minded, but fear. no It is the bounty of 
God, not thy merit, as he says elsewhere: 'For by grace you 
are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; for it is 
the gift of God, not of works, that no man may glory. For 
we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, in good 
works, which God hath prepared that we should walk in 
them.' 11 Thus, in this understanding of grace, there is fear, of 
which it is said: 'Be not high-minded, but fear.' But this 

7 Rom. 10.3, 

8 1 Cor. 1.31. 

9 Rom. 4.5. 

10 Cf. Rom. 11.19,20, 

11 Eph. 2-8-10. 



LETTERS 10 

fear is different; it is not that servile fear which lov 
casteth out.' 12 By it we fear, so as not to fall into the tormen 
of punishment, but by it we also fear so as not to lose th 
grace of His bounty. 

Chapter 21 

For this reason, although the Apostle is speaking to th< 
faithful who belong to the New Testament, as I mentionec 
before : 'For you have not received the spirit of bondage agair 
in fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons 
whereby we cry Abba, Father,' 1 that is, that there may b< 
in us 'faith that worketh by charity/ 2 not so much ty 
fearing punishment as by loving justice; still, as the soul doc 
not become just except by sharing in the better One whc 
justifieth the ungodly for what has it that it has noi 
received?' 3 it ought not to glory as if it had not receivec 
it, by attributing to itself what comes from God. That i 
why it was said to him: 'Be not high-minded, but fear. 
And that fear is also commanded for those who live by faith/ 
and are heirs of the New Testament, being 'called untc 
liberty.' 5 To be high-minded is another expression for being 
proud, as he shows clearly by contrast in another place 
where he says: 'Not minding high things, but consenting tc 
the humble.' 6 From the fact of his saying 'consenting to the 
humble/ he makes it quite clear that, when he said 'minding 
high things' he meant nothing else than being proud. 

Fear, then, is not in charity, because 'perfect charity casteth 

12 1 John 4.18. 

1 Rom. 8.15. 

2 Gal. 5.6. 

3 1 Cor. 4.7. 

4 Rom. 1.17; Gal. 3.11; Heb. 10.38; Hab. 2.4. 

5 Gal. 5.13. 

6 Rom. 12.16. 



102 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

out fear,' 7 but that fear Is a servile fear; it Is the fear that 
makes anyone refrain from evil through dread of punishment, 
not for joy in holiness. Charity casts out this fear; a charity 
that finds no pleasure in evil-doing, even if it were suggested 
that no punishment would follow; but it does not cast out 
the fear by which the soul is afraid of losing that very grace 
which makes her take no pleasure in sinning, or the fear 
she has that God may forsake her, even though He afflicted 
her with no special penalty of suffering. This is a chaste 
fear; charity does not cast it out, but joins forces with it. Of 
it, certainly, the Scripture says: The fear of the Lord is 
chaste, enduring forever and ever.' 8 Hfe would surely not 
speak of it as enduring unless he knew of another which 
does not endure, and he does well to call it chaste, for the 
love by which the soul clings to God does not lack this fear, 
as he says in another psalm: Thou hast destroyed all them 
that are disloyal to thee; but it is good for rne to stick 
close to my God.' 9 The wife whose mind is false to her 
husband may not commit adultery, through fear of him, yet it 
is present in her will, though it does not issue into act. The 
chaste wife, on the other hand, fears differently, for she does 
fear her husband, but chastely; the former fears that her hus- 
band may come upon her in anger, the latter that he may go 
away hurt; to the unloving one it is her husband's presence 
that is hateful, to the loving one it is his absence. Therefore, 
let all the seed of Israel fear God' with the chaste fear which 
endures forever and ever; let them fear Him whom they 
love, not minding high things, but consenting to the humble; 
let them work out their salvation with fear and trembling, 
'for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to 
accomplish, according to his good will, 310 

7 I John 4.18. 

8 Cf. Ps. 18.10. 

9 Ps. 72.27,28. 
10 Phil. 2.12,13. 



LETTERS 103 

Chapter 22 

This is the justice of God, this is what God gives to man 
when He justifies the ungodly; the proud Jews, 'not knowing 
the justice of God, and seeking to establish their own, have 
not subjected themselves to the justice of God'; 1 because 
of this pride they are cast off that the humble wild olive 
may be engrafted, and they shall go into exterior darkness, 
where there shall be no chance of correction, since 'God is 
light, and in him there is no darkness'; 2 but He is the light 
of the heart, not of those eyes which are in the flesh; nor 
is He at all such light as is brought to our mind by the image 
of this visible light. It is possible to see there, but far otherwise, 
far differently. For what kind of light is charity itself, and who 
can describe it in words? Which of those things which lie 
close to the bodily senses shows it by any proof? Perhaps 
charity is not light? Listen to the Apostle John, for he said 
what I have just now recalled, that 'God is light and in him 
there is no darkness'; and again he says: 'God is charity/ 3 
Thus, if God is light, and God is charity, then, surely, charity 
itself is light, which 'is poured forth in our hearts by the 
Holy Ghost who is given to us.' 4 Likewise he says: 'he that 
hateth his brother is [still] in darkness.' 5 This is the darkness 
into which the Devil and his angels went because of their 
excess of pride. For, 'charity envieth not, is not puffed up/ 6 
and the reason why it envieth not is because it is not puffed 
up, for, where puffing-up precedes, envy follows, because 
pride is the mother of envy. 

Therefore, the Devil and his angels, by turning from the 

1 Rom. 10.3. 

2 1 John 1.5. 

3 1 John 4.8. 

4 Rom. 5.5. 

5 1 John 2.11. 

6 1 Cor. 13.4. 



104 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

light and warmth of charity, and going over to pride and 
envy, were benumbed as by an icy hardness. Therefore they 
are figuratively located in the north. Thus, while the Devil 
weighed down the human race, the future grace of the 
Saviour was spoken of in the Canticle of Canticles thus: 
'Arise, O north wind, and come O south wind, blow 
through my garden and let the aromatical spices thereof 
flow.' 7 Arise, thou who didst rush in, who dost weigh upon 
the conquered, who dost oppress those whom thou ownest, 
arise, that those whose souls thou hast pressed upon and 
bowed down may be relieved of thy weight and may lift 
up their heads. 'And come, O south wind/ he says, calling 
upon the spirit of grace, breathing from the south, as from 
a warm and luminous quarter, 'that the aromatical spices 
may flow. 3 Hence the Apostle says: 'We are the good odor 
of Christ in every place, 58 Hence, also, it says in another 
psalm: 'Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as a stream 
in the south;' 9 doubtless, the captivity in which they were 
held under the Devil, as under the north wind, where they 
were chilled by abounding iniquity, and were, so to speak, 
frozen. Hence, also, the Gospel says: c And because iniquity 
hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold.' 10 But, 
truly, when the south wind blows, the ice is melted and the 
streams flow; that is, when their sins are forgiven the 
people flock to Christ by charity, Hence, also, it is written 
elsewhere: 'And thy sins are melted away as the ice in the 
fair, warm weather.' 11 

7 Cant. 4.16. 

8 2 Cor, 14.15, 

9 Ps. 125.5. 

10 Matt. 24.12. 

11 Cf. Eccii. 3.17. 



LETTERS 11D 

Chapter 23 

Thus, the rational being, whether in the angelic spirit or 
in the human soul, is so constituted that it connot be its own 
good, the source of its own happiness, but, if its changeable 
state is turned to the unchangeable good, it finds happiness; 
if it is turned away from it, it finds wretchedness. Its 
turning away is its sin; its turning toward God is its virtue. 
By nature, therefore, it is not evil, because the spiritual 
creation of rational life, even when it is deprived of the 
good whose possession makes it happy, that is, even when 
it is sinful, is superior to any corporeal being, even that 
which ranks highest among corporeal things, such as this 
light which is perceived by fleshly eyes, because it also is 
a corporeal thing. But, any incorporeal nature whatsoever 
is superior to any corporeal one, not in bulk, because bulk 
is found only in corporeal things, but in a certain force by 
which it rises above every image which the mind draws 
from the senses of the body, and makes an object of its 
thought. But, just as in bodies themselves the things which 
are inferior, like earth and water and even air, become better 
by sharing in what is better, that is, when they are illumined 
by light and stirred to life by warmth, so the incorporeal 
spiritual beings become better by sharing in the Creator 
by the purest and holiest charity; but, if they lose Him in 
any way, they will grow dark, so to speak, and hard. 

Thus, men of unbelief are darkness. Those who turn to 
God by faith become light when He has first illumined them. 
If in their progress from faith they attain to sight, so as to 
deserve to behold what they believe, so far as such a good 
can be beheld, they will receive the perfected image of God; 
to such the Apostle says: 'You were heretofore darkness, 
but now light in the Lord.' 1 But, the Devil and his angels 

1 Eph. 5,8. 



106 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

are exterior darkness to men of unbelief, and in greater 
degree as they have turned away from that charity, and have 
gone forth into their own pride and obstinacy. And, since 
at the Last Judgment Christ will say to those whom He 
sees at His left: 'Depart into everlasting fire, which was 
prepared for the devil and his angels,' 2 He will also say that 
those who are to be joined to those wicked spirits and 
condemned with them shall go into exterior darkness, that 
is, into the penal society of the Devil and his angels. What is 
said to the good servant is the opposite of this: 'Enter into the 
joy of thy lord, 53 so that this will be interior in proportion 
as that darkness is exterior. These things are not to be 
thought of by vain images such as places and distances, for 
only corporeal bulk occupies place and space. The spirit 
of life, the rational soul, is not like that, much less is God, 
the most gracious Creator of all things and their most just 
ruler. To draw near to such things or to be far from them, 
by will and affection, is what is meant by enter or depart. 

But, because evil-doers delight in their evil, that is, in 
their dark deed, and the punishment of torture is to follow 
them, when the Lord says 'exterior darkness/ He adds 
also: 'there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,' 4 lest 
the wicked should madly think to have in that torture such 
pleasures as they enjoy here, when they turn to darkness by 
their unbelief and ungodliness; because, while choosing 
to act unjustly they make use of good things, but for not 
willing justice they shall be tormented by evils. Hence, 
exterior darkness can be understood as corporeal pains 
since the body is exterior to the soul granted that there are 
evils of the soul, in which it takes pleasure by turning from the 
light of charity to sin: outside darkness; but also evils of the 

2 Matt. 25.41. 

3 Matt. 25.23. 

4 Matt. 8.12. 



LETTERS 107 

body with which it will be eternally tormented to the end: 
exterior darkness; this is the only kind feared by those who 
are still involved in servile fear. For, if they were allowed 
without penalty to be involved and entangled in that 
outside darkness, which is in sin, surely they would never be 
willing to draw near to God, to be enlightened and to cling 
to Him by charity, where 'there is a chaste fear enduring 
forever and ever,' 5 a fear which does not torment, but 
makes the soul cling more firmly to that good from which 
it falls if it lets go. 

Chapter 24 

'Let all the seed of Israel fear him,' and see the reason he 
adduces: 'because he hath not slighted,' he says, 'nor 
despised the supplication of the poor man.' 1 He calls the 
poor man humble, hence: 'Be not high-minded, but fear. 52 
Let, then, all the seed of Israel fear Him, because He has 
not despised the prayer of him who has not been high-minded 
but has feared. This can also be applied to our Head, because 
the Saviour of the body Himself, although rich, became 
poor for our sakes, that through His poverty we might become 
rich. 3 In the form of a slave He became poor; in it He 
poured forth His prayer; in it, indeed, 'He humbled himself, 
becoming obedient unto death.' 4 See, then, why he says: 
'because he hath not slighted nor despised the supplication 
of the poor man; neither hath he turned away his face 
from me.' 5 Where is that 'Why hast thou forsaken me,' if He 

5 Ps. 18.10. 

1 Ps. 21.25. 

2 Rom. 11.20. 

3 2 Cor. 8.9. 

4 Phil. 2.8. 

5 Ps. 21.25. 



108 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

has not turned away His face from Him, except that, in 
forsaking He does not forsake, when He does not hear 
prayers for temporal blessing, not to repute it to us as folly, 
but to make us understand what He takes away and what 
He offers us? So he says: c he hath not slighted nor despised 
the supplication of the poor man; neither hath he turned 
away his face from me, and when I cried to him, he heard 
me.' Therefore, He did what a little before He was asked to 
do, when in His prayer He said: 'Depart not from me/ If, 
then, He heard Him, He manifestly did what was asked; 
therefore, He did not depart. Therefore, also, He did not 
forsake Him in this sense, although He did in another that 
we might better understand how we ought to wish not to be 
forsaken by Him. 

'With thee is my praise.' 6 What harm can they do who 
taunt me, as one overcome, that thou hast forsaken me in 
temporal blessings? 'In that great Church I will pay my vows 
to thee/ 7 not such a one as that Synagogue which mocks at 
the death of the forsaken One, but in the great Church 
spread among all nations which believe in the resurrection 
of the One not forsaken. This is that only one which He 
asks to have saved from the hand of the dog, of which He 
spoke shortly before : c in the midst of the church I will sing 
to thee,' and of which He now says: C I will confess to thee 5 ; 
among those, doubtless, who will also confess; among whom 
He also speaks. This is not so much a confession of sin as 
of the praise of God, as He says Himself in the Gospel: S I 
confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because 
thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and 
hast revealed them to little ones.' 8 Therefore, He goes on 
and says : *I will pay my vows in the sight of them that fear 

6 Ps. 21.26, 

7 Ibid. 

8 Matt. IU5. 



LETTERS 109 

him. The poor shall eat and shall be filled, and they shall 
praise the Lord that seek him.' 9 They are the little ones of 
whom He said : 'and hast revealed them to little ones 5 ; those 
who fear Him, the poor, that is, the lowly, who do not 
mind high things, but fear Him with a chaste fear, not the 
fear that trembles at punishment, but the one that aims to 
preserve His grace. 

Obviously, He wishes his vows to be understood as the 
sacrifice of His body, which is the sacrament of the faithful. 
Therefore, when he said: 'I will pay my vows in the sight of 
them that fear him,' he at once added: 'The poor shall eat 
and shall be filled.' They shall be filled with the bread 
'which cometh down from heaven, 510 that is, those who cling 
to Him, and who keep His peace and love by imitating 
His humility; therefore, the poor. In this poverty and 
fullness the Apostles were especially conspicuous. 'And they 
shall praise the Lord,' he says, 'that seek Him, 5 understanding 
that they are filled by no merits of their own but by His grace. 
For, they seek Him because they are not of the number of 
those who 'seek the things that are their own, not the things 
that are Jesus Christ's. 311 Finally, even if the flesh of those 
who praise Him suffers temporal trouble or death, 'their 
hearts shall live forever and ever.' 12 This life of the heart is 
not seated in the senses of the body; it is in the secret 
light which is within, not in the darkness which is outside; 
in the end of the commandment, not in the beginning of 
sin. 'Now the end of the commandment is charity from 
a pure heart, and a good conscience, and an unfeigned 
faith;' 13 'charity which envieth not, is not puffed up,' 14 

9 Ps. 21.26,27. 

10 John 6.50. 

11 Phil. 2.21. 

12 Ps. 21.27. 

13 1 Tim. 1.5. 

14 1 Cor. 13.4. 



110 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

because it is not high-minded, but fears, and therefore it clings 
with a chaste fear enduring forever and ever. But, 'pride is 
the beginning of all sin;' 15 by it the Devil went irrevocably 
forth into exterior things, and by his envy cast man down, 
persuading him to seek the same. This man is thus addressed 
in a certain passage in Scripture: 'Why is earth and ashes 
proud, because while in his life he hath cast away his 
bowels?' 16 'In his life' is said as of his private and personal 
possession, in which all pride takes pleasure. 



Chapter 25 

For this reason, charity, which has more regard for the 
common good than for its own, is said 'not to seek the things 
that are its own.' By it their hearts live forever and ever, 
filled, as it were, with bread from heaven, of which the 
bountiful giver says: 'Except you shall eat my flesh and 
drink my blood, you shall not have life in you.' 1 Deservedly, 
then, will the hearts of those who are filled live forever and 
ever. For Christ is the life, 2 who dwells in their hearts, by 
faith now, but afterwards by sight. For, they 'see now 
through a glass in a dark manner, but then face to face. 53 
Hence, this charity is practised now in the good works of 
love, by which it reaches out to give aid in whatever direction 
it can, and this is its breadth; at present, it bears adversity 
with long-suffering, and perseveres in what it holds as true, 
and this is its length; but it does all this in order to attain 
eternal life which is promised to it on high, and this is its 
height. This charity, indeed, is hidden in the place where 

15 Eccli. 10.15. 

16 Cf. Eccli. 10.9,10. 

1 Cf. John 6.54. 

2 John 11.25; Eph. 3.17; 2 Cor. 5.7. 

3 1 Cor. 13.12. 



LETTERS 111 

we are founded and, so to speak, rooted, 4 where we do not 
search into the reasons for God's will, by whose grace we are 
saved. 'Not by the works of justice which we have done, but 
according to his mercy;' 5 'for of his own will hath he 
begotten us by the word of truth. 56 And this will of His is 
hidden. In his fear at what may be called the depth of this 
secret, the Apostle cries out: 'O the depth of the riches of 
the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incompre- 
hensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways! 
for who hath known the mind of the Lord?' 7 And this is the 
depth. Height 8 is a term common to dimension up and down, 
but, when it is used for up, it commends the distinction of 
loftiness; when it means down, it bespeaks the difficulty of 
research and knowledge. Consequently, we say to God: 
'O Lord how great are thy works! thy thoughts are exceeding 
deep,' 9 and again: 'thy judgments are a great deep.' 10 From 
this derives the passage of the Apostle which you listed 
among other points to be examined. Tor this cause,' he 
says/ I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus 
Christ, of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named, 
that he would grant you according to the riches of his glory, 
to be strengthened by his Spirit with might unto the inward 
man, that Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts; that 
being rooted and founded in charity, you may be able to 
comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and 
length, and height, and depth; to know also the charity of 
Christ which surpasseth all knowledge, that you may be 
filled unto all the fulness of God.' 11 



4 Eph. 3.18. 

5 Tit. 3.5. 

6 James 1.18. 

7 Rom.ll. 33,34. 

8 Altitudo means vertical direction either up or down. 

9 Ps. 91.6. 

10 Ps. 35.7. 

11 Eph. 3.1449. 



1 1 2 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

Chapter 26 

Pay attention to all these points carefully. Tor this cause,' 
he says, 'I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus 
Christ, of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named.' 
You ask, for what cause? He had said it above : * Wherefore 
I pray you not to faint at my tribulations for you.' 1 This, then, 
he asks for them, that they may not faint at the tribulations of 
the Apostle, which he was bearing for them. And, that there 
might not be cause for them to faint, he follows up and says: 
'that he would grant you according to the riches of his 
glory, to be strengthened by his Spirit with might/ These 
are the riches of which he says: C O the depth of the riches!' 
For they have hidden causes where there are no previous 
merits of ours, and what have we that we have not received? 2 
Then he continues and adds what he prays for: 'unto the 
inward man, that Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts.' 
This is the life of our hearts, by which we live forever, 
from the beginning by faith, to the goal of sight, 'that being 
rooted and founded in charity/ as he says, 'you ma Y be able 
to comprehend with all the saints.' That is the bond of 
union of the same divine and heavenly commonwealth, by 
it the poor are filled, 'those who seek not the things that 
are their own but those that are Jesus Christ's/ that is, they 
do not pursue their own private interests, but the common 
weal, that is, the salvation of all; of this bread with which 
such souls are filled, the Apostle says in a certain passage: 
Tor we being many, are one bread, one body/ 3 What, then, 
are we to comprehend? 'What is the breadth,' he says, as 
I have said, in good works, in which goodness extends 
even to loving our enemies; c and the length/ that with long- 

1 Eph. 3.13, 

2 1 Cor. 4.7. 

3 1 Cor. 10,17. 



LETTERS 113 

suffering they may be tolerated in proportion to this width 
of their injury; 'and the height/ that the eternal reward for 
these good works, which is on high, should be our hope, 
not any vain temporal blessing; 'and the depth,' from which 
comes the freely given grace of God, according to the secret 
and hidden decree of His will. There we are rooted, there 
we are founded; rooted, as in husbandry; founded as in 
building; and this does not come from man, as the same 
Apostle says, in another place: 'You are God's husbandry, 
you are God's building.' 4 All this is accomplished when, in 
this our pilgrimage, 'faith worketh by charity.' 5 But, in the 
life to come, charity full and perfect, with no evils to endure, 
does not believe by faith what it does not see, nor desire by 
hope what it does not possess, but will gaze forever upon 
the unchangeable face of Truth; its peaceful, unending 
occupation will be to praise what it loves and to love what 
it praises. Of this he says in the following: 'to know also the 
charity of Christ which surpasses all knowledge that you 
may be filled unto all the fullness of God/ 

The figure of the cross appears in this mystery. For, He 
who died because He willed, died as He willed. Not without 
reason, therefore, did He choose this kind of death, nor 
would He have chosen it, except that in it He stood out as 
the master of this breadth and length and height and depth. 
For, there is breadth in that crossbeam which is fastened 
above; this refers to good works because the hands are 
stretched there. There is length in the visible part of the 
beam which stretches from that one down to the earth; for 
there, so to speak, He stands, that is, He remains and 
perseveres, which is the attribute of long-suffering. The 
height is in that part of the cross which extends above the 
transverse beam, and is left to point upward, that is, at 

4 1 Cor. 3.9. 

5 Gal. 5.6. 



1 14 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

the head of the Crucified, because the expection of those 
who hope rightly is above. And now, indeed, that part of the 
beam which does not appear, which is buried and hidden, 
from which the whole rises upward, signifies the depth of 
that freely given grace; there the minds of many are crushed 
as they try to fathom it, and at last these words are said to 
them: C O man, who art thou that repliest against God?' 6 

Therefore, the hearts of the poor that are filled will live 
forever and ever, that is, of the humble, burning with 
charity, seeking not their own but rejoicing in the company 
of the saints. This was first accomplished in the Apostles. 
In the part that follows, see what nations they gained by 
praising God, that is, by preaching the grace of God, since 
it is written: 'They shall praise the Lord that seek him, 57 



Chapter 27 

'All the ends of the earth shall remember/ he says, 'and 
shall be converted to the Lord, and all the kindreds of the 
gentiles shall adore in his sight; for the kingdom is the Lord's 
and he shall have dominion over all nations.' 1 He the mocked 
at, He the crucified, He the forsaken, wins this kingdom, and 
will deliver it at the end to God and the Father, without losing 
it Himself, for what He sowed in faith, when He came into the 
world as less than the Father, He will lead to the fulfillment of 
vision, in which as an equal He did not depart from the 
Father. 2 C A11 the rich of the earth have eaten and have 
adored 3 ' : 'by the rich of the earth' we have to understand the 

6 Rom. 9.20. 

7 Ps. 21.27. 



1 Ps. 21.28,29. 

2 1 Cor. 15.24; John 14,28; Phil. 2,6. 

3 Cf. Ps. 21.30. 



LETTERS 115 

proud, if we were right in understanding the poor mentioned 
above as the humble, of whom the Gospel speaks/ Blessed are 
the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, 5 and the 
same are 'the meek, those who mourn, and who thirst after jus- 
tice, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peace-makers, and 
those who suffer persecution for justice' sake;' 4 to each of 
which statements individually it adds the attribute of blessed- 
ness. In an opposite sense, then, 'the rich of the earth 3 in this 
passage are to be understood as the proud. Not without 
reason is this distinction made, so that of the poor it is 
said above, 'the poor shall eat and shall be filled,' but 
here it says, 'all the rich of the earth have eaten and have 
adored.' It is true they have also been led to the table of 
Christ and they receive of His Body and Blood, but they 
adore only, they are not also filled, since they do not imitate 
Him. Though eating the Poor One, they disdain to be poor 
because 'Christ suffered for us leaving us an example, that 
we should follow his step.' 5 But indeed because 'He humbled 
himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of 
the cross,' the rich scorn Him and recoil from suffering the 
like; their swollen self-esteem is not greatness, their weakness 
is not health. But because 'God hath raised him up from the 
dead, and hath given him a name which is above all names, 
that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow of those that 
are in heaven, on earth and under the earth, 56 they are moved 
by the fame of His exalted position, and the glory of His 
name, spread everywhere throughout the Church, and they 
come of their own accord to His table, they eat and they 
adore; but they are not filled, because they do not hunger and 
thirst after justice; for only such will be filled. However, 

4 Matt. 5.3-10. 

5 1 Peter 2.21. 

6 Cf. Phil. 2.8-10. 



1 1 6 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

perfect satiety will come only in that eternal life when we 
have come from faith to sight, from the mirror to the 
face-to-face vision, from darkness to the clear truth. 7 It is 
not inconsistent to say that he is filled with the poverty of 
Christ who, for the sake of His justice, that is, for the sake of 
partaking in the Divine Word, which he has begun here by 
faith, not only soberly despises all temporal goods, but even 
bears evil with patience. 

Such were the fiishermen and the tax-collectors, because 
'the weak things of this world hath he chosen that he may 
confound the strong. 58 Of these it is said: 'the poor shall eat 
and shall be filled. 3 But, because they did not keep that 
fullness in themselves, but poured it out, so to speak, in 
praising the Lord, that is, those who seek Him have preached 
Him, 'those who do not seek the things that are their own, 5 
but burn with love for Him; by their preaching the world 
has been stirred, so that c all the ends of the earth remember 
and are converted to the Lord, and all the kindreds of the 
gentiles adore in his sight, for the kingdom is the Lord's and 
he shall have dominion over the nations.' 9 By this enlargement 
of the Church, even the proud, that is, the rich ones of the 
earth, have been brought in to eat; although they are not 
filled, they adore. This is the order of thought maintained 
prophetically by the psalm in this place, and we see it fulfilled. 
It adds: 'all they that go down to the earth shall fall in his 
sight,' 10 that is, none of those who love the goods of earth 
ascend into heaven. For, they do not do what the Apostle 
says: 'If you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are 
above., where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God; 
mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon 

7 2 Cor. 5.7; 1 Cor. 13.12. 

8 1 Cor. 1.27. 

9 Ps. 21.28-50. 
10 Cf. Ps. 21.30. 



LETTERS 



117 



the earth'; 11 rather, the more earthly goods appear to them 
a source of happiness; the more they go down to the earth, 
that is, they are brought down to an earthly level. Therefore, 
they shall fall in His sight, that is, where He sees, not in the 
sight of men, who esteem them as high and exalted. 



Chapter 28 

'And to him my soul liveth,' he says; to Him naturally, 
not to itself, as is the case of the proud who delight in their 
own private good, and who recoil from the common good, 
which is God, with a kind of empty elation. Let us, then, 
avoid this, and let us seek to enjoy what is the common good 
of all rather than our own private good, that 'he who lives 
may not now live to himself,' as the Apostle says, but 'unto 
him who died for them, and rose again.' 1 It is thus He became 
our Mediator, to reconcile us to God by His humility, as 
we had strayed from Him by our accursed pride. What 

I quoted above is not the only thing written of that: Tride 
is the beginning of all sin' ; we read this also : 'The beginning 
of pride is for men to fall off from God.' 2 Therefore, let no 
one live to himself, but to Christ, doing His will, not one's 
own, abiding in His love, as He did the will of His Father, 
and abode in His love. 3 These, indeed, were His admonitions 
to us, these the exhortations expressed in His Gospel by His 
example. But if He, although in the form of God He was 
equal to the Father, nevertheless in the form of a servant, 
which He took for our sakes, proclaimed that He did the 
will of the Father, not His own, how much more should we 

II Col. 3.1,2. 

1 2 Cor. 5.15. 

2 Eccli. 10.15,14. 

3 John 15.10. 



118 SAINT AUGU STINE 

despise our own personal and private will, which wraps 
us in darkness, and should approach to that common light 
that we may be enlightened, and that our faces may not be 
covered with confusion, for that light enlighteneth every man 
that cometh into this world,' 4 that our soul may live to Him. 
This, also, he adds of us in the following: 'And my seed 
shall serve Him, 35 since 'He that soweth the good seed is the 
son of man; and the good seed are the children of the 
kingdom.' 6 

Chapter 29 

Moreover, as all these things which have been said in this 
psalm form a prophecy of future happenings and do not 
refer to a present time, as is clear from the topics themselves, 
so the Psalmist wished to conclude it in a form which would 
show that he was not describing the present nor relating the 
past, but foretelling the future. 'There shall be declared to 
the Lord,' he says, c a generation to come, and they shall 
show forth his justice to a people that shall be born, which 
the Lord hath made.' 1 He does not say: The Lord shall be 
declared to a generation to come,' but : 'there shall be declared 
to the Lord a generation to come. 5 However, this is not to be 
taken in the sense of something being declared to Him which 
He does not know, in order to enlighten Him, but is to be 
understood in the same way as the angels not only declare 
His benefits to us, but our prayers to Him. For, it is written, 
in a passage where an angel speaks to men: I offered the 
memory of your prayer,' 2 not "that God finds out at that 

4 John 1,9. 

5 Ps. 21.31. 

6 Matt. 13.37,38. 

1 Ps. 21.32. 

2 Cf. Tob. 12.12. 



LETTERS 119 

time what we wish or what we need Tor your Father 
knoweth what is needful for you,' said the Lord, 'before 
you ask him' 3 but because the rational creature, rendering 
homage to God, has need of presenting temporal petitions, 
whether to ask that something may be done for him, or to 
consult Him on what he should do; the soul grounded in 
piety does this, not to inform God, but to conform itself. For, 
this is also a sort of testimony on the part of a rational creature, 
that neither its own good nor the source of its own happiness is 
within itself, but that its good is in the Unchangeable by 
partaking of which it also becomes wise. 

If it were expressed thus: 'The generation to come shall 
be declared to the Lord,' it would be the same as to say: 
'Those who declare it will please the Lord, not themselves,' 
and so to declare to the Lord would be equivalent to living 
to the Lord. 4 Thus it is said: 'He that eateth, eateth to the 
Lord, and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not. 55 
But he adds to it: 'and he giveth thanks to God,' to show 
what it means: he does it to the Lord, that is, he does 
it to praise Him. For, then a good work is done rightly, then 
it is done justly, then it is done piously, when it is done to 
praise Him whose grace is granted that it may be done. Thus, 
if anyone wishes to understand these words, as if they were 
arranged to mean: 'There shall be declared a generation 
to come for the Lord' that is, a generation shall be declared 
which will come for the Lord, a generation, of course, of 
devout and holy souls because a generation of impious and 
wicked ones will not come for the Lord but for itself that 
meaning is not remote from the original one, by which we 
understand that the soul shares in the same. This means 
that the rational creature, being subject to change, cannot 

3 Matt. 6.8. 

4 Rom. 14.8. 

5 Rom. 14.6. 



120 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

find happiness unless it changes from its own changeable 
good to that unchangeable one, which is likewise common 
to all, which is God, from whom it fell away by its impious 
pride, to whom it turns back in humble piety, to live in 
Him. As it makes progress in this affection, whatever good 
it does it does for the Lord, that is, for His praise, having 
received His grace to enable it to act; hence that act of 
thanksgiving which is performed in the innermost part of 
the mystery 6 of the faithful. 



Chapter 30 

The part which follows, 'And they shall show forth his 
justice to a people that shall be born, which the Lord 
hath made,' 1 is a proof of the meaning given above. For, 
where it is said in that place : "There shall be declared to the 
Lord a generation to come,' here it says: 'They shall show 
forth his justice.' Doubtless, that generation which was fore- 
told as being about to come is made up of those who are 
pious and holy, with the justice of God, not their own, so 
as not to be of those who, 'not knowing the justice of God 
and seeking to establish their own, have not submitted to 
the justice of God.' 2 The justice of God pointed out in the 
words, 'not knowing the justice of God/ is that by which 
we become just, through His grace, that we may be His 
justice, when we live justly, believing in Him 'that justifieth 
the ungodly,' 3 but not that eternal and unchangeable justice 
by which He is just. Therefore, that justice by which we 
become just through His gift is signified in that psalm where 

6 The Sacrifice of the Mass. 

1 Cl Ps. 21.32. 

2 Rom. 10.3, 

3 Rom. 4.5. 



LETTERS 



121 



it is written: 'Thy justice is as the mountains of God.' 4 
Obviously, the mountains of God are His saints, of whom 
it is said elsewhere: 'Let the mountains receive peace for 
thy people.' 5 Many things are expressed in figurative speech 
about these mountains, but it would take too long to recall 
them here. But, as God performs this act of justifying men 
by an extremely secret judgment, which He does by a freely 
given grace 'and if by grace, it is not now by works, 
otherwise grace is no more grace,' 6 doubtless, good works 
begin from the time of our justification, and we are not 
justified because good works came first; this is the 'depth' of 
which we spoke at length above. For, when he said in the 
same psalm: 'Thy justice is as the mountains of God,' he 
at once added: Thy judgments are a great deep.' Then 
he comes to the preservation which is common to men and 
beasts, and he says: 'Men and beasts thou wilt preserve, O 
Lord; how hast thou multiplied thy mercy, O God,' 7 so that 
we may understand from it that eternal and immortal 
preservation of which the Apostle says: Tor we are saved 
by hope,' 8 and likewise the fact that we receive the same 
which is common to men and beasts as a 'free gift, not of 
works, that no man may glory/ 9 because we perform our 
good works as a result of that very justification. Tor we are 
his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, in good works, 
which God hath prepared that we should walk in them/ 10 
Therefore, that salvation is freely given, as it is expressed in 
another psalm: 'Salvation is of the Lord, and thy blessing is 
upon thy people.' 11 

4 Ps. 35.7. 

5 Ps. 71.3. 

6 Rom. 11.6. 

7 Ps. 35.7,8. 

8 Rom. 8.24. 

9 Eph. 2.8,9. 

10 Eph. 2.10. 

11 Ps. 3.9. 



1 2 2 SAINT AUGU STINE 

So, then, just as when we read : 'Salvation is of the Lord/ 
we are not to understand that salvation by which the Lord 
is preserved, but that by which those are preserved whom He 
himself saves, so, when we read of the justice of God in this 
passage: 'Not knowing the justice of God and seeking to 
establish their own,' we are not to understand that justice 
by which God is just, but that by which men are just, whom 
His grace justifies. They are saved in the same way as they are 
made just, since, when He said: They that are in health 
need not a physician, but they that are ill, 3 He explained it 
at once by the words: 'I am not come to call the just but 
sinners.' 12 'Not therefore by the works of justice which we 
have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the 
laver of regeneration.' 13 This is a grace in which we are 
saved by hope. Consequently, this passage follows in that 
psalm: 'but the children of men shall put their trust under 
the covert of thy wings. They shall be inebriated by the 
plenty of thy house, and thou shalt make them drink of the 
torrent of thy pleasure. For with thee is the fountain of life, 
and in thy light we shall see light. Extend thy mercy to them 
that know thee, and thy justice to them that are right in 
heart/ 14 Therefore, pride is contrary to this justice of God, 
because it puts its trust in its own works, and thus the psalm 
continues: 'Let not the foot of pride come to me.' 15 

This justice is the grace of the New Testament, by which 
the faithful are just, while they live by faith, 16 until, by the 
perfection of justice, they are brought to the face-to-face 
vision, as they are also equally brought to immortality of 
the body itself, by the perfection of salvation. Hence, in 
another place the Apostle says: Tor Christ we are ambas- 

12 Matt. 9.12,13. 

13 Tit. 3.5. 

14 Ps. 35.841. 

15 Ps. 35.12. 

16 Rom. 1.17; Gal. 3.11; Heb. 10.38; Hab, 2.4. 



LETTERS 123 

sadors, God as it were exhorting by us, for Christ we beseech 
you, be reconciled to God,' and then he adds: 'Him that 
knew no sin, for us he hath made sin' that is, a sacrifice 
for sin, for in that law offerings made for sin were called 
sin 'that we might be made the justice of God in him,' 17 
that is, in His Body, which is the Church, of which He is 
the Head; that we may be the justice of God, which 'they 
not knowing and seeking to establish their own' that is, 
as if glorying in their own works 'have not submitted them- 
selves to the justice of God.' Hence, also, when he had said 
in this psalm : 'They shall show forth thy justice, 3 he follows 
up and adds: 'to a people that shall be born, which the Lord 
hath made. 3 Is there any people, then, which the Lord has not 
made, seeing that they are men, since He created even the 
beasts; and all life, as well as all nature, has been made 
and created by Him? But this 'which the Lord hath made' is 
to be understood of their creation by Him as not only men, 
but also as just men, according to this passage from the 
Apostle, which I have quoted more than once: 'For we are 
his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, in good works, 
which God hath prepared that we should walk in them.' 



Chapter 31 

Therefore, a warning is given to the instability of the 
rational soul, to make it know that it cannot be just, or 
saved, or wise, or happy, except by sharing in the 
unchangeable Good; that it cannot by its own will be its own 
good, but only its own evil. By its own will, indeed, it turns 
away from the unchanging Good, and becomes guilty by 
that act of turning away; it cannot be healed by its own 
effort, but only by the freely given mercy of its Creator, which 

17 2 Cor. 5.20,21. 



124 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

has established it in the hope of eternal salvation while it 
lives by faith in this life. Hence, let it not be high-minded, 
but fear; 1 let it cling to God with that chaste fear, since He 
has purified it from its own uncleanness, as from a sort of 
spiritual fornication, which came from its inordinate love 
of inferior things; let it not be exalted by human praises, lest 
it be numbered among the foolish virgins, who took pleasure 
in the praises of others 2 this is the last remaining one of 
your questions and with those who do good for the sake of 
that same empty praise, not for the sake of their own 
conscience, of which God is witness. But, let it be counted 
among the wise virgins, where it may say what the Apostle 
said: Tor our glory is this, the testimony of our conscience.' 3 
This it is to carry oil with them, not to buy it from those who 
sell, that is, the flatterers, for flatterers sell their praise like oil 
to the foolish. And of this oil the Psalmist says: 'The just 
man shall correct me in mercy and shall reprove me, but let 
not the oil of the sinner fatten my head. 34 He chose to be 
rebuked in mercy by the just man, and, so to speak, to have 
his ears boxed, rather than to have his head swell with 
pride because he was praised by a sinner. This answer always 
seems to me a sort of mockery, when the wise virgins say 
to them: 'Go you rather to them that sell and buy for 
yourselves,' as it is written in one of the books of Wisdom, 
where it says to the mockers: C I also will laugh in your 
destruction/ 5 But, that answer made to those who asked for 
oil, 'lest perhaps there be not enough for us,' was not said 
hopelessly but out of humility, for who could so presume on 
his own conscience as to be sure that in the judgment of 
God it could suffice for itself, unless He judges the merciful 

1 Rom. 11.20. 

2 Matt. 25.1-13. 

3 2 Cor. 1.12. 

4 Ps. 140.5. 

5 Prov. 1.26. 



LETTERS 1 25 

with mercy? Tor judgment without mercy to him that hath 
not done mercy. 3(i But, evidently, those lamps were lighted 
with good works, of which the Lord says: 'So let your good 
works shine before men that they may see your good works 
and glorify your Father who is in heaven.' 7 The intention 
of the wise virgins has this object, that they wish their good 
works to be seen by men, not that they themselves may 
be praised by them, but that glory may be given to God, by 
whom they are enabled to do good works; thus, they rejoice 
in the interior good which is present to God, where their alms 
are in secret, that their Father who seeth in secret may repay 
them. 8 Therefore, their lamps do not go out, because they are 
fed with this inner oil, that is, the intention of a good 
conscience, by which their good works which shine before 
men are done before God and for His glory. But, as for the 
foolish virgins, who do not carry this oil with them, that is, 
they do not continually shine with good works, their lamps 
go out when human praise is taken from them, because they 
did all their good works to gain that, making it their intention 
to be seen by men, 9 not to glorify their Father who is in 
heaven. This intention is one of unending glory by which 
the soul knows that it belongs to God, that it has been 
justified in order to perform good works, and therefore loves 
to be praised in Him, not in itself. Hence, the man of God 
sings in another place: 'In the Lord my soul shall be 
praised,' 10 'that he that glorieth may glory in the Lord.' 11 

6 James 2.13. 

7 Cf. Matt. 5.16. 

8 Matt. 6,4. 

9 Matt. 5.15; 6.L 

10 Ps. 33.3. 

11 1 Cor. 1.31; 2 Cor. 10.17; Jer. 9.24. 



126 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

Chapter 32 

But, how is it that in the same lesson of the Gospel it is 
written: 'And the bridegroom tarrying, they all slept 1 ? 1 If 
we understand that sleep as caused by the delay of the Last 
Judgment, to which Christ is to come to judge, and the fact 
that, because iniquity has abounded, the charity of many 
grows cold, 2 how shall we put the wise virgins there, when 
they are rather of those of whom it is said: 'But he that 
shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved'? 3 It says 'they 
all slept,' because it is not only the foolish who do their good 
works for the sake of human praise, but also the wise who 
do them that God may be glorified, who experience that 
death; both kinds die. And that death is often spoken of in 
the Scripture as sleep, as the resurrection is called an 
awakening. Hence, the Apostle says: 'But I will not have you 
ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep,' 4 and in 
another place: 'of whom many remain until this present, 
and some are fallen asleep.' 5 And other innumerable instances, 
unmistakably to this effect, are found throughout the 
Scriptures of both Testaments. On this, also, that great poet 
said: 'Sleep, the brother of death. 36 And, if you took note of 
it, you would find many passages in secular literature where 
death is compared to sleep. Therefore, the Lord signified 
that the time would come when, among the tribulations and 
temptations of this world, His coming would be looked for 
and hoped for, as something near and imminent, and those 
who seem to be of His family would prepare themselves for 
it. That is why He said that they went out to meet the 

1 Matt. 25.5. 

2 Matt. 24.12. 

3 Matt. 24.13. 

4 1 Thess. 4.12. 

5 J Cor. 15.6. 

6 Vergil, Aeneid 6.278. 



LETTERS 127 

bridegroom and the bride; the bridegroom being the Son of 
God, and the bride a reference either to the fact that He will 
come in the body which He took from the Virgin, or that 
the Church herself will then appear, more glorious, so that 
the members of the universal body may flock together, and 
by their numbers her greatness will be shown. 



Chapter 33 

He called them virgins because of their chastity, and there 
are ten, that is, five and five, on account of the number of 
the bodily senses in which chastity resides, when they refrain 
from base and unlawful pleasures. The lamps, as we said, are 
good works, especially those connected with mercy, and that 
one which shines before men, praiseworthy conversation. 
But, it makes a great difference what intention the mind 
has in performing them; therefore, he says, 'some were wise 
and some foolish' , and he distinguished them by this, that 
'the foolish did not take oil with them, but the wise took 
oil in their vessels,' that is, in their hearts, where that 
participation in the innermost and supreme good is accom- 
plished. Hence, in a certain psalm, where it says: 'Offer up 
the sacrifice of justice and trust in the Lord,' it also says: 
'Many say : who showeth us good things?' Then, in order to 
show what good we should love when we exercise justice, 
that is, to offer up the sacrifice of justice, it says: 'the light 
of thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us, thou hast 
given gladness in my heart.' 1 With the intention of sharing 
more fully and more perfectly in this good, which has been 
partially experienced, the one who does his good works, and 
who converses with praise in the sight of men, has his oil with 
him and thus his good works, which shine even in the sight 

1 Ps. 4.6,7. 



128 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

of men, are not extinguished, because charity does not grow 
cold in his heart when iniquity abounds, but he perseveres 
to the end. The foolish virgins do not have this oil with them, 
because they attribute to themselves any good work they do, 
and for this reason are necessarily puffed up with pride; 
because of this vice they take pleasure in human praise, and 
it is with this joy that they seem to glow and shine, if they 
do anything good. 

Chapter 34 

c But the bridegroom tarrying, they all slept.' He will not 
come when he is looked for, but at midnight, when it is very 
dark; that is, it will be doubtful whether he will come. Hence 
it says : { at midnight there was a cry made : Behold the bride- 
groom cometh, go ye forth to meet him. 9 Doubtless, that 
same cry is the trumpet which the Apostle mentions when he 
says: Tor the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise 
again incorruptible.' 1 Under the name of trumpet he wants 
us to understand some very clear and prominent sign, which 
in another place he calls the voice of the archangel and the 
trumpet of God. 2 In the Gospel, this is also spoken of as the 
voice of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, which 'all that are in 
the graves shall hear, and shall come forth.' 3 Therefore, all 
those virgins, both wise and foolish, rise and trim their 
lamps, that is, they prepare to give an account of their works. 

But, with the utterance of that cry and the resurrection 
of the dead, all comfort of human praise shall be taken 
away, because there will be no doubt that the Judgment is 
now present and at hand. Then there will be no time to 
argue about that one, or to judge of another, or to do a favor 

1 l Cor. 15.52. 

2 1 Thess. 4.15. 

3 John 5.28,29. 



LETTERS 129 

or offer support to another; then 'everyone shall bear his own 
burden/ 4 and will think about rendering an account of his 
own deeds. And then the mind of the foolish virgins will be 
carried along in its usual way, but it will fail because it will 
find no human praise. For, they did not faithfully say: 'With 
thee is my praise' 5 or 'in the Lord shall my soul be praised, 36 
nor did they glory in the Lord when, not knowing the 
justice of God, they established their own justice. For this 
reason they ask oil of the wise, that is, some consolation, but 
they neither find nor receive it, because the wise answer that 
they do not know whether they have enough even for them- 
selves, according to their own conscience, by which they 
hope for mercy under that Judge, and 'when he shall sit 
upon his throne, who will boast that he has a chaste heart, 
or who will boast that he is pure of sin,' 7 unless 'mercy 
exalteth itself above judgment?' 8 This mercy will be upon 
those who have done the works of mercy with the intention 
of receiving mercy from Him from whom they know that they 
had received what they had, and did not glory as if they had 
not received it, or as if they had in themselves the power to 
please Him. This is what the foolish did, who took pleasure 
in themselves and in the good they did, as if it had originated 
in themselves; who were praised by flatterers and by those in 
error, as if they were something of themselves. c But if any 
man think himself to be something, whereas he is nothing/ 
as the Apostle says, 'he deceiveth himself. But let everyone 
prove his own work, and so he shall have glory in himself 
only, and not in another.' 9 This is to carry oil with oneself, 
not to depend on the praise of another. But, what glory will 

4 Gal. 6.5. 

5 Ps. 21.26. 

6 Ps. 33.3. 

7 Prov. 20.8,9 (Septuagint) . 

8 James 2.13. 

9 Gal. 6.3,4. 



130 SAINT AUGU STINE 

he have in himself, if he does not have Him to whom it is 
said: 'My glory and the lifter up of my head/ 10 so that, as 
we must often repeat: 'he that glorieth, may glory in the 
Lord 3 ? 

Therefore, the wisdom which dwells in the wise virgins, 
according to what was said before, when it spoke to the 
mockers and to those who refuse to receive sound doctrine; 
'I also will laugh in your destruction/ 11 says to the foolish 
virgins: 'Go you rather to them that sell and buy for your- 
selves/ as if to say: ' Where are those who deluded you 
with lying promises, when you also deluded yourselves, 
because you gloried in yourselves and not in the Lord?' But 
it seems to me that these words, * Whilst they went to buy, the 
bridegroom came, and they that were ready went 'in with 
him/ must be understood to mean that they will gape after 
empty glory with a depraved affection of heart, as they 
have pursued it with the pride of a vain mind. And that 
craving is indicated by this saying, 'Whilst they went to buy.' 
But the bridgeroom came and those who were ready went in 
with him to the marriage, that is, those who bore true 
faith and true piety in their hearts, by which they could 
mingle with the number and company of the saints, who 
gloried not in themselves, but in the Lord. Thus they 
could enter with them into that joy of which it is written: 
'Enter into the joy of thy Lord/ 12 where there will be a perfect 
participation in the unchangeable good, of which a kind of 
pledge is now held by faith, so that we may live according to 
this grace in so far as we live to God, not to ourselves. 

10 Ps. 3.4. 

11 Prov. 1.26. 

12 Matt. 25.21. 



LETTERS 131 

Chapter 35 

Then, in what follows: 'At last come also the other 
virgins saying; Lord, Lord, open to us, 3 it is not said 'that 
they had bought the oil, and had so come, for they had not 
the wherewithal, but that they had sought mercy too late, 
when the time of judgment was at hand, and the just were 
to be separated from the unjust. It is right for them to be 
answered: 'Amen, I say to you, I know you not', although, 
doubtless. He that says it knows everything; but this 4 I 
know you not' is the same as 'You know me not, when you 
choose to trust in yourselves, rather than in me.' When we 
say that God knows us, we mean that He bestows on us 
a knowledge of Himself, to make us understand that not even 
our knowing God is to be attributed to ourselves, but that 
we owe such knowledge also to His mercy. Hence, when the 
Apostle said, in a certain passage: 'But now when you know 
God,' he corrected himself and said: 'or rather you are 
known by God,' 1 and what does he want us to understand 
but that He made them know Him? No one, however, 
knows God but he who understands that He is the supreme 
and unchangeable Good which makes us good when we 
share in it; this is expressed at the end of this psalm: They 
shall show forth his justice to a people that shall be born, 
which the Lord hath made,' 2 and also in these words in 
another psalm: 'He made us and not we ourselves.' 3 This 
is not to be taken in the sense of the nature which we have 
as men, for of this nature, as of heaven and earth, and the 
stars and all living creatures, He is likewise the Creator, but 
it is rather to be referred to the Apostle's words : Tor we are 

1 Gal. 4.9. 

2 Ps. 21.32. 

3 Ps. 99.3. 



132 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good deeds, 
which God hath prepared that we should walk in them/ 4 



Chapter 36 

I think that these five questions of yours have been 
adequately answered by this sixth one of mine on which 
I have dwelt at length, which I set before myself, concerning 
the grace of the New Testament, for the sake of which 'the 
Word was made flesh, 31 that is, He who was the Son of 
God became man by taking our nature without giving up 
His own. This He did that we who were men and who 
receive Him might be given power to become the sons of 
God, 2 changed to something better by sharing in the 
unchangeable good, not for our temporal happiness, but for 
our adoption into eternal life, which is the sole happy life. 
I have chosen to go through this prophetic psalm, from its 
first verse, which recalls the Passion, showing how God 
forsakes us, and how in another sense He does not depart 
from us, how He gathers us to Himself for our eternal good, 
sometimes granting us temporal goods, sometimes taking 
them away, according as it is beneficial to us, so that we may 
learn not to cling to them, and thus despise the interior light 
which belongs to the new life hence, also, that psalm 'for 
the morning protection' 3 receives its name as if for the new 
light. We are to learn, too, not willingly to dwell in the 
darkness outside, from which those who do not turn from 
outside to inside are cast into exterior darkness, that we 

4 Eph. 2.10. 

1 John 1.14. 

2 John 1.12. 

3 Ps. 21.1. 



LETTERS , 133 

may not be punished by being associated with the Devil and 
his angels in the outermost damnation. Therefore, under- 
standing it as our pilgrimage, we are crucified in this life, 
stretching out our hands to the breadth of good works, 
and by long-suffering persevering to the end, and having 
our hearts above, 'where Christ is sitting at the right hand of 
God/ 4 and attributing all this not to ourselves but to the 
mercy of Him whose profound judgments weary out everyone 
who peers into them. This is not a vainly fictitious but a 
usefully true breadth and length and height and depth, 
whence we may attain to 'the charity of Christ which 
surpasseth all knowledge, that we may be filled unto all the 
fullness of God.' 5 

Chapter 37 

I know that it was through no fruitless anxiety that I 
wished to take advantage of the question you proposed to 
me, to set before you more completely the grace of the New 
Testament. For, it has many enemies, who are troubled by 
its depth, and who do not wish to attribute to God the 
fact that they are good, but take the credit to themselves. 
And they are not the sort of men to earn your easy scorn, 
but they live temperately, and deserve praise, for their 
good works; they do not believe in a false Christ, as the 
Manichaeans and most other heretics do, but in the same 
true Christ, equal and co-eternal with the Father; they 
believe that He was truly made man and that He has come: 
they look for Him to come again; but they are men, 'not 
knowing the justice of God, and seeking to establish their 
own.' It was not without reason that the Lord, when He 
spoke of those who went in with Him to the marriage, and 

4 Col. 3.1,2. 

5 Eph. 3.18,19. 



134 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

those whom He shut out, and to whom He answered: e l 
know you not, 3 said that both sets were virgins because of 
their continence, and they were five because they had subdued 
the concupiscence of the flesh, endowed with its fivefold 
appeal to the senses; that both sets were furnished with 
lamps because of the very high praise gained by their good 
works and their good conversation in the sight of men; and 
that both groups were going out to meet the bridegroom 
because of the expectation with which the coming of Christ 
is hoped for. Nevertheless, He calls some wise and some 
foolish because the wise took oil with them in their vessels, 
but the foolish did not take any with them; He shows that 
they are alike in so much and unlike in this one detail; in 
this respect alone He gives them different and contrary 
names. 

What, then, is so clearly joined as virgins and virgins, 
five and five, furnished with lamps, going out to meet the 
bridegroom, both these and those? And what so contrary 
as wise and foolish? Obviously, the distinction is that these 
took oil in their vessels, that is, they carry in their hearts an 
understanding of the grace of God, knowing that no one 
can be continent except God gives it, thinking that this also 
is a point of wisdom to know whose gift it is; 1 whereas those 
did not give thanks to the Giver of all good things, but 
'became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was 
darkened, and professing themselves to be wise/ 2 they became 
foolish. Certainly, we must not despair of them before we 
sleep, but, if they so slept when that cry was made, 
announcing that the bridegroom was at hand, and if upon 
awaking, that is rising up, they remained outside, not because 
they are not virgins, but because, not knowing whence they 
have what they are, they are foolish virgins, they wiE 

1 Wisd. 8.21. 

2 Rom. 1.21,22. 



LETTERS 135 

deserve to be shut out because they do not bring with them 
the love of interior grace. 

Therefore, when you meet such persons, do not let them 
urge on you the emptiness of their vessels, but do you 
rather urge fullness on them. Hence, the Apostle says: c lf 
any man think that he knoweth anything, he doth not yet 
know as he ought to know,' and making clear at once what 
he has said, he goes on and says: 'But if any man love God, 
the same is known by him.' 3 He did not intend to say 'He 
knows him, 3 but, by saying c he is known by him, 3 he wished to 
convey to us more emphatically that our loving Him comes to 
us from Him. For, 'the charity of God is poured forth in our 
hearts/ not by ourselves, but 'by the Holy Spirit who is 
given to us.' 4 But that man must necessarily love God too 
little who thinks that this good effect comes from himself, 
not from God. For, how could it be that such a one should 
glory not in himself, but in the Lord? 5 He who glories 
in being good ought to glory in Him through whom he has 
become good ; thus, if anyone thinks that he has become good 
by his own effort, it is inevitable that he should glory in 
himself, not in the Lord. But, the whole object of the grace 
of the New Testament, by which we raise our hearts on high, 
because 'every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, 6 
is to keep us from being ungrateful, while the effect of the act 
of thanksgiving is that he who glories should glory in the 
Lord. 

To my way of thinking, you have quite a lengthy book., but 
not a useless one. Love to read the sacred letters, and you 
will not find many things to ask of me. By reading and 
meditating, if you pray wholeheartedly to God, the Giver 
of all good things, you will learn all that is worth knowing, 

3 1 Cor. 8.2,3. 

4 Rom. 5.5. 

5 1 Cor. 1.31. 

6 James 1.17. 



136 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

or at least you will learn more under His inspiration than 
through the instruction of any man. Although we approve 
the master who admonishes us from without, with that same 
unerring judgment, what other master than that interior 
light do we recognize as our own? 



141. Silvanus 1 the Elder, Valentinus, Aurelius, Innocentius, 

Maximinus, Optatus, Augustine, Donatus and the 

other Bishops from the Council of Zerta 2 to the 

Donatists (June 14, 412) 

As the rumor has been coming to our ears, with increasing 
frequency, of your bishops telling you that the judge 3 was 
bribed to pronounce sentence against you, that you are ready 
to believe it, and therefore many of you are refusing to submit 
to the truth, we have decided, under the compulsion of the 
charity of the Lord, to bring to your attention this written 
account of our council, in order to warn you that your fellow 
sectaries, defeated and proved wrong, are spreading these lies 
among you. In their own formal acceptance, which they drew 
up before the Conference, and legalized by their names and 
signatures, they spoke of us as betrayers, and said we were 

1 Silvanus: primate of Numidia; Valentinus: abbot at Hadrumetum 
(cf. Letters 214,215) ; Aurelius: Archbishop of Carthage; Innocentius: 
a Numidian bishop; Maximinus: a converted Donatist, Bishop of 
Sinitus; Optatus: a Numidian bishop (cf. Letter 202) ; Donatus: a 
Numidian bishop, not the founder of Donatism. 

2 Identified by some with Cirta or Constantina, but by others believed 
to be another town. The Numidian bishops met here in the year 
after the Conference of Carthage, and drew up this letter to inform 
the Donatist laity of the true results of the Conference. The Letter 
is a compendium of the treatise Ad Donatistas post Collationem, or 
De unitate. One of the results of this Council of Zerta was the return 
of the people of Cirta to the Church. 

3 Marceilinus, who had been appointed arbiter at the Conference o 
Carthage, and had given a decision against the Donatists. Cf. Letter 
135. 



LETTERS 137 

their persecutors, 4 but they were unmasked and convicted of 
the most flagrant falsehood and deceit, when, in their 
eagerness to boast of the great number of their fellow bishops, 5 
they included the names of several who were absent, and 
even inserted the name of one who was dead. When an 
inquiry was made of his whereabouts, they were so dumb- 
founded by sudden embarrassment that they stated that he 
had died during his journey, and when they were asked how 
he was then able to sign his name at Carthage, they were 
even more violently confused, and entangled themselves 
in another lie by answering that he had died on the way home 
from Carthage. They were not able to evade this lie at all. 
These are the people you believed, either about the ancient 
story of betrayal, or about the bribery of the judge; while 
charging us with betrayal, they could not sign their own 
agreement without being involved in deceit. We have, there- 
fore, thought it urgently necessary to include in this letter 
some selected facts in the form of a summary, lest you might 
not be able to have access to the great volumes of records, or 
might think it was too much trouble to read them. 

We came to Carthage, your bishops and we, and we met 
together something which yours had been refusing to do, 
saying that it was beneath their dignity. Seven representatives 
were chosen on each side, yours and ours, to speak in the name 
of all. Seven others on each side were chosen to act as advisers, 
when the need should arise. Then, four on each side were 
named to watch over the writing of the records, so that no one 
could say they had been tampered with in any way. Besides 
that, four stenographers were allotted from each side, by us 
and by them, to take their turns, two and two, with the 

4 Cf. Letter 129. 

5 They had wanted to have all their bishops present at the Conference, 
hoping to overawe the arbiter, Marcellimis, by force of numbers, but 
the preliminary agreement called for delegates only from each side. 



138 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

judge's secretaries, so that no one of us could allege that he 
had said something which had not been taken down. In 
addition to these great precautions, it was agreed that we and 
they should sign our names to what we said just as the judge 
did, so that no one could say that anything in those records 
had been changed afterward. When those same records have 
been published in all the places where they should be 
published, while those who signed them are still alive, then, 
indeed, the truth will be confirmed to our descendants and 
will endure. Do not, then, be ungrateful to the great mercy of 
God, which has been exercised toward you by that care; no 
excuse is now left to you, but the hearts of the men who resist 
this clear evidence of truth are hard and diabolical beyond 
measure. 

Look, now, at the bishops of your sect, whom all had 
chosen to speak in the name of all, trying with might and 
main, to prevent the hearing of the case, which had brought 
to Carthage such a great number of bishops on both sides, 
from all over Africa, and from such faraway places. While 
every soul was waiting in suspense to see what was to be 
discussed in the great assembly, they insisted vehemently that 
nothing should be discussed. What other reason was there 
for this except that they knew they had a bad case, and they 
could not doubt that they would easily be beaten if it came to 
a trial? This very disposition of theirs, which feared to let the 
case be tried, showed that they had already lost it. If they had 
got what they wanted, that the conference should not be held, 
and that the truth should not be brought out by our argu- 
ments, what answer were they to give you when they returned 
from Carthage? What proofs would they bring? I imagine they 
were going to produce the minutes of the meeting and say to 
you: 'We insisted on the case not being tried; they insisted on 
its being tried. You are waiting to see what we accomplished. 
Here it is; read where we carried the day against them, that 



LETTERS 139 

we should not take up the case.' Probably you would answer, 
if you had sense: 'You will drop the case to give them an 
advantage?' or, rather: 'Why did you come back if you 
accomplished nothing?' 

Finally, when they failed to carry what they had attempted, 
namely, to prevent the case from being heard, the trial itself 
showed what they feared when they were beaten on every 
count. For they admitted that they had nothing to say against 
the Catholic Church, which is spread throughout the whole 
world, because they were overwhelmed by the divine tes- 
timony of the holy Scriptures, which describe how the 
Church, beginning from Jerusalem, increased throughout 
the places in which the Apostles preached. 6 They also wrote 
the names of those same places in their Epistles and Acts, and 
from there the Church spread among other nations. Against 
that 'Church they admitted openly that they had no case, and 
there our victory in God's Name was most evident. For, when 
they agree to the Church with which we are in communion, 
but they are manifestly not, they testify that they were long ago 
beaten; they make known to you very openly, if you are wise, 
what you ought to give up and what to hold, not in that state 
of falsity, in which they do not shrink from lying to you even 
now, but in that truth which they have been forced by defeat 
to confess. 

Whoever, therefore, shall be separated from this Catholic 
Church by this single sin of being severed from the unity 
of Christ, no matter how estimable a life he may imagine he is 
living, shall not have life, but the anger of God rests upon him. 
On the other hand, whoever lives a good life in this Church 
suffers no harm from the sins of others, because, as the Apostle 
says: 'Everyone shall bear his own burden,' 7 and, whoever in 
it eateth the Body of Christ 'unworthily, eateth and drinketh 

6 Luke 24.47. 

7 Gal. 6.5. 



140 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

judgment to himself ; 8 for the Apostle himself also wrote this. 
Thus, when he says c eateth judgment to himself,' he shows 
plainly that he does not eat judgment to another, but to him- 
self. This we have treated of, and proved and held, that the 
communion of the wicked does not defile anyone else by his 
participation in the sacraments, but by his consent to the 
evil deeds. But, if no one consents to his evil deeds, the evil 
man carries his own case and plays his own part; he does not 
harm any other, unless he has this one as a partner in his 
guilt by consent to the evil deed. 

They were even forced to agree to this in the most open 
terms, not at the time when we were discussing these matters, 
but later, when another point was being treated. For, when 
we had come to the case of Caecilian, 9 which we distinguished 
from the case of the Church, so that, if he were found in the 
wrong, we could condemn him without thereby leaving the 
Church, since he could not harm the Church by his own bad 
case as I said, when we had come to that case of Caecilian, 
and they had read of the Council of Carthage, 10 where they 
read aloud the verdict of seventy bishops, more or less, passed 
against the absent Caecilian, we answered them that that 
council of bishops did not harm the absent Caecilian any 
more than one of even more bishops of the Donatist sect 11 
harmed the absent Primian, 12 when one hundred bishops, 
more or less, condemned him in the case of Maximian, 13 
When the case of Maximian was mentioned, for they knew 
that they had received back with unimpaired rank those 
whom they had condemned, and that they had accepted as 
genuine the baptism administered in the sacrilegious schism 
of Maximian, and had not invalidated it, and that in their 

8 1 Cor. 11.29. 

9 Cf. Letters 105,108. 

10 Held by a dissident faction in 311. 

11 This Council of the Maximianists was held at Cabarsu in 395. 

12 Cf. Letter 108. 



LETTERS 141 

own decree at Bagai 14 in which they had condemned them 
they had given a period of grace to several who were involved 
in that schism, and had said that the sacrilegious twigs of 
Maximian did not corrupt the young trees to resume, when 
that case struck their ears, they were frightened and disturbed, 
and, forgetting the objection they made to us before, they im- 
mediately said ; 'One case does not bring guilt on another, nor 
one person on another. 5 Then by their words they strengthened 
what we had been saying previously about the Church, that 
neither the Church overseas, against which they admitted they 
had nothing to say, nor even the Catholic Church in Africa, 
which is joined to the former by the bond of unity, could be 
injured by the case and person of Maximian, whatever kind 
of man he was: if Maximian who condemned Primian with 
his followers, if even Felician 15 who condemned Primian at 
the same time, and afterward was condemned with Primian 
as a partisan of the Donatist sect does not bring guilt on the 
Donatist sect, into which he was received back as a bishop, 
as he had been before; and if even Maximian, with his 
partisans, does not bring guilt on those to whom they gave 
a period of grace, saying that they were not defiled by the 
ones with whom they had been, then one case does not 
bring guilt on another, nor one person on another. 

What more, then, do you want? They filled the records with 
many useless words, and, since they did not succceed in 
preventing the case from being heard, by speaking at length 
they accomplished this one object, that of making it hard to 
read what was decided. But these few words of theirs ought to 
be enough to keep you from hating the unity of the Catholic 
Church, because, as they said, handed down and signed, one 
case does not bring guilt on another, nor one person on 

14 The Council of Bagai was held in 394. 

15 One of the consecrators of Maximian, who was received back by the 
Donatists without loss of rank. 



142 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

another. For, in that very case of Caecilian, which, although 
the cause of the Church was not involved in it, we under- 
took to defend, so as to unmask even there their lying charges, 
they were very evidently defeated, and were able to prove 
none of the charges which they alleged against Caecilian. Be- 
sides that, we brought out the episcopal records on the 
question of the charges of betrayal, and from them we read 
that several of those bishops who had pronounced sentence 
against the absent Caecilian had themselves been proved 
betrayers. They had no answer to make against the records, 
so they said they were forged but they had no way of proving 
that. 

In addition to that they admitted, or, rather, made it a 
matter of great glory to proclaim, that it was their predecessors 
who accused Caecilian to Emperor Constantine, and they 
added the lie that he had been condemned by the emperor 
because of their accusations. See now how they have lost their 
case, in the very point in which they are accustomed to spread 
the clouds of error around you, stirring up ill feeling against 
us and making us objects of hatred to you, because we bring 
the cause of the Church before the emperors. And lo ! their 
predecessors, whose names they boast of, brought their case 
before the emperor; they prosecuted their charges against 
Caecilian before the emperor; they said he was condemned! 
Do not let them mislead you with their utterly unfounded and 
deceitful words; enter into your hearts; fear the Lord; reflect 
upon truth; abandon falsehood. Whatever you may have 
suffered thus far as a result of the imperial laws and you 
suffer for your wrong-doing, not for justice' sake you can- 
not say that we are acting unjustly, that you should not have 
been so treated, and that the emperor had no right to restrain 
you from your evil deeds. Your own bishops have admitted 
that they dealt with Caecilian the very way you yourselves do 
not want to be dealt with. Yet, it was a well-known fact, on 



LETTERS 143 

their own admission and deposition, that they prosecuted 
Caecilian before the emperor, but that Caecilian was con- 
demned by the emperor was anything but a well-known fact. 
On the contrary, it was a fact that, when their predecessors 
accused and prosecuted him, he was first cleared twice in 
succession 16 by the bishops, and afterward by the emperor 
himself. They themselves confirmed the truth of this by 
offering such facts later as an argument for their side, but 
the very incidents which they offered were found to be against 
them and were read as a defense of Caecilian. They could 
offer no reliable proofs against any whom they accused, but 
whatever we said in defense of the Church or of Caecilian 
they confirmed as true by their own words and their own 
readings. 

First, they brought out the volume of Optatus, 17 as if they 
could prove from it that Caecilian had been condemned by 
the emperor. But, when this book was read, it turned out to 
be against them and showed, rather, that Caecilian had been 
acquitted; whereupon everybody laughed at them. But, as that 
laugh could not be taken down by the secretaries, they testified 
in their own words in the records that they had been laughed 
at. Then, they brought and read a document presented by 
their predecessors to Emperor Constantine, in which they 
complained that the said emperor was grievously persecuting 
them, and so, by that very document, they showed that they 
had lost their case with the emperor against Caecilian, and 
that what they said was not true : that he had been condemned 
by the emperor. Thirdly, they produced a letter from the same 
Constantine, addressed to his deputy Verinus, in which he 
denounced them severely and said that they should be released 
from exile and delivered to his wrath, because God had now 

16 In trials held at Rome and at Aries. 

17 St. Optatus, Bishop of Milevis, who wrote De schismate Donatistarum 
about 366. 



144 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

begun to avenge Himself on them. Thus, by that very letter of 
the emperor they proved that they had spoken falsely in 
saying that Caecilian was condemned by the emperor, where- 
as the emperor let It be known that they had been worsted 
by Caecilian, seeing that he so vigorously execrated them, 
when he ordered them to be released from exile that they 
might be punished as they had begun to be by the judgment 
of God. 

After this,, they threw the case of Felix of Aptunga 18 into 
the middle of the discussion, saying that the same Felix, by 
whom Caecilian was ordained, had been a betrayer, and they 
produced a letter from the same Emperor Constantine which 
was in Caecilian's favor and against them in which he 
wrote to the governor ordering Ingentius 19 to be sent to his 
court. But the same Ingentius had confessed at the hearing 
held by the governor, Aelian, 20 that he had committed a 
calumnious act against Felix, the ordainer of Caecilian. 
Thereupon, they said that the reason why the emperor had 
wanted to have Ingentius sent to him was because the case of 
Caecilian at that point depended on his testimony, and they 
tried to introduce the vainest kind of conjecture, to the effect 
that, after Ingentius had been escorted to the imperial court, 
the emperor proceeded to give judgment against Caecilian, 
and that by his later verdict he thereby revoked that sentence 
which we had read, in which he had decided between the 
contending parties, and had exonerated Caecilian. They were 
told to read the document containing this, and, of course, 
they had nothing to show. But that letter of the emperor which 
they had quoted as being against them and for Caecilian 
contains this statement: that Aelian, the governor, held a 

18 Cf. Letters 43,88,93. 

19 Confessed writer of the forged letter supposed to prove the guilt of 
Caecilian. 

20 Proconsul or governor of Numidia, deligated by the emperor to 
examine the Donatist charges against Felix. 



LETTERS 145 

legal hearing on the case of Felix, and made it clear that the 
same Felix was innocent of the charge of betrayal, but that 
he ordered Ingentius to be transferred to his own court, so 
that he might be able to appear and to make known to those 
who were there, and who kept interrupting him day after day, 
that it was useless for them to try to rouse hatred against 
Caecilian, and to stir up such violence against him. 

Would anyone believe that they actually quoted those 
passages favoring us and damaging themselves, if it were not 
that almighty God brought it about by His design so that 
not only should their words be included in the records, but 
even the signatures of those who signed should be read 
there? If anyone looks carefully at the succession of consuls 
and dates, as it is set down in the records, he will find, first 
of all, that Caecilian was acquitted by the verdict of the 
bishops. Next, the case of Felix of Aptunga was examined by 
the governor, Aelian, not long after this, and it was stated 
that he was innocent. In this case, Ingentius was summoned 
to the imperial court, and a long time afterward the emperor 
himself decided between the contending parties, and made an 
end of it. In that investigation he judged Caecilian innocent 
and his accusers perjurers. In that succession of consuls and 
dates it is clearly shown that they spoke falsely when they 
said that the emperor had changed his verdict after sum- 
moning Ingentius to court, and that he afterward condemned 
Caecilian whom he had previously acquitted. But they were 
able to quote nothing to this effect; on the contrary, they 
read much that was damaging to themselves, and they are 
clearly proved wrong by the succession of consuls, which 
shows that the case of Felix was concluded by the proconsular 
verdict, in which Ingentius was summoned to the court, and 
that it was not after a short interval, but a long time, that 
Caecilian was cleared at the hearing held by the said emperor 
between the contending parties. 



146 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

Let them not tell you, then, that we bribed the judge. 
What else do men usually say when they have lost their case? 
But, if we did not give anything to the judge to make him 
decide for us and against you, what did we give them to 
make them not only say but even quote such weighty things 
for us and against themselves? Or do they, perhaps, want us 
to thank them in your presence, because although, according 
to them, we paid the judge, they gave us all that for nothing 
when they both said and read so much that favored us and 
hurt them? Or surely, if they say that they won over us 
because they pleaded the cause of Caecilian better than we 
did, you may confidently believe them in that, for we had 
thought that two quotations were enough for him, but they 
produced four. 

But why burden you with a longer letter? If you are willing 
to believe us, believe, and let us hold together to the unity 
which God commands and loves. If you are not willing to 
believe us, read the records, or allow them to be read to you, 
and prove for yourselves whether what we have written is 
true. But, if you will do neither of these things, and you still 
wish to follow the false teaching of the Donatist sect, convicted 
by the most evident truth, we are guiltless of your punishment, 
and you will repent too late. If you do not despise what God 
offers you, and if, after a case so carefully tried and so 
carefully published, you abandon your accustomed perversity, 
and agree to the peace and unity of Christ, we shall rejoice in 
your conversion, and the sacraments which you possess to your 
damnation in the sacrilege of schism will be helpful and 
salutary to you when you possess your Head, Christ, in the 
Catholic peace, where * Charity covereth a multitude of sins.* 21 

We have written this to you on the fourteenth day of June, 
in the ninth consulship of the most revered Emperor Honorius, 
so that this letter may reach some of you as soon as possible. 

21 Eph. 4.15; 5.23; Col. 1.18; 1 Peter 4.8. 



LETTERS 147 

142. Augustine, bishop, gives greeting in the Lord to the 
beloved lords, his brother priests, Saturninus and 
Eufrata, 1 and the clerics who have been converted 
with you to the unity and peace of Christ (412) 

Your coining has given us joy, but do not let our absence 
cause you sadness. For we are in that Church, which, by the 
favor of God, although spread abroad everywhere, and 
extending throughout the whole world, is nevertheless one 
great body of one great head, and this Head is its very Saviour, 
as the Apostle says. 2 Of the glorification of this Head, which 
was to take place after His resurrection, the Prophet had 
spoken long before: 'Be thou exalted, O God, above the 
heaven,' 3 and because by His exaltation above the heavens 
His Church was destined to fill the whole earth with an 
abundant fruitfulness, the same psalm added immediately: 
'and thy glory above the earth.' Therefore, beloved, with as- 
sured mind and steadfast heart, let us continue to live under 
so lofty a Head in so glorious a body, in which we are 
mutually members. Thus, even if my absence were as far as 
the most distant lands, we should be together in Him, and we 
should never withdraw from the unity of His body. If we 
lived in one house, we should certainly be said to be together; 
how much more are we together when we are together in one 
body ! Truth testifies that we are in one house, since the holy 
Scripture, which says that the Church is the body of Christ, 
likewise says that the same Church is the house of God. 4 

This house is not built in one corner of the world, but over 
the whole earth. Therefore, that psalm in whose title we 
read: *When the house was built after the captivity' begins 

1 The conversion of these Donatist priests was among the fruits of the 
Conference of Carthage. 

2 Eph. 5.23; Col. 1.18. 

3 Ps. 56.12. 

4 1 Tim. 3.15. 



148 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

thus : 'Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle, sing to the Lord all 
the earth. 55 In the oldness of the old man, the Devil had taken 
the world captive, but, when the house is built after the 
captivity, the renewal of the faithful is shown forth in the new 
man. Hence, the Apostle says: Tut off the old man, . . . and 
put on the new man, who is created according to God.* 6 
And because this takes place over the whole earth in Catholic 
unity, as it says in another psalm : 'and thy glory above all the 
earth,' 7 so in this one, when it is said: 'Sing ye to the Lord a 
new canticle,' in order to show when the house is built in 
that new canticle, it adds immediately: 'sing to the Lord all 
the earth/ And the same psalm exhorts the workmen by whom 
so great a house is built when it continues and says: 'Show 
forth his salvation from day to day; declare his glory among 
the gentiles, his wonders among all peoples/ And shortly after, 
it says : 'Bring ye to the Lord, O ye kindreds of the gentiles, 
bring ye to the Lord glory and honor.' 8 

Through these and similar testimonies of this great house, 
which are found in such numbers through the whole of 
Scripture, its enemies have so far given ground as to admit 
that they have nothing against the Church overseas, which 
they nevertheless agree is Catholic. We are in communion 
with this Church, and hence deserve to be joined to the mem- 
bers of Christ, and we embrace the structure of His body 
with a sentiment of most faithful charity. 9 And since he who 
lives a bad life in the unity of this Church 'Eateth and 
drinketh judgment to himself,* 10 as the Apostle says, so, 
when anyone lives a good life there, another's cause, another's 
person bring no guilt upon him, as even they were forced to 

5 PS. 95,1. 

6 Eph. 4.22-24. 

7 Ps. 56.12. 

8 Ps. 95.2,3,7. 

9 Goldbacher indicates a lacuna in the text at this point; the suggested 
emendation has been followed in the translation. 

10 1 Cor. 11.29. 



LETTERS 149 

admit with their own lips when the case of Maximian 11 was 
pressed upon them, because 'one case does not bring guilt 
upon another, nor one person upon another.' 12 Still, we feel 
concern for each other, as members of one body, and those of 
us who belong, by the Lord's help, to the granary in the life 
to come meantime bear with the chaff on the threshing-floor, 
and, because it is destined for the fire at some future time, we 
do not for that abandon the Lord's threshing-floor. 13 

Perform your duties in the Church faithfully and joyfully, 
as they fall to your lot according to your rank, and fulfill 
your ministry 14 with uprightness, because of that God under 
whom we are fellow servants and to whom we understand that 
we shall render an account of our actions. Therefore, the 
bowels of His mercy ought to abound in us, because 'Judg- 
ment without mercy to him that hath not done mercy.' 15 For 
this reason pray with us for those who still cause us sadness, 16 
that the sickness of their carnal mind, intensified and con- 
centrated by long custom, may be healed. 17 For, who does 
not understand 'how good and how pleasant it is for brethren 
to dwell together in unity 318 if that pleasure touches a palate 
from which the mind has spit out all the bitterness of division, 
and which loves the sweetness of charity? The God to whom 
we pray for them is powerful and merciful enough to use any 
sort of occasion to draw them even now to salvation. May the 
Lord preserve you in peace. 

11 Cf. Letter 141. 

12 Ibid. 

13 Matt. 3.12; Luke 3.17. 

14 2 Tim. 4.5. 

15 James 2.13. 

16 Not all the Donatists were converted by the Conference of Carthage, 
and the recalcitrant ones made ample trouble for the Church for 
some time, 

17 There is another lacuna in the text here. The emended version has 
been followed. 

18 Ps. 132.1. 



150 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

143. Augustine gives greeting in the Lord to the excellent lord, 

his deservedly distinguished and very dear son, 

Marcellinus 1 (412) 

I received your letter through the kindness of my holy 
brother and fellow bishop, Boniface, 2 but, when I went to 
look for it to answer it, I could not find it. However, I 
remembered that you asked in it how, when all the water of 
Egypt was turned into blood, the magicians of Pharao found 
any with which they could do in like manner. 3 This difficulty 
is usually solved in two ways. They did it either because some 
sea water could be brought, or, what is more likely, because 
in that part of the country where the children of Israel were 
those plagues did not take place. In certain passages of that 
Scripture 4 this is very clearly expressed, and it warns us what 
is to be understood even when it is not expressed. 

That letter of yours which the priest Urban 5 brought has 
in it a question drawn, not from the sacred books, but from 
my own, which I wrote on the freedom of the will. 6 On 
questions of this sort I do not expend much effort, because, if 
my opinion cannot be defended by pure reason, it is still mine, 
not that of an Author whose meaning it is forbidden to 
censure, even though, by failing to understand it, one holds an 
opinion which is worthy of censure. Therefore I admit that I 
try to be of the number of those who write by advancing in 
knowledge, and advance by writing. Consequently, if I have 
set down anything with insufficient care or knowledge which 
is objected to, not only by others who are able to see it, but 

1 Cf. Letters 133, 136, 138. 

2 Bishop of Cataqua. 

3 Exod. 730-22. 

4 Exod. 8^2; 9.4; 10.23; 11.7. 

5 A disciple of Augustine who afterward became Bishop of Sicca. 

6 De libero arbitrio; begun at Rome in 888 and finished between 891 
and 395 in Africa. In Letter 31 Augustine mentions having sent a 
copy to St. Paulinus at Nola. 



LETTERS 



151 



also by me, because I, at least, ought to see it afterward if I 
advance in learning, this should not be a matter of surprise or 
chagrin, but of excuse and congratulation, not because a 
mistake has been made, but because it has been censured. For, 
anyone who is willing for others to remain in error so as to 
conceal his own error is guilty of a most perverted form of 
self-love. How much better and more advantageous for him 
when he has made a mistake, if others whose warning frees 
him from error are themselves free from error. If he will not 
accept that, at least let him not have companions in his error ! 
If God grants me what I wish, that I may collect and point 
out in some work drawn up for that purpose everything that, 
with the best of reasons, displeases me in all my books, then 
men will see that I am not a respecter of my own person. 7 

But if you who love me so much set me up before those by 
whose ill will or inexperience or understanding I am blamed, 
in such wise as to say that I have not gone wrong anywhere 
in my books, you are wasting your effort. You have not under- 
taken a good cause, and you are easily overcome in it by my 
own verdict, because I take no pleasure in being thought by 
my dearest friends to be such as I am not. Obviously, they 
do not love me, but another in my stead and under my name, 
if they love, not what I am, but what I am not. For, in so 
far as they know me or believe the truth about me, I am 
loved by them, but in so far as they attribute to me what they 
do not perceive in me, and what is not true, then it is not 
I but some unknown other who is loved by them. Con- 
sequently, if you at least know that it is my custom, when 
I say something demeaning about myself, not to say it 
insincerely, you know that I am not such a one as they praise. 
Tully, 'the greatest author in the Roman language,' 8 said of 
someone that he never uttered a single word which he wished 

7 Acts 10.34. 

8 Lucan, PharsaL 7.62,63. 



152 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

to take back. This may indeed sound like perfect praise, but 
it is more likely to be true of a perfect fool than of a perfect 
sage. Those who are commonly called arrant fools, the 
more they depart from common sense and the more ridiculous 
and foolish they are, the less they are willing to take back any 
words which they have ever uttered, because it is certainly 
characteristic of the sagacious to regret a wrong, a foolish or 
an unseemly utterance. But, if we are to take this at its true 
worth, so as to believe that anyone was always to speak 
wisely and never to utter a word which he would be willing 
to take back, this must be believed with wholesome respect 
of the men of God, who have spoken under the impulse of 
the Holy Spirit rather than of him whom Cicero thus praised. 
I am so far from that perfection that, if I have uttered no 
word which I would be willing to take back, I am more like 
a fool than a sage. Truly, his writings are of the highest and 
most respected authority who has never uttered a word which 
he ought, rather than wished, to take back. Whoever has not 
yet attained this should have the second quality of modesty 
since he could not have the first of wisdom; since he could 
not speak so carefully as not to say anything regrettable, let 
him regret what he recognizes should not have been said. 

Since, then, it is not true, as some of my dearest friends say, 
that I have said no words, or few, but rather many, perhaps, 
as even my critics think, which I would prefer to take back if I 
could, that quotation from Cicero, in which he said: 'He 
never uttered a word which he wished to take back/ is no 
compliment to me, but that sentiment of Horace causes me 
real pain: 'The word once released cannot return.' 9 That is 
why I am keeping back my books, full of most searching 
questions on Genesis and the Trinity, longer than you wish 
or endure, so that, if it is impossible for them not to have 
some mistakes which can rightly be censured, at least they may 

9 Ep. 2.3.390. 



LETTERS 153 

have fewer than they could have if they were published in- 
considerately and with headlong haste. But you, as your letters 
show for my holy brother and fellow bishop, Florentius, 10 
wrote me this are pressing for their publication on the 
ground that I could defend my views during my life time, in 
case they were attacked either by stinging enemies or, perhaps, 
by unintelligent friends in certain quarters. But you say this, 
of course, because you do not think there is in them anything 
which could be called in question for any good reason; 
otherwise you would not be urging me to publish them, but 
to carry out a more careful revision. But I look rather to 
judges who are true and truthfully sincere, among whom I 
wish to include myself first of all, and my aim is that only 
those censurable passages may come to their notice which 
could escape my notice in spite of my careful scrutiny. 

In view of that, let them take note of what is expressed in 
Book 3 of Freedom of the Will, when I was treating of rational 
substance, and where I said: c ln lower bodies, the soul so 
disposed after sin rules its body not entirely in accord with the 
will, but as the laws of nature allow.' 11 But let those who 
think that I settled or decided as certain anything about the 
human soul, as that it comes from the parents through their 
offspring, or that it sinned in the acts of an earlier and 
heavenly life and so deserved to be shut up in a corruptible 
flesh, let them observe that my words were so carefuEy 
weighed that with the exception of this, which I hold as 
certain, that after the sin of the first man other men have 
been and are born in the flesh of sin, and that the likeness of 
sinful flesh came upon the Lord for the cure of the flesh 
all those words are so chosen as not to prejudge any of the 
four opinions which I afterward set apart and analyzed, not 
asserting the truth of any of them, but meantime by a separate 

10 Bishop of Hippo Diarrhytus, In the proconsular province of Africa. 

11 De lib. arb. 3.11.34. 



154 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

discussion, as I was carrying it on, deciding that, whichever of 
them should be true, God should unquestionably be praised. 

For, whether all souls are generated from that first one, or 
whether they come into existence individually in each person, 
or whether they are created outside and introduced after- 
ward, or whether they are plunged into bodies spontaneously, 
without doubt, that rational being, that is, the nature of the 
human soul in bodies of a lower order, namely earthly ones, 
being disposed after sin, which means the sin of the first man, 
rules its body in the meantime not entirely in accord with the 
will. I did not say 'after its sin, 5 or 'after it had sinned,* but 
I said, 'after sin, 5 so that if possible, whatever reason, after 
discussion, should pronounce, whether its sin or the sin of its 
parents in the flesh, what I said might be understood as 
correct. 'After sin, the soul disposed in bodies of a lower 
order rules its body not entirely in accord with the will' 
because 'the flesh lusteth against the spirit,' 12 and 'we do 
groan, being burdened, 513 and 'the corruptible body is a load 
upon the soul,' 14 who can detail all the miseries of carnal 
weakness? But this wi^Ji certainly not be so when 'this 
corruptible' shall 'put on incorruption,' 15 so that 'this which 
is mortal may be swallowed up in life. 516 Then, indeed, the 
spiritual body will rule entirely in accord with the will; now, 
it does not do so entirely, but according as the laws of nature, 
to which it is subject, allow it; and so bodies are born and 
die, grow and grow old. 17 But the soul of that first man, before 
sin, ruled his body in accord with the will, though it was not 
yet a spiritual but an animal body. But, after sin, that is, after 
sin had been committed in that flesh, and flesh was thereafter 
begotten in sin, the rational soul is so disposed in bodies of a 

12 Gal. 5.17. 

13 2 Cor. 5.4. 

14 Wisd. 9.15. 

15 Cf. 1 Cor. 55.54. 

16 2 Cor. 5.4. 

17 Sallust, Jug. 2.3. 



LETTERS 155 

lower order that it does not rule its body entirely in accord 
with the will. But, if they do not yet agree about babies who 
have not yet committed any sins of their own, it is still true 
that the flesh is the flesh of sin, because, when they are 
baptized, the remedy required for its cure is 'the likeness of 
sinful flesh, 318 and so they have nothing in these words of 
ours to rouse their anger. It is quite evident, if I am not 
wrong, that the same flesh, even if its weakness derives from 
its nature and not from sin, only began to be begotten after 
sin, because Adam was not so created and he did not beget 
anyone before his sin. 

Let them, then, seek out other points which they can 
criticize with good reason, not only in other works too hastily 
published, but even in this very work of mine on free will. 
I do not deny that they will find something, and they will 
do me a favor, since I certainly can be corrected as long as 
I live, even if those of my books which have gone out into so 
many hands cannot. The only ones who have a right to 
criticize these words, which I have so carefully phrased as 
not to give assent to any of those four opinions or arguments 
about the origin of the soul, are those who think that this same 
delay of mine in a matter so obscure should also be criti- 
cized. I do not defend my position against them, namely, that 
I am doing the right thing in taking my time over this 
question, because I have no doubt at all that the soul is 
immortal, not as God is, 'Who only hath immortality,' 19 but in 
a certain way according to its own nature, and that it is a 
created being, not the substance of the Creator: this I hold 
most firmly, as well as all other truths about the nature of the 
soul. But, as it is the uncertainty of this very dark question 
about the origin of the soul which forces me to act thus, let 
them rather hold out a helping hand to me, as I admit my 
ignorance and my desire to know what the truth is, and let 

18 Horn. 8.3. 

19 1 Tim. 6.16. 



156 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

them teach me, if they can, or show me what they have either 
learned by reliable reasoning or have come to believe on the 
authority of unmistakable divine revelation. 

Note carefully what I say by way of example. Near the end 
of the Book called Ecclesiastes there is a passage about the 
dissolution of man, brought about by that death through 
which the soul is separated from the body, where the Scripture 
says: 'And let the dust return into its earth, as it was, and 
the spirit return to God who gave it.' 20 This authoritative 
statement is unquestionably true and leads no one into error, 
but, if anyone wished to interpret it so as to try to defend the 
view that there was a posterity of souls, and that all the 
subsequent ones come from that one which God gave to the 
first man, this passage seems to support him, because flesh is 
there spoken of as dust obviously, dust and spirit mean 
nothing else in this passage than flesh and soul and in that 
way it declares that the soul returns to God, as if it might be 
a sort of branch, cut from that soul which God gave to the 
first man, just as the flesh is returned to the earth, since it is an 
offshoot of that flesh which in the first man was fashioned of 
the earth. Thus, he might contend from this that we ought to 
believe something which is not known about the soul, but is 
perfectly well known about the body. There is no doubt about 
the propagation of the flesh, but there is about the soul. Both 
these ideas are expressed in this testimony: that each is re- 
turned to its source in a similar way, that is, let the flesh 
return to the earth as it was' for it was taken from the earth 
when the first man was made and 'the spirit return to God 
who gave it, 5 since 'He breathed into the face of the man 
whom he had fashioned, the breath of life and man became 
a living soul,' 21 so that thereafter from each principle the 
offshoot of each should be derived. 

20 Eccle, 12.7. The Douay version has 'into the earth whence it came/ 

21 Gen. 2.7. 



LETTERS 157 

However, if that view is the true one, that souls are not 
propagated from the first one, but are created elsewhere and 
given by God individually to each individual, it is also con- 
sistent with this statement: 'let the spirit return to God who 
gave it.' Thus, the two remaining opinions seem to be 
excluded, because, if each man's individual soul comes into 
being when he is created, it does not seem as if the passage 
ought to say: 'let the spirit return to God who gave it,' but: 
'to God who made it, 5 for 'gave' sounds as if it were some- 
thing outside which could be given. Besides, in the expression, 
'return to God,' some do violence to the word and force it by 
saying: 'How can it return to a place where it never before 
was?' They claim that it ought to say : 'Let it go to God,' or 
'proceed or travel to God,' rather than 'return to God,' if we 
are to believe that it never was there before. Likewise, it is 
not easy to explain how the soul is plunged spontaneously into 
the body when it is written : 'He gave it.' For this reason, as 
I said, these two expressions do violence to the words of this 
testimony: the one by which it is thought that each individual 
soul comes into existence in its own body, and the other that 
it is spontaneously plunged into the body. But, as to the other 
two, whether souls come as offshoots of that first one, or were 
created previously and stored up with God and given to each 
body separately, these words are adapted to them without 
effort. 

Nevertheless, if the advocates of this opinion which holds 
that souls come into existence in their individual bodies 
should claim that the words, *God gave it/ are used of the 
spirit, which is here put for soul just as He is correctly said 
to have given us eyes or ears or hands or anything else, which 
members He certainly did not make outside the body and keep 
stored somewhere, so that, when need arose, He could give 
them, that is, add or join them on, but He made them in the 
body to which He is said to give them I do not see how 



158 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

they are to be answered unless some other evidence is pro- 
duced, or some reasoning developed to refute it. Likewise, 
those who think that souls spread spontaneously into bodies 
take the words, fi God gave it,' in the sense in which it says: 
'God gave them up to the desires of their heart. 322 Therefore, 
one word is left, the one which says: let it return to God'; 
that is, how 'return' is to be understood, of something which 
was not there before, if souls come into existence separately 
in their own bodies. Thus, that one of the four opinions is 
hampered by this word alone. Still, I do not think that this 
opinion is to be rashly rejected because of that one word, 
because it might be possible to show by another turn of speech 
commonly used in the holy Scripture that this also can be 
said in the sense that the created spirit returns to its author by 
whom it was created, but not as if it had originally been with 
Him. 

I have written this so that, if anyone wishes to support and 
defend any of those four theories about the soul, he should 
either offer such passages from the Scriptures, vouched for by 
the authority of the Church, as cannot be subject to different 
interpretations, as for example, that God made man, or else 
he should prove it by an argument so strong that no con- 
tradiction could arise, or, if it did, would deserve to be rated 
as madness. Such an argument is made when someone says 
that none but a living being can recognize truth or fall into 
error. We do not need the authority of Scripture to see how 
true this is; common sense itself pronounces it true by trans- 
parent reason, and anyone who would contradict it would be 
known for a complete madman. If anyone can furnish this 
sort of argument in this very intricate question, let him help 
in my ignorance, but if he cannot let him not blame my delay. 

Concerning the virginity of holy Mary, if what I wrote does 
not convince you that it could happen, then all the miraculous 

22 Rom. 1.24. 



LETTERS 159 

happenings which occur in bodies are subject to denial But, 
if the reason for not believing it is that it happened only once, 
ask your friend, 23 who is still exercised about this, whether 
there is no incident in profane literature which happened only 
once and yet is believed, not as a mythical tale, but as the claim 
of historic truth. Ask him, please. If he says no such incident 
can be found in literature, he needs correction; if he admits it, 
the question is answered. 

144. Augustine, bishop, to the citizens of Cirta, 1 his deservedly 

cherished, dear and longed-for brothers of every 

rank (412) 

It is God's work, not ours, that the cause of our deep grief 
in your city has been removed, the hardness of the human 
heart, resistant to the most evident, and, so to speak, most 
widely published truth, has been overcome by the power of 
the same truth; that the sweetness of peace is relished, and the 
love of unity no longer dazzles aching eyes, but enlightens and 
strengthens eyes made strong. I would not in any way attribute 
this to human effort, even if the conversion of so great a 
number of people had taken place while I was with you, 
speaking to you and exhorting you. This is His doing, His 
accomplishment, who warns us of external signs of things 
through his ministers, but uses circumstances themselves to 
teach us interiorly through His own activity. However, this 
is no reason for us to be slothful in going to see you, that a 
praiseworthy result in your case was not brought about by us, 
but by Him 6 Who alone doth wonderful things. 52 We ought to 
run much more eagerly to look upon divine works than upon 

23 Volusian; cf. Letter 137. 

1 As a result of the council of bishops held there, or at Zerta (cf. Letter 
141) , as well as of the imperial penal laws, the people returned to the 
Church. 

2 Ps. 71.18. 



160 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

our own, because we, also, if there Is any good in us, are His 
work, not man's, and that is why the Apostle says : 'neither he 
that planteth is anything, nor he that watereth, but God that 
giveth the increase/ 3 

I remember from their literature 4 the incident you write of, 
that Xenocrates, by discoursing on the value of temperance, 
converted Polemon to a quite different life, when he not only 
was a drunkard, but even was drunk at the time. And al- 
though as you have sagely and truly understood, he was not 
won to God, but only freed from his enslavement to gluttony, 
I would not even attribute this improvement wrought in him 
to a human but to a divine agency. For, if there is any good, 
such as beauty and strength and health and the like, in the 
body itself our lowest part this can come only from God 
who made and perfected nature ; how much less possible is it, 
then, for any other to endow the mind with good ! Can human 
madness entertain any more arrogant or ungrateful thought 
than that beauty of body is God's gift to man, but purity of 
mind is man's? This is expressed thus in the book of Christian 
wisdom : As I knew,' it says, 'that I could not otherwise be 
continent, except God gave it, this also was a point of wisdom 
to know whose gift it was.' 5 Therefore, if Polemon, when he 
turned from a dissolute life to one of self-restraint, had 
known whose gift this was, and had cast off his pagan super- 
stitions to worship Him truly, he would have been eminent, 
not only for his continence, but also for his true wisdom and 
his saving reverence. And this would have brought him im- 

3 1 Cor. 3.7. 

4 I.e., pagan literature; cf. Horace Sat 2.3.254; Cicero, De fin. 4,6. Xeno- 
crates (400-316 B.C.) was a disciple of Plato, and succeeded him as head 
of the Academy. Polemon, a dissolute youth of Athens, was returning 
from a night of revelry when he passed the early morning class of 
Xenocrates. He rushed in to make sport of the philosophers, but was 
so touched by the discourse on temperance that he was immediately 
converted from his evil life and lived an austere life as a philosopher. 
He became head of the Academy after Xenocrates. 

5 Wisd. 8.21. 



LETTERS 161 

mortality in the life to come, as well as honor in this life. How 
much less reason have I, then, to credit myself with your own 
conversion and that of your people, which you have just 
reported to me, and which was unquestionably brought about 
by heavenly intervention, without any urging from me, and, 
indeed, when I was not even there ! Recognize the significance 
of this; think it over reverently and humbly. Give thanks to 
God, my brethren, to God; fear God that you may not fall 
away from Him; love Him that you may draw close to Him. 
But, if human love acts secretly to keep some aloof, and 
human respect is a false bond of union among them, let such 
as these take note that the human conscience is an open book 
to God, and that they can neither falsify what He sees, nor 
escape his judgment. And if some are troubled by an 
anxiety about their salvation because of this same question of 
unity, let them force upon themselves this very reasonable 
course of action, as I see it, namely, to believe of the Catholic 
Church that is, the one spread throughout the world the 
testimony of the divine Scriptures rather than the slander of 
human tongues. But, regarding this dissension which has 
broken out among men and, whatever kind of men they 
were, they do not impair the promises of God who said to 
Abraham: 'In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be 
blessed, 36 which was believed as a prophecy when it was heard, 
but is denied in its fulfillment now that it is seen let men 
apply now this very short and, if I am not wrong, this very 
cogent argument : Either that case was tried in an ecclesiastical 
court overseas, or it was not so tried. If it was not so tried, the 
flock of Christ is guiltless throughout all the overseas nations, 
with which flock we rejoice to be in communion; and those 
others 7 are obviously separated from the guiltless by a 

6 Gen. 26.4. 

7 The Donatists. 



SAINT AUGUSTINE 

sacrilegious disruption. If, however, that case was so tried, 
who does not understand, who does not feel, who does not 
see that they are the defeated party In it, and that their com- 
munion is severed from the rest? Let them choose, then, 
whether they prefer to believe the published verdict of the 
ecclesiastical investigators or the mutterings of the defeated 
litigants. Note carefully, as your prudence inclines you to do, 
that against that concisely expressed but easily understood 
dilemma no serious answer can be made; yet Polemon was 
more readily turned away from his drunkenness than they 
from their inveterate error. 8 

Grant me your pardon, honorable sirs, deservedly cherished, 
dear and longed-for brothers, for this letter, which is perhaps 
more lengthy than agreeable, but is still, to my mind, more 
likely to do you good than to flatter you. May God grant the 
desire of both of us that I should go to you. I can find no 
words to express how the intensity of my love enkindles in me 
the longing to see you, but we doubt not that in your kindness 
you do believe this. 

145. Augustine gives greeting in the Lord to the lord, 

Anastasius, 1 his holy and dearly loved brother 

(412 or 413) 

A safe opportunity has arisen of sending greetings to your 
Sincerity, through the reverend servants of God, our brothers, 
Lupicinus and Concordialis, 2 who could give your Charity 
news of what goes on here, even if I did not write. But I know 
how much you love us in Christ, because you also know how 

8 The text indicates a lacuna here, but the meaning of the analogy is 
clear. 

1 He seems to have been a member, or perhaps the abbot of a monastery 
somewhere in Africa. 

2 Probably monks from St. Augustine's monastery. 



LETTERS 163 

much you, in turn, are loved by us in Him, so I do not doubt 
that you might feel sad if you saw them without a letter from 
me, especially as you could not fail to know that they had 
come from here, and were on such intimate terms with us. At 
the same time, I owe you letters, but I am not sure whether 
this is the first time I have answered since I received your 
letter. I have been so entangled and distracted with cares that 
I do not even know that. 

I am most anxious to know how you are, and whether the 
Lord has granted you some rest as far as that is possible on 
this earth since, e if one member glory, all the members re- 
joice with it,' 3 and thus it often happens to us that, by re- 
flecting that some of our brothers enjoy even a brief rest, we 
are refreshed not a little in the midst of our anxieties, as if we 
also were sharing with them the quiet and peaceful life. Yet, 
when troubles multiply in this unstable life, they force us to 
long for eternal rest. Doubtless, the world is more dangerous 
when it flatters than when it afflicts us, and we must be more 
on our guard when it entices us to love it, than when it warns 
and forces us to despise it. For, while everything that is in it is 
'concupiscence of the flesh, and concupiscence of the eyes and 
the pride of life, 54 it is true that even among those who prefer 
spiritual, invisible, and eternal things to such, an attraction for 
earthly pleasures often creeps in and encompasses our duties 
with its allurements. The more things to come are desirable to 
our love, the more things present do violence to our weakness. 
May those who know how to see and lament these things 
deserve to overcome and escape them. The human will is 
utterly unable to accomplish this, without the grace of God, 
because it cannot be called free so long as it is subject to the 
assaults and enslavement of the passions, for *by whom a 
man is overcome, of the same also he is the slave/ 5 and 'If 

3 1 Cor. 12.26. 

4 1 John 2.16. 

5 2 Peter 2.19. 



164 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

the son shall make you free/ says the Son of God Himself, 
'you shall be free indeed.' 6 

Therefore,, the Law, by teaching and commanding what 
cannot be performed without grace, makes known to man his 
own weakness, that this weakness, once made known, may 
seek its Saviour, through whom the will made whole can do 
what in its weakness it cannot do. The Law, therefore, leads 
to faith; faith obtains the outpouring of the Spirit; the Spirit 
spreads charity abroad; charity fulfills the Law. For this 
reason, the Law is called a 'pedagogue,' 7 under whose severe 
threats 'whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be 
saved ; how then shall they call upon him in whom they have 
not believed?' 8 Consequently, that the letter without the 
spirit may not die, 9 the life-giving spirit is given to those who 
believe and who call upon Him, but 'the charity of God is 
p6ured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given to 
us,' 10 in order to accomplish what the same Apostle says: 
'Love is the fulfillment of the law.' 11 Thus, 'the law is good 
for him who uses it lawfully,' 12 but he uses it lawfully who 
understands why it was given, and who takes refuge from its 
threats in the grace which sets him free. If anyone is ungrateful 
to this grace by which the wicked man is justified, as if he 
trusted in his own strength to fulfill the Law, who 'not know- 
ing the justice of God and seeking to establish [his] own, has 
not submitted [himself] to the justice of God,' 13 for him the 
Law becomes not an aid to forgiveness but a bond of sin ; not 

6 John 8.36. 

7 Cf. Gal. 3.24. In antiquity, the pedagogue was not, as today, the 
schoolmaster, but the slave or attendant who accompanied the child 
to school. 

8 Rom. 10.13,14; Joel 2-32. 

9 2 Cor. 3.6. 

10 Rom. 5.5. 

11 Rom. 13.10. 

12 1 Tim. 1.8. 

13 Rom. 10.3. 



LETTERS 165 

that the Law is evil, but because sin, as it is written, brings 
death upon such persons through that which is good. 14 For, 
he sins more grievously under the commandment who knows 
by the commandment the evil of what he does. 

But it is useless for anyone to think that he has triumphed 
over sin when he refrains from sin through fear of punishment, 
because, even though the impulse of the evil passion has not 
been carried into action exteriorly, the evil passion is still the 
enemy within. And who could be held innocent before God 
who would willingly do what is forbidden, if you would 
remove what he fears? Therefore, he is guilty in will who 
would willingly do what it is unlawful to do, but who does 
not do it because he cannot escape punishment. For, so far 
as lies in him, he would prefer that there were no justice to 
forbid and punish sin, and, therefore, if he would prefer that 
there were no justice, who can doubt that he would do away 
with it if he could? How, then, can such an enemy of justice 
be just, who would do away with the obligations of justice, if 
the power were given him, so as not to have to endure the 
threats and penalties of justice? Therefore, he who refrains 
from sin through fear of punishment is an enemy of justice, 
but he will be a friend if he refrains from sin through love of 
justice; then he will truly fear sin. For, he who fears hell does 
not fear to sin, he fears to burn; but the one who hates sin 
itself as he hates hell, he is the one who fears to sin. That same 
'fear of the Lord is holy, enduring forever and ever,' 15 for that 
fear has the torment of punishment, and is not in charity, but 
perfect charity casteth [it] out. 316 Thus, anyone's hatred of sin 
is in proportion to his love of justice, and this is hot the result 
of the Law causing fear by its letter, but by the spirit healing 
through grace. Then, what the Apostle urges is accomplished : 

14 Rom. 7.13. 

15 Ps. 18.10. 

16 1 John 4.18. 



166 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

'I speak a human thing because of the infirmity of your flesh; 
for as you have yielded your members to serve uncleanness 
and iniquity unto iniquity, so now yield your members to 
serve justice unto sanctification.' 17 What is the meaning of c as 
that, so also this,' except that as you were not forced to sin by 
any fear, but by the desire and pleasure of sin itself, so you 
should not be driven to live a good life by the fear of punish- 
ment, but you should be persuaded to it by the attraction 
and love of justice? And this is not yet perfect justice so it 
seems to me but it is, so to speak, a full-grown justice. Not 
without reason would the Apostle have made this preliminary 
statement, C I speak a human thing, because of the infirmity of 
your flesh,' if he had not had something else to say, if they 
could have stood it at that time. For, although corporal 
punishment does not withdraw us from the will to sin, it does 
withdraw us from the act, and no one would readily commit 
sin openly, so as to reveal its unlawful and impure pleasure, 
if he were sure that the torments of vengeance would follow 
at once. Justice, however, is to be so loved that not even 
bodily sufferings should keep us from performing her works, 
and that, even in the hands of cruel enemies, our works may 
shine before men to whom such works can be pleasing, so as 
c to glorify our Father who is in heaven. 518 

Here is the reason why that strong lover of justice cries out: 
'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tri- 
bulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, 
or danger, or the sword? As it is written : For thy sake we are 
put to death all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for 
the slaughter; but in all these things we overcome because of 
him that hath loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor 

17 Rom, 6.19. The Douay version has 'justification' for 'sanctification.' 

18 Matt. 5.16. 



LETTERS 167 

life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things 
to come, nor might nor height nor depth, nor any other 
creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God 
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' 19 Note how he does not 
say in any way: 'Who shall separate us from Christ?' but, 
showing the bond of our union to Christ, he says : 'Who shall 
separate us from the love of Christ?' Therefore, our bond 
of union to Christ is love, not fear of punishment. Then, after 
enumerating the things which seem to have the violence but 
have not the power of separation, he makes his conclusion so 
as to name the same love of God which he had declared of 
Christ. And what is the meaning of 'from the love of Christ,' 
if not 'from the love of justice'? Of Him it is said: Who of 
God is made unto us wisdom and justice and sanctification 
and redemption: that as it is written: he that glorieth may 
glory in the Lord.' 20 Therefore, as that man is most wicked 
whom corporal punishment does not hold back from the 
impure acts of degrading pleasure, so he is most just who is 
not prevented by the fear of corporal pains from the deeds of 
shining charity. 

That love of God, as we ought ever to keep before our 
mind, is 'poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is 
given to us,' 21 so that 'he that glorieth may glory in the 
Lord.' 22 When, then, we feel ourselves poor and lacking in 
this love, we are not, out of our want, to demand His riches, 
but in our prayer we should ask, seek, and knock, 23 so that 
He with whom is the fountain of life may grant us to be 
inebriated with the plenty of his house, and to drink of the 

19 Rom. 5.35-39; Ps. 43.22. 

20 1 Cor. 1.30,31; Jerem. 9.24. 

21 Rom. 5.5. 

22 1 Cor. 1.31. 

23 Luke 11.9. 



168 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

torrent of his pleasure. 24 And we are flooded and quickened 
with this that we may not be overwhelmed with sadness, but 
may even 'glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation 
worketh patience, and patience trial, and trial hope ; but hope 
confoundeth not:' not that we are able to do this of our- 
selves, 'but because the charity of God is poured forth in our 
hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given to us.' 25 

It has given me pleasure to say these things to you, at least 
by letter, since I could not speak to you face to face. This is not 
your fault, because you do not c mind high things, but consent 
to the humble/ 26 but it is because of certain ones who at- 
tribute too much to the human will, 27 which they think is 
able of its own strength to fulfill the Law, once it has been 
given, without any help from the grace of holy inspiration 
about the teaching of the Law. Through their argument the 
weakness of men, wretched and needy as it is, is convinced 
that we ought not to pray lest we enter into temptation; not 
that they dare to say this openly, but, whether they like it or 
not, this conclusion certainly flows from their theory. For, 
what use is there in His saying: 'Watch and pray, that ye 
enter not into temptation,' 28 or what use, when, after this 
exhortation He was teaching us to pray, that He instructed us 
to say: 'Lead us not into temptation/ 29 if this is not to be 
fulfilled by the help of divine grace, but to rest entirely with 
the human will? What more is there to say? 

Greet the brothers who are with you, and pray for us that 
we may be saved by that salvation of which it is said : 'They 
that are in health need not a physician, but they that are ill; 

24 Ps. 55.10,9. 

25 Rom. 5.3-5. 

26 Rom. 12.16. 

27 These were Pelagius and his followers. 

28 Matt. 26.4; Mark 14.38; Luke 22.46. 

29 Matt. 6.13; Luke 11.4. 



LETTERS 169 

for I am not come to call the just but sinners. 530 Pray, then, 
for us that we may be just. This is indeed something which 
man cannot do unless he knows and wishes it; and he will be 
so constantly, if he wishes it fully; but it will not be through 
his own effort that he is able, unless he is healed and helped 
by the grace of the Spirit. 



146. Augustine gives greeting in the Lord to the beloved lord, 
his most-desired brother, Pelagius 1 (about 413) 

I am most grateful to you for being so kind as to gladden 
me with a letter giving me news of your welfare. May the 
Lord reward you with good things, my beloved lord and 
much-desired brother; may you be always blessed in them, 
and may you live forever with the eternal God. Although I do 
not recognize myself in the eulogies of me which the letter of 
your Benignity contains, I cannot be ungrateful for your 
good will toward my insignificance, but I urge you, at the 
same time, rather to pray for me that I may become such, 
by the Lord's help, as you believe I now am. 

May you remain safe and pleasing to the Lord. Remember 
us, beloved lord and much-desired brother. 2 

30 Matt. 9.12,13; Mark 2.17; Luke 5.31,32. 



1 Author of the Pelagian heresy; cf. Letter 140. He was born in Britain, 
lived in Rome during the years 401-409, left at the time o Alaric's in- 
vasion, and went to Africa. Augustine met him at Carthage. His views 
were condemned by the Council of Carthage in 412, after he had left 
for Palestine, from which place he wrote the letter to which this one 
is the answer. Its conciliatory tone shows that Augustine had hopes of 
reclaiming him; but when he used it as part of his defense at the 
Synod of Diospolis, in 415, Augustine had to explain himself. This he 
did in De gestis Pelagii 50-55. 

2 This is written in another hand. 



170 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

147. Augustine to the noble lady, Paulina, 1 greeting (413) 

THE BOOK ON THE VISION OF GOD 

Chapter 1 

Conscious of the debt which I have incurred through your 
request and my promise, devout servant of God, Paulina, I 
ought not to have been so slow in discharging it. For, when 
you asked me to write you something lengthy and detailed 
about the invisible God, and whether He can be seen by bodily 
eyes, I could not refuse lest I affront your holy zeal, but I 
put off the fulfillment of my promise, either because of other 
tasks or because I needed somewhat more time to think over 
what you asked me. But, since it is such a deep subject that it 
becomes more difficult the more one thinks of it not so 
much in what is to be thought and said of it, but in the 
method of persuasion to be used with those who hold 
contrary opinions I decided it was high time to put an 
end to my delay, in the hope that writing rather than post- 
poning it would bring me divine help. Therefore, I think in 
the first place that the manner of life has more effect in this 
kind of research than the manner of speech. Those who have 
learned from our Lord, Jesus Christ, to be meek and humble 
of heart 2 make more progress by meditation and prayer than 
by reading and listening. I do not mean that speech will 
cease to play its part, but when he who plants and he who 
waters have done the duty of their task, he leaves the rest to 
Him who gives the increase, 3 since He made the one who 
plants and the one who waters. 

1 Of this lady, who is called 'religious servant of God/ which seems 
to make her a nun, and 'claiissimaf which points to her being an 
aristocrat, nothing much is known. Fr. Pope (Saint Augustine of 
Hippo) refers to her as St. Paulina, but does not give his source. 

2 Matt. 11.29. 

3 1 Cor. 3.7. 



LETTERS 171 

Chapter 2 

According to the inward man, then, receive the words of 
understanding, for that is renewed day by day, even when 
'the outward man is corrupted,' 1 either by the chastisement of 
abstinence, or by a spell of ill health, or by some mishap, or 
at least by the very onset of age a necessary consequence 
even for those who enjoy good health for a long time. There- 
fore, lift up the spirit of your mind, 'which is renewed unto 
knowledge, according to the image of him that created him/ 2 
where Christ dwells in you by faith, 3 where there is no Jew 
or Greek, bond, free, male or female, 4 where you will not die 
when you begin to be freed of your body, because there you 
did not waste away although weighed down by years. Intent 
on this interior life of yours, take note and see what I say. I 
do not want you to depend on my authority, so as to think 
that you must believe something because it is said by me ; you 
should rest your belief either on the canonical Scriptures, if 
you do not yet see how true something is, or on the truth made 
manifest to you interiorly, so that you may see clearly. 



Chapter 3 

By way of example I shall say something to prepare you 
beforehand for greater certitude, and I will draw it preferably 
from that source from which the task of constructing the 
argument in this subject has been derived. We believe that 
God is seen in the present life, but do we believe that we see 
Him with our bodily eyes, as we see the sun, or with the gaze 
of the mind, as everyone sees himself inwardly, when he sees 

1 2 Cor. 4.16. 

2 Col. 3.10. 

3 Eph. 3.17. 

4 Gal. 3.28; 1 Cor. 12.13; Col. 3.11. 



172 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

himself living, wishing, seeking, knowing or not knowing? 
You yourself, when you have read this letter, recall that you 
have seen the sun with your bodily eyes; you can also see it 
at once, if it is the right time, if you are in a place where the 
sky is in your range of vision, from the direction needed to 
look upon the sun. But to look upon those things which I 
said are beheld by the mind, namely, that you are living, that 
you wish to see God, that you seek this, that you know that 
you are living and wishing and seeking, but you do not know 
in what manner God is seen; to see all these things, I repeat, 
you do not use your bodily eyes, nor do you perceive or look 
for any part of space through which your gaze may travel in 
order to attain to the sight of these things. This is how you 
see your life, will, power of search, knowledge, ignorance 
for it is no despicable part of this kind of sight to see that you 
do not know this, I repeat, is how you see all these things: 
you see them in yourself, you possess them within yourself, 
and, the more simply and inwardly you behold them, the 
more clearly and surely you see them, without any outline of 
figures or brightness of colors. Since, therefore, we do not see 
God in this life either with bodily eyes, as we see heavenly or 
earthly bodies, or with the gaze of the mind, as we see some 
of those things which I have mentioned, and which you most 
certainly behold within yourself, why do we believe that He 
is seen, except that we rest our faith upon the Scripture, where 
we read: 'Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see 
God/ 1 and upon any other writings to this effect with the 
same divine authority? Of this we believe that it is forbidden 
to doubt, and we do not doubt that it is an act of piety to 
believe. 



1 Matt 5.8. 



LETTERS 173 

Chapter 4 

Keep this distinction in mind, then, so that, if I suggest to 
you in the course of my argument that you see something 
with the eyes of the flesh, or perceive it with any other of its 
senses, or recall that you have so perceived it, as colors, noises, 
odors, tastes, warmth are perceived or if we experience any- 
thing else in the body by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or 
touching or that you see it with the gaze of the mind, as you 
see your life, will, thought, memory, understanding, knowl- 
edge, faith or anything else which you perceive mentally, and 
you do not doubt that it is so, not only by believing, but by 
manifestly beholding it; you may conclude that I have 
demonstrated my point. But what I shall not so demonstrate, 
so that it be held as seen and perceived either by bodily or 
mental senses, and if I shall nevertheless say something which 
must of necessity be either true or false, but which seems to 
belong to neither of these categories, it remains only that it 
be believed or not believed. But, if it is supported by the 
evident authority of the divine Scriptures, namely, of those 
which in the Church are called canonical, it must be believed 
without any reservation. In regard to other witnesses or 
evidence which are offered as guarantees of belief, you may 
believe or not, according as you estimate that they either have 
or have not the weight necessary to produce belief. 



Chapter 5 

If we believed none at all of those things which we have 
not seen, that is, have not experienced as being actually 
present either mentally or corporally, or have not learned 



174 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

from holy Scripture, either by reading or hearing of them, 
how could we know of the origin of cities where we never 
have been, such as that Rome was founded by Romulus, or, 
to take more recent events, that Constantinople was founded 
by Constantine? Finally, how could we know what parents 
begot us, or from what fathers, grandfathers, ancestors we 
have sprung? Since we obviously know many things of this 
sort, which nevertheless we have not learned either as present 
to any of our faculties, as the sun and the mental facuHy of the 
will, or on the authority of the canonical writings, as that 
Adam was the first man, or that Christ was born in the flesh, 
suffered and rose again, we know these things on the word 
of others, and we have concluded that their testimony, at 
least in this field of information, is completely trustworthy. 
If we are sometimes led astray in such matters, either by 
believing that something is so when it is not so, or that it is 
not so when it is, we conclude that there is no danger so long 
as the matter is not contrary to that faith on which our 
devotion is founded. This preface of mine raises a question 
not yet formulated, but it forewarns you and others who 
will read these words of the sort of judgment you should 
make, either of my writings or of anyone else's, lest you 
think that you know what you do not know, or rashly believe 
what you have neither perceived by the senses of your body 
or the gaze of your mind upon the evidence of the subject to 
be known, nor learned on the authority of the canonical Scrip- 
tures, as something worthy of belief even though not present 
to the bodily or mental faculties. 



Chapter 6 

Shall we now come to the subject? or is there further need 
of instruction before you read? There are some who think that 



LETTERS 1 75 

the very act which we call belief is the only act of the mind 
when it looks upon something. If that is the case, there is 
something wrong with that preface of ours, in which I made 
the distinction that it is one thing to perceive an object 
through the body, as the sun in the sky, or a mountain, a 
tree, or some physical object on the earth; another, to perceive 
by the gaze of the mind a fact no less evident, as we are in- 
wardly conscious of our own will when we will something, 
or our thought when we think, or our memory when we re- 
member, or any other such experience in the mind without 
the intervention of the body; and, finally, that it is something 
else again to believe what is not present to the bodily or men- 
tal faculties, nor recalled as having been so present, as that 
Adam was created without parents, and that Christ was born 
of a virgin, suffered, and rose again. These events were ac- 
complished in the flesh and certainly could have been seen in 
the flesh, if we had been there, but now they are not present 
to us, as that light is present which is seen by our eyes, or as 
we are now mentally conscious of the will by which we now 
will something. Since this distinction is not false, doubtless 
my forewarning did not contain a distinction phrased with 
too little regard for clearness, as between believing and being 
mentally conscious of something. 



Chapter 7 

What shall we say, then? Is it enough to say that there is 
this difference between seeing and believing, that we see what 
is present and believe what is absent? Perhaps it really is 
enough, if by the word present in this connection we under- 
stand what is an object of our bodily or mental faculties. 
Thus, I see this light by a bodily sense, thus, I am fully aware 
of my will, because these are presented to my mental faculties, 



176 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

and are present within me. However, if anyone whose face 
and voice are present to me should show me his will, that will 
which he shows me would not be an object of my bodily or 
mental faculties; hence, I do not see, I believe, or, if I think 
he is lying, I do not believe, even if it should happen to be 
as he says. Therefore, the things which are not present to our 
faculties are believed if the authority on which they are offered 
seems trustworthy; things which are before us are seen, hence 
they are said to be present to our mental or bodily faculties. 
Although there are five senses in the body seeing, hearing, 
smelling, tasting, touching of these, sight is attributed es- 
pecially to the eyes, but we use this word also of the others. 
Not only do we say 'See, how bright it is,' but also 'See, what 
a noise/ 'See, what a smell, 5 'See, what a taste/ 'See, how hot 
it is.' The fact that I said things not present to the senses are 
believed is not to be understood as meaning that we classify 
among them what we saw at some previous time, and now re- 
member and have a certainty of having seen; for those are 
classified not among the objects of our belief, but as things 
we have seen and therefore known, not because we rest our 
belief on other evidence, but because we remember and 
know without any doubt that we have seen them. 



Chapter 8 

Our knowledge, therefore, consists of things seen and things 
believed. Of the things which we have seen or now see, we 
are our own witnesses, but in those which we believe, we are 
led to our assent by the testimony of others, because, of the 
things which we do not recall having seen, or do not now see, 
we receive indications, either by spoken or written words, or 
by certain documents, and, when these have been seen, the 
unseen things are believed. Not without reason do we say that 



LETTERS 177 

we know not only what we have seen or see, but also what we 
believe, when we yield assent to some fact under the influence 
of suitable evidence or witnesses. Moreover, if it is not inap- 
propriate to say that we also know what we firmly believe, 
this arises from the fact that we are correctly said to see 
mentally what we believe, even though it is not present to 
our senses. It is true that knowledge is attributed to the mind, 
whether the object of its perception and recognition has 
come to it through the bodily senses or through the mind itself, 
and faith itself is certainly seen by the mind, although what is 
believed by faith is not seen. For this reason the Apostle Peter 
says: 'In whom also now, though you see him not, you 
believe/ 1 and the Lord Himself said: 'Blessed are they that 
have not seen and have believed.' 2 



Chapter 9 

When, then, a man is told: 'Believe that Christ rose from 
the dead/ if he believes, notice what he sees, notice what he 
believes, and distinguish between them. He sees the man 
whose voice he hears, and that same voice is included among 
the objects of the bodily senses, according to what we said 
above. The witness and the testimony are two different things, 
of which one is referred to the eyes, the other to the ears. But 
perhaps the importance of this witness is augmented by the 
authority of other testimonies, namely, of the divine Scriptures, 
or of any others by whom he is induced to believe. The Scrip- 
tures are then included among the objects of the bodily senses : 
of the eyes if he reads them, or of the ears if he hears them 
read. He sees them in his mind and he understands whatever 
is signified by the shapes or sounds of the letters; he sees his 

1 1 Peter 1.8. 

2 John 20.29. 



178 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

own faith by which he answers instantly that he believes; he 
sees the thought by which he thinks what benefit can accrue to 
him by believing; he sees the will by which he draws near 
to embrace religion; he even sees a certain image of the 
resurrection itself, as produced in his mind, and without this 
it is impossible to understand anything which is described as 
having happened corporeally, whether it is believed or not. 
But, I think you do distinguish between the way in which he 
sees his own faith by which he believes and the way he sees 
that image of the resurrection produced in his mind: some- 
thing which even the unbeliever sees if he hears these words. 



Chapter 10 

Therefore, he sees all these things partly through the body 
and partly through the mind. But he does not see the will 
of the one from whom he hears the order to believe, nor the 
actual Resurrection of Christ, but he does believe; yet he is 
said to see it by a sort of mental gaze, according to his faith in 
the testimonies rather than in things believed to be present. 
For, the things which he sees are present to the senses either 
of mind or body, although the will of the one from whom he 
hears the order to believe has not become something past, but 
remains in the speaker. The same one who speaks sees this 
will in himself; the one who hears does not see it, he believes 
it. But the Resurrection of Christ is past, and the men who 
lived at that time did not see it; those who saw the living 
Christ had seen Him dying, but they did not see the actual 
Resurrection; they believed it most firmly by seeing and 
touching the living Christ whom they had known as dead. We 
believe wholly that He rose again, that He was then seen and 
touched by men, that He now lives in heaven, and that 6 he 
dieth now no more, death shall no more have dominion over 



LETTERS 179 

Mm.' 1 But the actual fact is not present to our bodily senses, 
as this sky and earth are present, nor to the gaze of our mind, 
as the very faith by which we believe is present. 



Chapter 11 

But I think you have understood, through this preface of 
mine, what it is to see either mentally or corporeally, and 
what difference there is between that and believing. This in- 
deed happens in the mind and is seen by the mind, since our 
faith is visible to our mind. However, what is believed by 
that faith is not visible to our bodily senses, just as the same 
body in which Christ rose is not visible ; and it is not visible to 
another's mind, as your faith is not perceived by my mind, 
although I believe it is in you, but I do not see it corporeally 
and neither can you nor mentally, as you can; as I see mine, 
but you cannot. 'For no man knoweth what is done in man 
but the spirit of a man that is in him,' 1 'until the Lord come 
who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, 
and will make manifest the thoughts of hearts,' 2 so that each 
one will see not only his own but those of others. In this sense 
the Apostle said that *no man knoweth what is done in man, 
but the spirit of man that is in him', according to what we 
see in ourselves; for according to what we believe but do not 
see, we know that there are many faithful, and we are known 
to many. 

Chapter 12 
If these distinctions are now clear, let us come to the main 



1 Rom. 6.9. 

1 Cf. 1 Cor. 2.11. 

2 1 Cor. 4.5. 



180 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

point. We know that God can be seen, because It is written: 
'Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.' 1 Per- 
haps I should not have said 'We know/ but c We believe/ 
since we have not at any time seen God either corporeally, as 
we see this light, or mentally, as we see the very faith in us by 
which we believe; but I do so only because it is written in that 
part of Scripture. As we are believers in it, have we the least 
doubt of its being true? Still, when the Apostle John said 
something similar, his words were: *We know that when he 
shall appear, we shall be like to him, because we shall see him 
as he is.' 2 See ! he said he knew something that had not hap- 
pened, and which he knew by believing, but not by seeing. 
Therefore we were right in saying: 'We know that God can be 
seen,' although we have not seen Him, but we have put our 
faith in the divine authority which is contained in the holy 
books. 

Chapter 13 

But, what is the meaning of that saying of the same 
authority: 'No man hath seen God at any time'? 1 Would 
the answer be that those words refer to seeing God, not to 
having seen Him? For it says 'They shall see God/ not 'they 
have seen; and 'we shall see him as he is,' not c we have seen/ 
Therefore, the words, c no man hath seen God at any time/ 
do not contradict those former statements. The clean of heart, 
who wish to see God, shall see Him whom they have not 
seen. But what about this : 'I have seen God face to face, and 
my soul hath been saved'? 2 Is it not contrary to that other 
passage: 'No man hath seen God at any time/ and this, 

1 Matt. 5.8. 

2 1 John 3.2. 

1 John 1.18; 1 John 4.12. 

2 Gen. 32.30. 



LETTERS 



181 



written of Moses, that he spoke to God, 'face to face, as a man 
is wont to speak to his friend, 53 and this: 'I saw the Lord of 
hosts sitting upon a throne,' 4 and other such testimonies 
which are usually drawn from the same authority how can 
it be that they are not contrary to the words, 'No man hath 
seen God at any time 3 ? Yet, the very Gospel can be considered 
self-contradictory. For, how can it be true to say, as it says: 
'he that seeth me, seeth the Father also,' 5 if no man hath seen 
God at any time? Or how is it true that 'Their angels always 
see the face of my Father,' if no one hath seen God at any 
time? 

Chapter 14 

By what rule of interpretation shall we prove that these 
seemingly contrary and contradictory statements are neither 
contrary nor contradictory? For it cannot be remotely possible 
that the authority of the Scriptures should be fallacious at any 
point. If we say of the passage, 'no one hath seen God at any 
time,' we understand it of men alone; as it says In that other 
place: 'no one knoweth what is done in man, but the spirit 
of a man that is in him,' 1 no one obviously of men, for this 
cannot be applied to God, since it is written of Christ that 
he needed not that any should give testimony of man, for he 
knew what was in man.' 2 The Apostle, explaining this more 
fully, says : 'Whom no one of men hath seen, nor can see' ; 
therefore, if he says c no one hath seen God at any time,' it is as 
if he said 'no one of men/ and thus this difficulty will seem to 
be solved, at least to this extent, that it is not contrary to what 

3 Exod. 33.11. 

4 Isa. 6.1. 

5 John 14.9. 

1 1 Cor. 2.11. 

2 John 2J25. 



182 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

the Lord says: Their angels always see the face of my Father,' 
since we surely believe that the angels see God, 'whom no 
one hath seen at any time/ but no one of men. How, 
then, was God seen by Abraham, 3 Isaac, 4 Jacob, 5 Job, 6 
Moses, 7 Micheas, 8 Isaias, 9 of whom the absolutely truthful 
Scripture bears witness that they saw God, if no one of men 
'hath ever seen God, nor can see him'? 



Chapter 15 

Some even want to prove that the wicked will see God, and 
they think that God has been seen by the Devil also, taking in 
that sense what is written in the Book of Job, that the Devil 
came with the angels into the presence of God, 1 so that they 
even call in question how this is said : 'Blessed are the clean of 
heart, for they shall see God,' 2 and this: 'follow peace with 
all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see God.' 3 
I greatly wonder whether those who think that the wicked will 
see God, and that God has been seen by the Devil, go so far as 
to claim that they are also clean of heart and that they 
follow peace and holiness with all men. 

3 Gen. 18.1. 

4 Gen. 26.2. 

5 Gen. 32.30. 

6 Job 38.1; 42.9. 

7 Exod. 33.11. 

8 3 Kings 22.19. 

9 Isa. 6.1. 

1 Job 1.6; 2.1. 

2 Matt. 5.8. 

3 Heb. 12.14. 



LETTERS 183 

Chapter 16 

The statement which the Lord makes, 'He that seeth me, 
seeth the Father also,' 1 can, on somewhat more careful ex- 
amination, be shown not to be contrary to the words, 'no man 
hath seen God at any time.' He did not say: 'Because you 
have seen me, you have seen the Father also,' but by saying: 
'he that seeth me, seeth the Father also,' he wished to show 
the unity of substance between the Father and the Son, that 
they might not be thought to differ from each other in any 
way. Thus, since it is true to say: 'He that seeth me, seeth 
the Father also,' and since it is clear that no one of men hath 
seen God at any time, no one can be imagined to have seen 
either the Father or the Son, in so far as the Son is God, and 
is one God with the Father; but, in so far as He is man, 
certainly 'afterwards he was seen upon earth, and conversed 
with men.' 2 

Chapter 17 

But what is a serious difficulty is how there is no con- 
tradiction in the statements about so many men of old seeing 
God, if 'no one hath seen God at any time,* whom 'no man 
hath seen, nor can see.* You see what a hard question you have 
suggested to me, on which you want me to write at length and 
exhaustively, in the limits of a short letter, and which it 
seemed to you should be explained carefully and fully. Are you 
willing to give your attention meantime to the answers I 
have found in the works of other excellent commentators on 
the divine Scriptures, regarding what they think about 
seeing God, which may perhaps satisfy your desire, although 
it may be that you are acquainted with them? Give your 

1 John 14.19. 

2 Bar. 3.38; John 1.14. 



184 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

attention, then, to these few points, if you will. When blessed 
Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, in his commentary on the Gospel, 
had come to the place 1 where the angel appeared in the temple 
to the priest Zachary, 2 here are the great and noble things he 
said on this occasion about the vision of God. 



Chapter 18 

'Not without reason,' he says, c is the angel seen in the 
temple, because the coming of the true priest was then being 
proclaimed, and the heavenly sacrifice was being prepared, in 
which angels were to minister. And well is he said to have 
appeared to one who beheld him suddenly. The divine Scrip- 
ture is accustomed to use this particular term, either of the 
angels or of God, so that what cannot be seen in advance is said 
to appear. Thus you have, "God appeared to Abraham at the 
oak of Mambre," 1 for he who is not perceived beforehand, 
but is suddenly presented to sight, is said to appear. But the 
objects of the senses are not seen in that way, and He on 
whose will it depends to be seen, and whose nature it is not 
to be seen, is seen because of His will. For, if He does not 
wish it, He is not seen, but if He wishes. He is seen. Thus, 
God appeared to Abraham because He willed it; to others 
He did not appear, because He did not will it. When Stephen 
was being stoned by the people, he saw the heavens opened 
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 2 but this was 
not seen by the people. Isaias saw the Lord of hosts, 3 but 
no one else could see Him, because He appeared to whom He 

1 Expositio evangelii secundum Lucam 1,24-27 (CSEL 32; 4.25) . 

2 Luke 1.11. 



1 Gen. 18.1. The Douay version reads: 'in the vale/ 

2 Acts 7.55. 

3 Isa. 6.1. 



LETTERS 185 

pleased. And why do we speak of men when of the heavenly 
powers and virtues themselves we read that "no one hath seen 
God at any time"? To this the Apostle added: "the only- 
begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath 
declared him." 4 Therefore, if no one has seen God the Father 
at any time, we must either necessarily assent to the Son 
having been seen in the Old Testament, and the heretics 
must cease to give a beginning to Him who was seen before 
He was born of the Virgin, or certainly it is not possible to 
refute the argument that the Father or the Son, or at least 
the Holy Spirit if, however, the Holy Spirit can be seen 
are seen under the appearance which their will has chosen, but 
their nature has not originated, since we learn that the 
Spirit also was seen under the form of a dove. 5 Therefore, 
"no one hath seen God at any time," because no one has be- 
held that fullness of the divinity which dwells in God; 6 no 
one has experienced it with mind or eyes, for the word 
"seen" is to be referred to both. Finally, when he adds, "the 
only-begotten Son himself, he hath declared him/* it is the 
sight of minds rather than of eyes which is described. For 
beauty is seen, but virtue is declared; the former is grasped 
by the eyes, the latter by the mind. But, why should I 
speak of the Trinity? A seraphim appeared, when he willed 
it, and Isaias alone heard his voice; 7 an angel appeared 
and is now present, but is not seen. It is not in our power to 
see, but in His to appear. However, even if we have no power 
of seeing, there is a grace of meriting that we may be able to 
see. Therefore, he who had the grace merited the occasion. We 
do not merit the occasion, because we have not the grace of 
seeing God. Is it any wonder that the Lord is not seen in the 
present world except when He wills? Even in the resurrection 

4 John 1.18. 

5 Matt. 3.16. 

6 Col. 2-9. 

7 Isa. 6.6,7. 



186 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

itself it is not easy to see God, except for the clean of heart; 
hence : "Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God." 8 
How many kinds of blessed He had enumerated, yet to none of 
them had He promised the ability to see God ! If, then, those 
who are clean of heart will see God, doubtless others will not 
see Him; the unworthy will not see Him, nor will he who 
does not wish to see God be able to see Him. God is not seen 
in any locality, but in the clean heart; He is not sought by 
bodily eyes, nor limited by our sight, nor held by touch, nor 
heard by His utterance, nor perceived in His approach. When 
He is thought absent, He is seen; when He is present, He is 
not seen. Finally, not all the Apostles saw Christ. Therefore 
He says: "So long a time have I been with you, and you have 
not known me?" 9 But he who knew "what is the breadth and 
length and height and depth, and the charity of Christ which 
surpasseth all knowledge/ 310 saw both Christ and the Father. 11 
For we do not now know Christ according to the flesh, 12 but 
according to the spirit. For "our breath, Christ the Lord, is 
taken from before our face," 13 and may He deign in His 
mercy to fill us unto all the fullness of God, 14 that He may be 
able to be seen by us/ 

Chapter 19 

If you understand these words, what else do you seek from 
me, since that question, which seemed so difficult, is now 
solved? But a distinction had been made between the sense 
of *No one hath seen God at any time 3 and the manner in 
which those saints of old saw God, if those words were said 

8 Matt. 5,8. 

9 John 14.9. 

10 Eph. 3.18,19. 

11 John 14.9. 

12 2 Cor. 5.16. 
15 Cf. Lam. 4.20. 
14 Eph. 3.19. 



LETTERS 



187 



because God is invisible: they saw those of them who did 
see God because to whomever He wished, and as He wished, 
He appeared in that form which His will chose, even as His 
nature remained hidden. For if, when the patriarchs saw 
God, His very nature appeared to them although if He had 
not willed, doubtless it would not have appeared how is it 
that no one has seen God at any time, when, at His will., His 
very nature was beheld by so many of the patriarchs, so that 
these words might be understood as spoken of God the Father, 
that no one has seen Him at any time? Ambrose certainly did 
not pass over his chance to refute certain heretics from this 
ground, namely the Photinians, 1 who assert that the Son of 
God took His beginning from the womb of the Virgin, and 
who refuse to believe that He had existed previously. But, 
because he saw others, that is, the Arians, promoting more 
dangerous views, whose error was undoubtedly included with 
that other, if the Father is invisible by nature, but the Son 
is believed to be visible, he asserted that both have one 
equally invisible nature, adding also the Holy Spirit. He 
conveyed this idea briefly but admirably when he subsequently 
said: 'or certainly it is not possible to refute the argument that 
the Father or the Son, or at least the Holy Spirit, if, however, 
the Holy Spirit can be seen, are seen under the appearance 
which their will has chosen but which their nature has not 
formed.' 2 He could have said "their nature has not man- 
ifested,' but he chose to say 'formed/ lest the aspect under 
which God chose to appear should be thought to have the 
form of His nature, and thereby an argument be made to 
prove that His substance is changeable and mutable. May the 
merciful and good God Himself keep this error far from the 
faith of His devout children! 



1 Followers of Photinus of Sirmium in Pannonia, head of one of the 
numerous Arian sects claiming that the Son was not consubstantial 
with the Father. 

2 Cf. above, Ch. 18. 



188 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

Chapter 20 

Therefore, God is invisible by nature, and not only the 
Father, but also the Trinity itself, one God, and, because He 
is not only invisible but also unchangeable, He appears to 
whom He wills, and under the aspect that He wills, so that 
His invisible and unchangeable nature may remain wholly 
within Himself. But the longing of truly devout souls, by 
which they desire to see God and burn with eager love for 
Him, is not enkindled, I think, by desire to see that aspect 
under which He appears as He wills, but which is not Him- 
self; they long for the substance by which He is what He is. 
The saintly Moses, His faithful servant, showed the flame of 
this desire of his when he said to God, with whom he spoke 
face to face as to a friend : c lf I have found favor before thee, 
show me thyself.' 1 What, then? Was it not Himself? If it were 
not Himself, he would not have said "Show me thyself,' but 
'Show me God' ; yet, if he really beheld His nature and sub- 
stance, he would have been far from saying 'show me thyself. 3 
It was Himself, therefore, under that aspect in which He 
willed to appear, but He did not appear in His own nature 
which Moses longed to see, inasmuch as that is promised to 
the saints in another life. Hence, the answer made to Moses 
is true that no one can see the face of God and live, 2 that is, 
no one living in this life can see Him as He is. Many have 
seen, but they saw what His will chose, not what His nature 
formed, and this is what John said, if he is rightly understood : 
'Dearly beloved, we are the sons of God, and it hath not yet 
appeared what we shall be. We know that when he shall ap- 
pear, we shall be like to him, because we shall see him as he 
is 5 ; 3 not as men saw Him when He willed under the ap~ 

1 Exod. 33.11-13 (Septuagint) . 

2 Exod. 33.20. 

3 1 John 3.2. 



LETTERS 189 

pearance that He willed; not in His nature under which He 
lies hidden within Himself even when He is seen, but as He is. 
This is what was asked of Him by the one who spoke to Him 
face to face, when he said to Him: 'Show me thyself/ but no 
one can at any time experience the fullness of God through 
the eyes of the body any more than by the mind itself. 



Chapter 21 

It is one thing to see ; it is something else to grasp the whole 
of something by seeing, since, indeed, a thing is seen when 
it is perceived as present in any way whatsoever, but the 
whole is grasped by seeing, when it is seen, so that no part of 
it escapes the notice, or when its outlines can be included in 
the view, as nothing of your will at present escapes your 
notice, or you can take in the span of your ring at a glance. 
I have instanced these two examples, the one referring to the 
glance of the mind, the other to the bodily eyes, for sight, 
as he 1 says, is to be referred to both, that is, to the eyes and 
the mind. 

Chapter 22 

Moreover, if the reason why no one hath seen God at any 
time is, as the disputant 1 whose words we are examining says, 
because no one has beheld the fulness of His divinity, no one 
has experienced it with mind or eyes, for the word "has 
seen" is to be referred to both, 5 it remains for us to find out 
how the angels see God, because of that passage which I 
quoted from the Gospel: 'Their angels always see the face of 

1 Ambrose; cf. above, Ch. 18. 
1 Ibid. 



190 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

my Father.' 2 If He appears to them not as He is, but under 
whatever aspect He wills, while His nature remains hidden, 
we have more and more need to inquire how we shall see Him 
as He is, as Moses desired to see Him when he asked God, who 
was then visible to him, to show him Himself. It is promised 
to us, as our supreme reward, at the resurrection, that we 
shall be like the angels of God, 3 and, if they do not see Him as 
He is, how shall we see Him, when we have become like to 
them at the resurrection? But, see what our Ambrose then 
says. 'Finally,' he says, 'when this is added, "the only-begotten 
Son himself, he hath declared him," it is the sight of minds 
rather than of eyes which is described. For beauty is seen, 
but virtue is declared; the former is grasped by the eyes, the 
latter by the mind.' 4 He had said shortly before that sight is 
to be referred to both; now he attributes it not to the mind, 
but to the eyes; yet I do not think he does it out of careless 
disregard of his own words, but because it is more usual for us 
in speaking to attribute sight to the eyes, as beauty to the 
body. Our habit of speaking applies this more frequently to 
things which are limited by space and distinguished by colors. 
But, if there were no beauty to be perceived by the mind, He 
would not be described as 'beautiful in form above the sons 
of men.' 5 For this was not merely said according to the flesh, 
but also according to spiritual beauty. Therefore, beauty is 
used also as applying to the gaze of the mind, but, because it 
is more common to use it for corporeal objects or comparisons 
made with them, for that reason he said: 'Beauty is seen, 
but virtue is declared; the former is grasped by the eyes, the 
latter by the mind.' Thus, when the only-begotten Son, who 
is in the bosom of the Father, declares Him with an inde- 
scribable utterance, the rational being, pure and holy, is filled 

2 Matt. 18.10. 

3 Luke 20.36; Matt. 22.30; Mark 12.25. 

4 Cf. above, Ch. 18. 

5 Ps. 44.3. 



LETTERS 



191 



with the indescribable vision of God, which we shall attain 
when we have become like the angels; because it is true that 
no one has seen God at any time, in the sense in which 
visible things of the body, as known by the senses, are seen; 
since, if He has been seen at any time in that way, He is not 
seen according to His own nature, but is seen by appearing 
under that aspect which He wills, although that nature 
remains hidden and unchangeable within Him. In that way 
in which He is seen as He is, He is seen now, perhaps, by 
some of the angels; He will be seen thus by us when we have 
become like them. 

Chapter 23 

Subsequently, when he had added that the heavenly powers, 
such as the seraphim, are not seen either except when they 
will and as they will, he did so to point out the depth of in- 
visibility of the Trinity. 'However, 5 he says, 'even if we have 
no power of seeing, there is a grace of meriting that we may 
be able to see. Therefore, he that had the grace merited the 
occasion. We do not merit the occasion, because we have 
not the grace of seeing God.' 1 Obviously, by these words in 
which he is not teaching his own doctrine, but explaining the 
Gospel, he does not intend us to understand that some of 
them will see God, but some will not see Him; 'to them that 
believe he gave the power to be made the sons of God, 32 since 
the following words apply to all: c We shall see him as he is'; 3 
but by saying : c we do not merit the occasion because we have 
not the grace of seeing God,' he shows that he is speaking of 
this world. Although God has deigned to appear here under 
the aspect which He willed, as to Abraham, 4 to Isaias, 5 and 

1 Cf. above, Ch. 18. 

2 John 1.12. 

3 1 John 3.2. 

4 Gen. 18.1. 

5 Isa. 6.1. 



192 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

others like him, to unnumbered others, although they belong 
to His people and His eternal Inheritance, He shows Himself 
under no such appearance. But in the world to come, those 
who are to receive the kingdom which has been prepared for 
them from the beginning, 6 all the clean of heart, shall see Him, 
and in that kingdom there will be no others. 



Chapter 24 

Notice, therefore, what he goes on to say about that world, 
beginning with: Is it any wonder that the Lord is not seen in 
the present world except when He wills? Even in the resur- 
rection itself it is not easy to see God, except for the clean of 
heart; hence: "Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see 
God." If, then, those who are clean of heart will see God, 
doubtless others will not see Him; the unworthy will not see 
Him, nor will he who does not wish to see God be able to see 
Him.' You observe how guardedly he speaks at present of 
those who will see God in the world to come: It will not 
be everyone; only those who are worthy. For the worthy and 
the unworthy will rise again in that kingdom where God will 
be seen, since, 'all that are in the graves shall hear his voice . . . 
and come forth,' but with a great difference, 'for they that 
have done good things shall come forth unto the resurrection 
of life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of 
judgment. 31 This judgment means eternal punishment, ac- 
cording to this other saying : 'He that doth not believe, is al- 
ready judged.' 2 

6 Matt. 25.34. 

1 Cf. John 538,29. 

2 John 3.18. 



LETTERS 193 

Chapter 25 

When St. Ambrose said 'nor will he who does not wish to 
see God, be able to see Him/ what else does he wish us to 
infer but that he who is unwilling to devote to the cleansing 
of his heart an effort worthy of so great an aim does not wish 
to see God? Notice, then, that he adds: 'God is not seen in 
any locality, but in the clean heart/ Nothing could be more 
clearly, more forcefully, expressed. Therefore, without any 
shadow of doubt, the Devil and his angels, and all the wicked 
with them, are shut out from this vision, since they are not 
clean of heart. Consequently, from what is written in the 
Book of Job, 1 about the angels coming into the presence of 
God and the Devil coming with them, we are not to believe 
that the Devil saw God. It said that they came into God's 
presence, not God into their presence. The things which we 
see come into our presence, but not those by which we are 
seen. They came, therefore, as it reads in many versions of 
Scripture, 'to stand before the Lord,' not that God was before 
them. There is no need of dwelling on this point, to try to 
show in the measure of our ability how this also happens in 
time, since all things are always in the sight of God. 

Chapter 26 

We ask, now, how God is seen, not under that aspect by 
which He willed to appear to certain ones in that age, when 
He spoke not only to Abraham and other just men, but even 
to the murderer Cain, 1 but how He is seen in that kingdom 
where His sons will see Him as He is. Then, indeed, c He will 

1 Job 1.6; 2.1 . 
1 Gen. 18.1; 4. 



194 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

satisfy their desire with good things/ 2 that desire with which 
Moses burned, which left him unsatisfied with speaking to 
God face to face, 3 and made him say: 'Show me thyself 
openly, that I may see thee/ 4 as if he were saying what is 
expressed about that desire in the psalm: 'I shall be satisfied 
when thy glory shall appear/ 5 With that desire, also, Philip 
burned and longed to be satisfied, when he said: 'Show us 
the Father and it is enough for us.' 6 Speaking of that vision, 
Ambrose, lover of God and man of desires, said : 'God is not 
seen in any locality, 3 as at the oak of Mambre, or on Mount 
Sinai, 'but in the clean heart/ and he continues, knowing 
what he longs and pines and hopes for: 'God is not sought 
by bodily eyes, through whith He showed Himself to Abra- 
ham, Isaac, Jacob, and others in this world, nor is He limited 
by our sight because of this saying, "Thou shalt see my back 
parts 3 '; 7 nor held by touch, as when He wrestled with Jacob; 8 
nor heard by His utterance, as He was heard not only by so 
many saints but even by the Devil; 9 nor perceived in His 
approach, as formerly when He walked in Paradise at the 
afternoon air/ 10 

Chapter 27 

You see how the holy man tries to draw our minds away 
from all carnal senses, so as to render them fit to see God. 
Yet, what does such a one achieve externally, when he plants 

2 PS. 102.5. 

3 Exod. 33.1 L 

4 Exod. 33.13 (Septuagint) . 

5 Ps. 16.15. 

6 John 14.8. 

7 Exod. 33.23. 

8 Gen. 32.24-30. 

9 Gen. 3.14. 
10 Gen. 3.8. 



LETTERS 195 

and waters, if God, 'who giveth the increase/ 1 does not work 
within? Without the help of the Spirit of God, who would be 
able to think that there is something, that it is greater than 
all the things which are experienced through the body, and 
that it is not seen in any locality, is not an object of search 
by the eyes, is not heard by its utterance, nor held by touch, 
nor perceived in its approach, yet is seen by the clean heart? 
When he said this, he was not speaking of this life, since he 
used the clearest kind of distinction, in differentiating the life 
of the world to come from that of the present world, in which 
God does not appear as He is, but under that aspect which 
He wills, and to whom He wills. He said: 'Is it any wonder 
that the Lord is not seen in this present world, except when 
He wills? In the resurrection itself it is not easy to see God, 
except for those who are clean of heart; hence: "Blessed are 
the clean of heart, for they shall see God." ' From here on 
he begins to speak of that world where all who rise again will 
not see God, but only those who rise to eternal life. The un- 
worthy will not see Him, for of them it is said: 'Let the 
wicked be taken away lest he behold the brightness of the 
Lord 3 ; 2 but the worthy will see Him, and of such the Lord 
spoke when, though present, He was not seen, saying: 'He 
that loveth me keepeth my commandments, and he that 
loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him 
and will manifest myself to him.' 3 Those to whom it will be 
said : 'Depart . . . into everlasting fire which was prepared for 
the devil and his angels/ 4 shall not see Him; but those who 
will hear the words: 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess 
ye the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the 

1 1 Cor. 3.7. 

2 Isa. 26.10 (Septuagint) . 

3 John 14.21,23. 

4 Matt. 25.41. 



196 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

world,' 5 shall see Him. The former, indeed, 'shall go into ever- 
lasting burning, but the just into life everlasting. 36 And what 
is life everlasting but that life which He describes elsewhere: 
'Now this is eternal life, that they may know thee, the only 
true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou sent/ 7 the life in 
which He promises to those who love Him to show Himself as 
one God with His Father, not as He was seen by both good 
and bad in this world in the flesh? 



Chapter 28 

At the future judgment, when He will so come as He was 
seen going into heaven/ that is, in the same form of Son of 
man, they will see that form and to them He will say: 'I was 
hungry and you gave me not to eat/ 2 because 'the Jews also 
shall look upon [Him] whom they have pierced, 53 but shall 
not see that form of God in which 'He thought it not robbery 
to be equal with God.' 4 Those who will see Him as He is 
will then see Him in that form of God; but they will not see 
Him so because they were poor in spirit in this life or because 
they were meek, because they mourned, or hungered and 
thirsted after justice, or were merciful or peace-makers, but 
because they are clean of heart. There is this to stress among 
those beatitudes that, though those who have a clean heart 
may do everything else, the conclusion is not given, 'they shall 
see God, 5 except to the words, 'Blessed are the clean of heart.' 5 

5 Matt. 25.34. 

6 Matt. 25.46. 

7 John 17.3. 



1 Acts 1.11. 

2 Matt. 25.42. 

3 Zach. 12.10. 

4 Phil. 2.6. 

5 Matt. 5.3-10. 



LETTERS 197 

Thus, He will be seen by the clean of heart, who is not seen in 
any locality, is not sought by bodily eyes, nor limited by our 
sight, nor held by touch, nor heard by His utterance, nor 
perceived in His approach. For 'no man hath seen God at 
any time,' either in this life as He is, or even in the life of the 
angels, as those visible things which are perceived by bodily 
sight, because 'the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of 
the Father, he hath declared him.' 6 Therefore what He 
declares is said to belong to the sight of the mind, not to that of 
bodily eyes. 

Chapter 29 

But, again, lest our desire should be transferred from one 
bodily sense to another, that is, from the eyes to the ears, when 
he had said : 'God is not sought by bodily eyes, nor limited by 
our sight, nor held by touch,' he also added: c nor heard by 
His utterance,' so that, if we can, we are to understand that 
the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father 
declares Him inasmuch as He is the Word; not a sound 
echoing in our ears, but an image giving knowledge to our 
minds, that it may shine there with an inner, indescribable 
light. This is what was said to Philip in the words, 'He that 
seeth me, seeth the Father also, 51 when he saw and did not 
see. Then Ambrose, whose longing for that vision was so 
exceptional, continues and says : 'When He is thought absent, 
He is seen, and when He is present, He is not seen.' He did 
not say 'When He is absent/ but 'when He is thought absent,' 
for He who fills heaven and earth 2 without being confined 
by limited space or spread through vast space is nowhere 
absent; He is everywhere wholly present, but contained in no 

6 John 1.18. 

1 John 14.9. 

2 Jer. 23.24. 



198 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

place. Whoever is transported beyond the bounds of his mind 3 
to understand this sees God even when He is thought absent; 
whoever cannot do this should ask and strive to deserve to be 
able to do it. But let him not knock at the door of man, the 
arguer, to ask that he may read what he does not read, but 
at the door of God the Saviour, that he may be strengthened 
to do what he is now not strong enough to do. He subsequently 
makes clear to us why he said : 'And when He is present, He 
is not seen, 5 by adding: 'Finally, not all the Apostles saw 
Christ. Therefore He says: "So long a time have I been with 
you, and you have not known me?' 5 ' This is how God was 
present but was not seen. 



Chapter 30 

Why did he not venture to say 'Finally, the Apostles did 
not see Christ,' instead of c not all the Apostles,' as if some of 
them then saw by actual vision how He and the Father are 
one? 1 Or did he, perhaps, refer to that time when Peter said : 
Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God/ and received 
the answer: 'Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, because flesh 
and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who 
is in heaven'? 2 And yet it does not seem clear to me whether 
that revelation was produced in his mind through his faith 
in believing so great a truth, or by a vision of something seen, 
since Peter was to show himself still so puny of faith as to fear 
the loss by death of the Son of the living God 3 whom so 
short a time before he had confessed. 



3 2 Car. 5.13. 

1 John 10.30. 

2 Matt. 16.16,17. 

3 Matt. 16.21,22. 



LETTERS 199 

Chapter 31 

Another point that can trouble us is how it was possible 
for the very substance of God to be seen by some while still 
in this life, in view of what was said to Moses: 6 No man 
can see my face and live/ 1 unless it is possible for the human 
mind to be divinely rapt from this life to the angelic life, be- 
fore it is freed from the flesh by our common death. He who 
heard 'secret words which it is not granted to man to utter' 2 
was so rapt that a certain turning away of his consciousness 
from the senses of this life took place, and he said he did not 
know 'Whether it was in the body or out of the body/ that 
is, as usually happens in advanced ecstasy, when the mind is 
removed from this life into that life without loosing the tie of 
the body, or whether there is an entire separation, such as 
occurs in actual death. Thus it happens that this saying, 'No 
man can see my face and live/ is true, because the mind must 
necessarily be withdrawn from this life when it is caught up 
to the ineffable reality of that vision, and it is also not beyond 
belief that the perfection of that revelation was granted to 
certain saints, who were not yet near enough to death that 
their bodies were ready for burial. This, I think, was in the 
mind of the writer when he would not say 'the Apostles did 
not see Christ/ but said 'not all the Apostles saw Christ/ 
believing that the vision of the Godhead itself, of which he 
was speaking, could have been granted to some of them 
even then; in particular, blessed Paul, who, although he 
was, so to speak, the last of the Apostles, did not fail to 
speak of his own ineffable revelation. 

1 Exod. 33.20. 

2 2 Cor. 12.24. 



200 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

Chapter 32 

Again, in ancient times, in the case of the faithful servant 
of God, Moses, who was destined to labor on this earth and 
to rule the chosen people, it would not be surprising that 
what he asked was granted : that he might see the glory of the 
Lord, to whom he said: 'If have found favor before thee, 
show me thyself openly.' 1 He received an answer adapted to 
present conditions, that he could not see the face of God, 
because no man could see Him and live; thus God made 
clear that the vision belongs to another and better life. In 
addition to that, the mystery of the future Church of Christ 
was foreshadowed by the words of God. Doubtless, Moses 
represented in himself the type of the Jewish people who 
would believe in Christ after His Passion, and that is why 
it says: 'When I shall pass, thou shalt see my back parts, 52 
and the rest which is there said, by an admirable mystery 
which foretells the Church to come. But it would take too 
long to discuss this now. However, as I had started to say, 
it is shown later in the Book of Numbers that even what he 
asked was granted to his desire, for there the Lord rebuked 
the sister of Moses for her obstinacy, and He said that He 
appeared to the other Prophets in a vision and in a dream; but 
to Moses plainly and not by riddles, and He added the words : 
'And he saw the glory of the Lord.' 3 Why, then, did God 
make such an exception of him, if not, perhaps, that He 
considered him such a ruler of His people, so faithful a 
minister of His whole house, that he was worthy, even then, 
of that contemplation, so that, as he had desired, he saw God 
as He is; a contemplation promised to all His sons at the end 
of life? 4 



1 Exod. 33.13. 

2 Exod. 33.21-23. 

3 Num. 12.6-8 (Septuagint) . 

4 1 John 3,2. 



LETTERS 201 

Chapter 33 

I believe that holy man whose words we are examining 
was thinking of such things when he said: 'not all the 
Apostles saw Christ,' since some of them probably saw Him 
according to what I have said. But, to prove that not all of 
them saw Him, as he said, he at once adds: 'Therefore He 
said: "So long a time have I been with you and you have 
not known me?" ' Then, explaining by what sort of men 
God is seen as He is in that contemplation, he says: 'He who 
knew u what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 
and the charity of Christ which surpasseth all knowledge," 
saw both Christ and the Father.' 1 



Chapter 34 

I generally understand these words of the Apostle Paul 
thus: by the 'breadth,' all the good works of charity; by the 
length,' perseverance to the end; by the 'height,' hope of 
heavenly rewards; by the 'depth/ the unsearchable judgments 
of God, 1 from whom that grace has come to men. This inter- 
pretation I also adapt to the mystery of the Cross: 2 for the 
breadth I take the transverse beam on which the hands are 
stretched, because it signifies works; for the length, that part 
of the upright which extends from the transverse beam down 
into the earth, where the whole crucified Body was seen 
erect, which signifies to persevere, that is, to be steadfast and 
long-suffering; by the height, that part which extends up- 
ward from the transverse beam, where the Head is con- 
spicuously seen, because of the expectation of heavenly things. 

1 Cf. above, Ch. 18. 

1 Letter 140.62. 

2 Letter 140.64. 



202 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

This is to prevent us from believing that good works ought 
to be done and persevered in for the sake of the earthly and 
temporal favors of God, rather than for that heavenly and 
eternal good which 'faith that worketh by charity' 3 hopes 
for. By the depth I understand that part of the cross which 
is plunged into the hidden part of the earth and is not seen, 
but from which rises the whole part above, which is visible, 
just as man is called from the secret will of God to a share 
in such great grace, c one after this manner, and another after 
that' ; 4 but that charity of Christ which surpasseth all knowl- 
edge is undoubtedly found where 'that peace is, which 
surpasseth all understanding.' 5 But, whether that defender of 
the Gospel sees this in these words of the Apostle, or whether 
he perhaps understands something more appropriate, you, at 
any rate, see, if I am not mistaken, that it is not inconsistent 
with the rule of faith. 

Chapter 35 

Hence, we now take it in the sense of spiritual insight when 
he said: "He who knew "what is the breadth and length and 
height and depth, and the charity of Christ which surpasseth 
all knowledge/' saw both Christ and the Father'; and, lest 
it should seem to some dull-witted person that he was speaking 
of corporeal sight, he said: 'For we do not now know Christ 
according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. For "our 
breath, Christ the Lord is taken before our face." ' When he 
here says 'we know/ he speaks of our present knowledge 
by faith, not of our future knowledge by contemplation, 
because, whatever we know by 'unfeigned faith/ 1 even 

3 Gal. 5.6, 

4 1 Cor. 7.7. 

5 Phil. 4.7. 

1 1 Tim. 1.5. 



LETTERS 203 

though we do not yet behold it by sight, we now hold by 
unshaken belief. Finally, after he had said that he does not 
'now know Christ according to the flesh/ as the Apostle says, 
and had added the testimony of the Prophet; c our breath, 
Christ the Lord is taken before our face/ he at once 
continued : 'may He deign in His mercy to fill us unto all the 
fullness of God, that He may be able to be seen by us.' 2 
Certainly it is clear that in saying c we know' he derived that 
knowledge from faith, by which the just man now lives, 3 
and not from contemplation, by which we shall see God 
as He is. 4 This gift he wishes for himself and, consequently, 
for us, and he indicates that it will be ours by saying: 'May 
He deign, in His mercy, to fill us unto all the fullness of God, 
that He may be able to be seen by us.' 



Chapter 36 

Some of the Apostles in their speech showed their under- 
standing of this fullness of God, in the sense of thinking that 
we shall become entirely what God is. These words, as you 
recall, the Apostle expressed in this way when he said: 'To 
know also the charity of Christ which surpasseth all knowl- 
edge, that you may be filled unto all the fullness of God. 31 
Therefore, they say, if we have anything less than God has, 
and are less than He is in any respect, how shall we be filled 
unto all the fullness of God? But, when we are filled, surely 
we shall be equal to Him. You are revolted and you turn 
with loathing from that error of the human mind, I am 
sure, and you are right. Later, if God wills and in proportion 

2 Cf. above, Ch. 18. 

3 Hab. 2.4; Rom. L17; Gal. 3.11; Heb. 10.38. 

4 1 John 3.2. 

1 Eph. 3.19. 



204 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

to the strength He gives, we shall discuss the way in which 
that fullness is to be understood, according to which it is said 
that we are be filled unto all the fullness of God. 



Chapter 37 

Now, note carefully and recall what has been said, so as 
to see whether I have explained what you submitted to me, 
and what seemed difficult to explain. If you ask whether 
God can be seen, I answer : He can. If you ask how I know, 
I answer that we read in Scripture, the source of truth: 
'Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God,' 1 and 
other passages of like tenor. If you ask how He is said to be 
invisible if He can be seen/ 1 answer that He is invisible by 
nature, but He is seen when He wills and as He wills. He 
has been seen by many, not as He is, but under such aspect 
as it pleased Him to appear. If you ask how even the wicked 
Cain saw Him, 2 when he was questioned by Him about his 
crime, and judged; or how even the Devil himself saw Him 
when he came with angels to stand before Him, 3 if it is 
true that the clean of heart are blessed because they shall 
see God, I answer that it does not necessarily follow that 
those who sometimes hear words uttered by Him also see 
Him. Those who heard Him when He said to His Son: C I 
have both glorified it and will glorify it again' 4 did not see 
Him, but it is not surprising that even some who are not 
clean of heart see God under the appearance which His 
will makes possible, while His invisible nature, remaining 
unchanged within itself, is still hidden. If you ask whether 
He can also be seen at any time as He is, I answer that this 

1 Matt. 5.8. 

2 Gen. 4,6-15. 

3 Job 1.6; 2.1. 

4 John 12.28. 



LETTERS 205 

was promised to His sons, of whom it is said: c We know 
that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, because we 
shall see him as he is.' 5 If you ask by what means we shall 
see Him, I answer: as the angels see, for we shall then be 
equal to them; 6 as the angels see those things which are 
called visible; but no man hath ever seen God nor can see 
Him, because c He inhabiteth light inaccessible,' 7 and His 
nature is invisible as it is immortal. This the Apostle asserts 
in a similar passage when he says: 'Now to the king of ages, 
invisible and immortal,' 8 because, as He is now immortal 
and will never afterward be mortal, so He is not only now 
but always invisible. Tor he is not seen in any locality, but 
in the clean heart; He is not sought by bodily eyes, nor 
limited by our sight, nor held by touch, not heard by His 
utterance, nor perceived in His approach. But the only-be- 
gotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father' 9 without 
sound of words declares the nature and substance of the 
Godhead, and therefore to eyes that are worthy and fit for 
such appearance He shows it invisibly. Those are the eyes of 
which the Apostle says: 'the eyes of your heart enlightened,' 10 
and of which it is said : 'Enlighten my eyes that I never sleep 
in death. 311 For the Lord is a spirit; 12 therefore, 'he who is 
joined to the Lord is one spirit/ 13 Consequently, he who can 
see God invisibly can be joined to God incorporeally. 

5 1 John 3.2. 

6 Matt. 18.10; Luke 20.36. 

7 1 Tim. 6.16. 

8 1 Tim. L17. 

9 John 1.18. 

10 Eph. 1.18. 

11 Ps. 12.4. 

12 2 Cor. 3.17; John 4.24. 

13 1 Cor. 6.17. 



206 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

Chapter 38 

I think there is nothing further to ask in the question 
which you have proposed to me. But examine in this whole 
discussion of ours what you have seen, what you have 
believed, what you still do not know, either because I have 
not spoken of it, or you have not understood, or you have 
not judged it credible. Among the points which you have 
seen to be true, distinguish further how you saw them: 
whether it was by recalling that you had seen them through 
the body, such as heavenly or earthly bodies, or whether you 
never perceived them by corporeal sight, but, by looking 
upon them with your mind only, observed that they are true 
and certain, such as your own will, about which I believe 
you when you speak, for it is true I cannot see it myself as it 
is seen by you. And when you have distinguished between 
these two, notice, too, how you make your distinction. Al- 
though we see some things with the body, others with the 
mind, the distinction between these two sorts of sight is seen 
by the mind, not the body. The objects which are beheld by 
the mind have need of no senses of the body to let us know 
that they are true, but those perceived through the body 
cannot be included in our knowledge if there is no mind to 
which these incoming messages can be referred. And it is a 
fact that those incoming messages, which it is said, in some 
wise, to receive, are left outside, but it forms images of them, 
that is, incorporeal likenesses of physical things, which . it 
commits incorporeally to the memory, so that from there, 
when it has the will or power, it may give judgment on them, 
after bringing them out of custody and displaying them in 
the sight of its thought. And when it has its full powers, it 
also makes a distinction between these two : what it left out- 
side in its corporeal aspect, what it beholds within as a 
likeness, and it discerns that the former is not there, but the 



LETTERS 207 



latter Is. In the same way you think of my corporeal face, 
while I am absent; the image is present to you, but the 
face whose image it is is absent; the one is body, the other 
the incorporeal likeness of body. 



Chapter 39 

Note this, therefore, after you have carefully and faithfully 
examined and distinguished what you see; in making your 
distinction assess the actual weight of evidence on what you 
believe in this whole speech which I have been making to 
you, since I began to speak to you in this letter, and in it 
note to what extent you lend your faith to what you do not 
see. You do not put the same faith in me as you do in 
Ambrose, from whose books I have drawn this weighty 
testimony; or if you do think that we are both to be weighed 
in the same balance, of course you will not compare us in 
any way with the Gospel, or put our writings on the same 
footing with the canonical Scriptures. Obviously, if you are 
wise enough to distinguish correctly, you see that we fall far 
short of that authority, and that I fall even farther; however 
much credibility you assign to both of us, you compare us in 
vain to that high standard. Therefore, that saying: /No man 
has seen God at any time,' 1 and: 'He inhabits light inac- 
cessible, whom no man hath seen nor can see,' 2 and: 'Blessed 
are the clean of heart, for they shall see God,' 3 and other 
passages from the sacred books which I have cited all 
these you believe more firmly than what Ambrose said: 
'God is not seen in any locality, He is not sought by bodily 
eyes, nor limited by our sight, nor held by touch, nor heard 

1 i John 4.12. 

2 I Tim. 6.16. 

3 Matt. 5.8. 



208 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

by His utterance, nor perceived in His approach.' Doubtless, 
he understood or believed that God, who is seen by the clean 
of heart, is such as that, and I confess that this is also my 
opinion. 

Chapter 40 

Therefore, you yield faith to these words in one way, but 
to the divine words in quite a different way. Perhaps some 
little doubt has crept into your mind about us; that we may 
be somewhat less than clear about some of the divine words, 
and that they are interpreted by us, not as they were said, 
but as we imagine them. Perhaps you are saying to yourself: 
What if God is seen by the clean of heart, and is also visible 
in some locality? Or: What if the clean of heart will see God 
even with bodily eyes, when this corruptible shall put on 
incorruption, 1 when we shall be like the angels of God? 2 
Perhaps you do not know how far you ought or ought not to 
believe us, and you are on guard not to be led astray by 
believing us either more or less than you ought. About the 
divine Scriptures, however, even when they are not clearly 
understood, you have no doubt that they are to be believed. 
But you surely observe and see this weighing of belief or 
non-belief,, and the difficulty of knowing, and the storms of 
doubt, and the devout faith which is owed to the divine 
utterances; all these you see in your mind as they are, and 
you do not doubt in the least that they are in your mind in 
this way, either as I said them, or, preferably, as you knew 
them yourself. Therefore, you see your faith, you see your 
doubt, you see your desire and will to learn, and when you 
are led by divine authority to believe what you do not see, 

1 1 Cor. 15.3S. 

2 Luke 20.36. 



LETTERS 209 

you see at once that you believe these things; you analyze 
and distinguish all this. 



Chapter 41 

Of course, you will not make any sort of comparison 
between your bodily eyes and these eyes of your heart, with 
which you perceive that all this is true and certain, with 
which you observe and distinguish what is invisibly present 
to you; especially when, from these same visible things which 
are, in a sense, reflected by the sight of the bodily eyes, and 
from these same bodily eyes and their faculty of sight, of 
whatever kind and degree it may be, you estimate what a 
difference there is between them and the invisible things. 
I do not mean the higher ones in which you must believe 
even though they are not seen, but those, as I have said, 
which are mentally perceived as present not the ones which 
require belief because of their absence and which are 
seen with the interior eyes, not with those same eyes of flesh. 
Since, then, the interior eyes are judges of the exterior ones, 
and the latter are subject to the former, so to speak, in their 
duty and ministry of bringing in information; and since the 
former see many things which the latter do not see, while 
the latter see nothing which is not submitted to the judgment 
of the former, acting as president of the tribunal, would any- 
body fail to prefer the former to the latter as being in- 
comparably superior? 

Chapter 42 

In view of all this, I ask you whether you think you are 
acting in darkness or in light when this great operation is 



210 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

taking place in you by which you distinguish interior things 
from exterior and, without noise of words, prefer the former 
to the latter; when you leave the exterior ones outside and 
dwell within, among the interior ones, estimating them by 
computing their incorporeal limits? My opinion is that such 
great, such high, such true, manifest, and certain things 
cannot be seen without light. Look upon that light, therefore, 
in which you behold all other things, and see whether any 
glance of bodily eyes can draw near to it. Obviously, it can- 
not. Notice, also, and answer whether you see in it any 
dimensions or limits of space. You will find no such thing 
there, I think, if you are careful to exclude from your inner 
vision whatever corporeal images the senses of the outer man 
bring in. But perhaps it is difficult, because, after the fashion 
of our carnal life, a host of fantasies in the likeness of material 
objects rushes in on those interior eyes, also; and when I 
made at least an attempt to resist them, I cried out in 
anguish in that short letter of mine, 1 relying on divine 
authority, and I said : 'Let flesh, drunk with carnal thoughts, 
hear this: God is a spirit.' 2 By that reproach I was restraining 
my own mind from that sort of vanity rather than anyone 
else's. We are indeed more readily drawn to what is cus- 
tomary, and our soul, in its weakness, likes to bring in or 
allow worldly intercourse to enter, not in order to rouse 
itself to health, but out of indulgence, and to give itself some 
sort of rest in its weariness. 



Chapter 43 

Therefore, if you are unable to clear the eye of your mind 
entirely of this seeming cloud of corporeal images, examine 

1 Letter 92J5. This letter, addressed to Italica, dealt with this sam,e 
subject, but in less detail. 

2 John 4.24. 



LETTERS 211 

them carefully within yourself. Look at heaven and earth hi 
your thought, as you have been wont to look at them with 
your bodily eyes, and notice that these images of heaven and 
earth, which are set out before the eyes of your thought, are 
the likenesses of objects, not the objects themselves. Give 
judgment, then, against yourself, in your own favor, if you are 
unable to drive from the eye of your mind these manifold 
fanciful images of corporeal qualities, and win the victory 
from your own defeat. For, no one, to my way of thinking, is 
so carried away by such imaginings as to believe that he 
holds in his memory or in his mental vision the sun, moon, 
stars, rivers, seas, mountains, hills, cities, in a word, the walls 
of his house or even of his sleeping-room, and whatever else 
he has knowledge of or experiences through his bodily eyes, 
as they are in their dimensions or limitations of space, whether 
they are still or in movement. Moreover, if those images in our 
mind, which resemble bodies or spaces, yet are not confined by 
spatial relations or limits and are not stored in our memory 
with spaces between them, how much less likely that those 
things which bear no resemblance to physical objects: 'charity, 
joy, peace, longanimity, benignity, goodness, faith, mildness, 
continency/ 1 should take up room, be separated by intervening 
spaces, or that the eyes of the heart should seek out any 
such spaces so as to send out their rays and thus see these 
things! Are not all these things together without effort, and 
are they not known by their own limits, without any sur- 
rounding space? Tell me, in what place you see charity, 
which nevertheless is known to you only inasmuch as you can 
perceive it with your mental gaze. You do not know it as great 
because you survey it as if you were looking at a gigantic mass; 
when it speaks within you, bidding you live by it, it does not 
shout with any sound of voice; you do not lift up the sight 
of your bodily eyes in order to see it; you do not strain the 

1 Gal. 5.22,23. These virtues are in a different order in the Vulgate. 



212 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

strength of your bodily sinews in order to lay hold of it firmly; 
and when it comes into your mind you do not perceive its 
approach. 

Chapter 44 

This, then, is charity, however small a thing it appears to 
us, as it inheres in our will; 'it is not seen in any locality, nor 
sought by bodily eyes, nor limited by our sight, nor held by 
touch, nor heard by its utterance, nor perceived in its ap- 
proach. 31 How much more true this is of God, of whom 
charity is the pledge within us ! If our interior man is an image 
of Him insignificant, indeed not begotten of Him but 
created by Him, and, although it is still renewed day by day, 2 
it now dwells in such light that no faculty of corporeal sight 
comes near to it, and if those things which we perceive with 
the eyes of the heart by means of that light are distinguished 
from each other and separated by no intervals of space, how 
much more is this true of God, who inhabits light inaccessible 3 
to the bodily senses, to whom there can be no approach save 
for the clean of heart ! Since, then, we have chosen that light 
in preference to any corporeal light, not only by the judgment 
of our reason, but also by the longing of our love, we shall 
make better progress in that love the stronger we become in 
it, until all the infirmities of our soul shall be healed by Him 4 
who becomes merciful toward our iniquities. Having become 
spiritual men in this more living life, we shall be able to judge 
all things, but ourselves be judged by no man; 5 'But the 
sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit 

1 Cl above, Ch. 18. 

2 2 Cor. 4.16. 

3 1 Tim. 6.16. 

4 Ps. 102.3. 

5 1 COT. 2.15. 



LETTERS 213 

of God, for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot understand, 
because it is spiritually examined.' 6 



Chapter 45 

But, if we cannot yet prefer the light which judges to the 
light which is judged, or prefer the life of the mind to the life 
of sense-experience only, or prefer the nature which is not 
different in different places, but which has everything which 
it possesses in unity such as our intellect is to that nature 
which is made up of parts, so that the half is less than the 
whole such as our bodies are then it is useless for us to 
discuss such great and high topics. But, if we can now do this, 
let us believe that God is something greater than our intellect, 
so that His peace, 'which surpasseth all understanding, may 
keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.' 1 For, that peace 
which surpasses all understanding is certainly not inferior to 
our mind, so that it should be considered visible to our bodily 
eyes, although the mind itself is invisible. Or is it true that the 
peace of God is different from the 'brightness of his glory,' 2 
although that is the same as the only-begotten Son, and 
that charity which surpasses knowledge is His, too, with which 
knowledge 'we shall be filled unto all the fulness of God,' 3 
and that it is inferior to the light of our mind, which is 
bestowed by His enlightening act? But, if this light is inac- 
cessible to fleshly eyes, how incomparably superior is that 
light ! Consequently, since something of us is visible, like the 
body, and something invisible, like the interior man, and 
since the best part of us, that is, the mind and intelligence, is 

6 1 Cor. 2.14. 

1 Phil. 4.7. 

2 Heb. L3. 

3 Eph. 3.19. 



214 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

invisible to the eyes of the body, how shall that which is 
better than the best part of us be visible to our lower part? 



Chapter 46 

I think you now agree, after considering all these arguments, 
that it is correct to say that 'God is not seen in any locality, 
but in the clean heart; He is not sought by bodily eyes, nor 
limited by our sight, nor held by touch, nor heard by His 
utterance, nor perceived in His approach/ If there is any- 
thing of this which we do not understand, or about which we 
are 'otherwise minded, this also God will reveal to us if, 
whereunto we are come, we continue in the same/ 1 For we 
have come to believe that God is not body, but spirit; 2 we 
have come also to believe that 'no man hath seen God at any 
time'; 3 and that 'God is light and in him there is no 
darkness 3 ; 4 and that 'with him there is no change nor shadow 
of alteration'; 5 and that 'He inhabiteth light inaccessible, 
whom no man hath seen nor can see'; 6 and that the Father 
and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God, 7 without any 
diversity or separateness of nature, and the clean of heart 
will see Him; 8 and that 'we shall be like to him, because we 
shall see him as he is' ;* and that 'God is charity and he that 
abideth in charity, abideth in God and God in him'; 10 and 
that we ought to 'follow peace and holiness, without which no 

1 Phil. 3.15,16. 

2 John 4.24. 

3 John 1.18. 

4 1 John 1.5. 

5 James 117. 

6 1 Tim. 6.16. 

7 1 John 5.7,8. 

8 Matt. 5.8. 

9 1 John 3.2. 
10 1 John 4.16. 



LETTERS 215 

man shall see God'; 11 and that this corruptible and mortal 
body of ours shall be changed at the resurrection, and shall 
put on incorruption and immortality; 12 and that 'it is sown 
a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body/ 13 when the Lord 
will 'reform the body of our lowness 5 and make it like to the 
body of his glory'; 14 and that God 'made man to his image 
and likeness'; 15 and that we are renewed in the spirit of our 
mind unto the knowledge of God 'according to the image of 
him that created us.' 16 Those who walk by faith 17 according 
to these and other similar authoritative pronouncements of the 
holy Scriptures, who have made spiritual progress by an 
understanding divinely given or strengthened, and who have 
been able to assess the value of spiritual things, have seen 
that the mental sight is superior to the bodily sight, and that 
the objects of this mental vision are not limited by space; 
they are not separated from each other by intervening spaces 
and their parts are not less than the whole. 



Chapter 47 

This is why he made the statement so confidently that 'God 
is not seen in any locality, but in the clean heart, that He is 
not sought by bodily eyes, nor limited by our sight, nor held 
by our touch nor heard by His utterance nor perceived in 
His approach.' Hence, as His invisible substance is praised 
in the holy Scriptures, yet it is revealed in the same authorities 
that He has been seen by many in the body, and in corporeal 
places; or else in the spirit, through which corporeal images 

11 Heb. 12.14. 

12 1 Cor. 15.53. 

13 1 Cor. 15.44. 

14 Phil. 3.21. 

15 Gen. 1.26,27. 

16 Col. 3.10. 

17 2 Cor. 5.7. 



216 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

are perceived, in some likeness however incorporeal, of the 
body, as happens in sleep or in ecstasy, that saintly man 1 
differentiated this sort of visions from the nature of God, and 
said that they represented the forms which His will chose, not 
that which His nature presented. For God causes those visions 
in which He appears, as He wills, to whom He wills and when 
He wills, while His substance remains hidden and un- 
changeable in itself. If our will, remaining in itself, and 
without any change in itself, expresses words through which 
it manifests itself, after a fashion, how much more easily can 
the omnipotent God, maintaining His nature hidden and 
unchangeable, appear under any form He wills and to whom 
He wills, since He made all things out of nothing, 2 and re- 
maining in Himself, Veneweth all things.' 3 



Chapter 48 

But, in order to attain that vision by which we see God as 
He is, He has warned us that our hearts must be cleansed. As 
then objects are called visible in our fashion of speaking, so 
God is called invisible 1 lest He be thought to be a material 
body, yet He will not deprive pure hearts of the contemplation 
of His substance, since this great and sublime reward is pro- 
mised, on the Lord's own word, to those who worship and 
love God. At the time when He appeared visibly to bodily 
eyes, He promised that His invisible being also would be 
seen by the clean of heart : 'He that loveth me shall be loved 
of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself 



1 St. Ambrose. 

2 2 Mace. 7.28. 

3 Wisd. 7.27. 



1 Col. 1.15; Tim. 1.17. 



LETTERS 217 

to him. 32 It is certain that this nature of His, which He 
shares with the Father, is equally invisible as it is equally in- 
corruptible, 3 which, as was said above, the Apostle at once 
set forth as the divine substance, commending it to men 
with what words he could. But, if bodily eyes behold it, in 
virtue of the changed nature of bodies at the resurrection, let 
those who can assert this look to it; for my part, I am more 
impressed by the statement of him who attributes this to 
clean hearts, not to bodily eyes, even at the resurrection. 



Chapter 49 

I do not refuse to learn something further, or to investigate 
the problem of the spiritual body which is promised to those 
who will rise again, if, in our discussion of the matter, we may 
succeed in avoiding the faults which are commonly stirred to 
life by human aims and controversies, provided that, 'above 
that which is written, that one be not puffed up for another, 
against the other,' 1 lest, while we seek to discover by argument 
how God can be seen, we lose that very peace and holiness, 
'without which no man shall see God. 32 May He keep this 
far from our hearts; may He make and keep them clean so 
that they may contemplate Him ! However, as I do not doubt, 
so also I do not seek into the truth that the nature of God 
is never seen in any place. But now, as to whether anything 
can be seen by our bodily eyes without being seen in a place, 

1 am ready to listen with peace and charity to those who are 
able to make it clear by proof, and to share with them my 
own conviction. There are some who take for granted that 

2 John 14.21. 

3 1 Tim. 1.17. 

1 Cf. I Cor. 4,6. 

2 Heb. 12.14. 



218 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

God Himself is wholly corporeal, and they suppose that what- 
ever is not corporeal is not substance at all. I think that these 
are to be avoided althogether. But there are others who 
agree fully that God Himself is not corporeal, and they think 
that those who will rise again to eternal life therefore will see 
God even in the body, since they hope that the spiritual body 
will be such that even what was flesh before will become spirit. 
I think it will be easy to judge how much this opinion 
differs from the former, and how much more tenable it is, 
even if it is not true : first, because it makes a great difference 
whether something contrary to truth is believed about the 
Creator or about a creature; secondly, because the effort of 
the mind when it aims to change matter into spirit may be 
tolerable, but not when it changes God into matter; finally, 
because what I said in my other letter, 3 regarding the eyes of 
our flesh, that they can neither see God now, nor will they be 
able to later, is true even so; for it was said solely of bodily 
eyes, which they will not be then if the body itself becomes a 
spirit, because when He is seen it will be a spirit, not a body 
that will see Him, 

Chapter 50 

Therefore, the whole question that now remains is about the 
spiritual body: how far this corruptible and mortal one will 
put on incorruption and immortality, and how far it will be 
changed from animal to spiritual. 1 This question deserves to 
be treated more carefully and more attentively, especially 
because of the body of the Lord Himself, 'who reforms the 
body of our lowness, made like to the body of his glory,' that 
He may be able fi to subdue all things unto himself.' 2 Since, 

3 Letter 92. 

1 1 Cor. 15,53. 

2 Phil. 3.21. 



LETTERS 219 

then, God the Father sees the Son, and the Son sees the 
Father, undoubtedly we should not listen to those who will 
attribute vision only to bodies. Neither is it right to say that 
the Father does not see the Son, or that, if vision belongs only 
to bodies, He is endowed with a body in order to see. How 
shall we explain the fact that at the beginning of the world, 
before the Son had taken on the form of a servant, 3 c God saw 
the light, that it was good, 3 and the firmament and the sea 
and the dry land, and every herb and every tree, the sun, 
the moon, the stars, all living creatures that move upon the 
earth, the fowls of the air, the living soul? 'And afterward 
God saw all the things that he had made and behold they 
were very good.' 4 After Scripture had repeated that so many 
times about all the several creatures, I wonder how that 
opinion could have arisen whereby sight is thought to belong 
to bodies only. But, from whatever habit of speech that 
opinion may have come, the holy Scriptures are not ac- 
customed to speak thus; they attribute vision not only to the 
body, but also to the spirit, and more to the spirit than to the 
body. Otherwise they would not have been right in giving the 
name 'seers" to the prophets who saw the future, not by 
bodily but by spiritual sight. 5 



Chapter 51 

But we must take thought not to venture into what is 
contrary to custom, by saying that through the glory of resur- 
rection the body puts off not only its mortal and corruptible 
state, but even the very state of being a body, and becomes 
a spirit. In that case, either the substance of the spirit is 

5 Phil. 2.7. 

4 Gen. 1.4-31. 

5 1 Kings 9.9. 



220 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

doubled, if the body becomes spirit, or, if the spirit of man 
is single, so as not to be doubled by the addition of another 
as a twin, when the body is changed and turned into spirit, 
and if it is not increased by any addition, it is to be feared that 
we are then saying nothing else than that bodies will not re- 
main immortal after that change, but will cease to exist and 
will perish entirely. Therefore, until we examine carefully and 
discover, with the Lord's help, what the more probable 
opinion is about the spiritual body, which according to the 
Scriptures is promised at the resurrection, let it be enough 
for us meanwhile that the only-begotten Son, who is also the 
'Mediator of God and men, the man, Christ Jesus,' 1 sees the 
Father as He is seen by the Father. For our part, let us not 
try to carry over that concupiscence of the eyes from this 
world to that vision of God, which is promised to us at the 
resurrection, 2 but let us strive for it with devout affection -by 
cleansing our hearts, and let us not think of a corporeal face 
when the Apostle says : e We see now through a glass, in a dark 
manner, but then face to face 3 ; especially as the Apostle adds 
more definitely: 'now I know in part, but then I shall know 
even as I am known/ 3 If we shall then know God by a 
corporeal face, we are known to Him now by a corporeal 
face, 'for then I shall know/ he says, 'even as I am known.' 
From this, who would not understand that in this passage 
he meant our face, of which he says in another place: 'But 
we, beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are 
transformed into the same image from glory to glory as by 
the spirit of the Lord, H that is, from the glory of faith to the 
glory of eternal contemplation? No doubt this is effected by 
that transformation by which the 'inward man is renewed day 

1 1 Tim. 2.5. 

2 1 John 2.16. 

3 1 Cor. 13.12. 

4 2 Cor. 3.18. 



LETTERS 221 

by day/ 5 The Apostle Peter was also referring to this when 
he warned of a wife's adornment, and said : c Whose adorning 
let it not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing 
of gold and pearls, or fine apparel, but the hidden man of 
the heart which is rich in the sight of God.' 6 By not going 
over to Christ, the Jews keep a veil over that face, since, when 
anyone does go over to Christ, the veil will be taken away, and 
'we with open face are transformed into the same image.' 
Moreover, he says very plainly : 'The veil is upon their heart.' 7 
There, then, is the face that shall be opened, and, although 
now we see through a glass in a dark manner, we shall then 
see face to face. 

Chapter 52 

If you agree, take up with me the statement of the holy 
man, Ambrose, which is founded, not on his authority, but 
on truth itself. My reason for liking it is not because the Lord 
freed me from error by his words, and granted me the grace 
of saving baptism by his ministry, as if I should be too 
partial to the one who planted and watered me, 1 but because, 
in this matter, he said what God who giveth the increase says 
to the soul which meditates devoutly and understands rightly. 
He said then: 'Even in the resurrection itself it is not easy 
to see God, except for those who are clean of heart; hence: 
"Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God." 
How many kinds of blessed He had enumerated, yet to none 
of them had He promised the ability to see God! If, then, 
those who are clean of heart will see God, doubtless others 
will not see Him; the unworthy will not see Him, nor will 

5 2 Cor. 4.16. 

6 Cf. 1 Peter 3.3,4. 

7 2 Cor. 3.15. 



1 1 Cor. 3.7. 



222 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

he who does not wish to see God be able to see Him. God is 
not seen in any locality, but in the clean heart; He is not 
sought by bodily eyes, nor limited by our sight, nor held by 
touch, nor heard by His utterance, nor perceived in His 
approach. When He is thought absent, He is seen; when He is 
present, He is not seen. Finally, not all the Apostles saw 
Christ. Therefore He says: "So long a time have I been with 
you, and you have not known me?" But he who knew 
"what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and 
the charity of Christ which surpasseth all knowledge," saw 
both Christ and the Father. For we do not now know Christ 
according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. For "our 
breath, Christ the Lord, is taken before our face," and may 
He in His mercy deign to fill us unto all the fullness of God, 
that we may be able to see Him.' 2 

Chapter 53 

To the extent that you understand these words of the 
saintly man, which are not carnal but spiritual, and recognize 
that they are true, not because he said them but because 
truth clamors in them without noise of words, to that extent 
you understand how you may cling to God, to that extent you 
prepare yourself inwardly as the incorporeal place of His 
dwelling, to hear the silence of His discourse, and to see 
His invisible form. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they 
shall see God, not when He shall appear to them as a body 
coming from some intervening space, but when He shall 
come to them and make His dwelling with them, and thus 
they shall be filled unto all the fullness of God not that 
they will be God in His fullness, but that they shall be 
perfectly filled with God. But, if we think of nothing but 

2 Cf. above, Ch. 18. 



LETTERS 223 

corporeal objects, and we cannot even think worthily of the 
source of our thought about corporeal objects, let us not 
seek reproaches to make against ourselves; rather, let us 
cleanse our hearts of this carnal tendency by prayer and by 
turning to what lies before us. Let me tell you not only what 
blessed Ambrose but also what holy Jerome said: 'The eyes 
of the flesh can no more behold the divinity of the Father 
than they can that of the Son and the Holy Spirit, because 
there is one nature in the Trinity, but the eyes of the mind 
can, and of them the Saviour Himself said: "Blessed are the 
clean of heart, for they shall see God." 1 And according to 
the brief and true definition of the same Jerome: An 
incorporeal thing is not seen by corporeal eyes.' 2 



Chapter 54 

My reason for inserting these opinions of such great men 
on such a great subject was not to make you think that 
anyone's interpretation should be accepted with the authority 
due to the canonical Scripture, but that those who are 
otherwise minded may try to see with their mind what is 
true, and to seek God in the simplicity of their heart, 1 and 
cease to find fault so rashly with the learned expounders of 
the divine words. And do not be influenced by any who say, 
without sufficient reflection: 'What then will the bodily eyes 
see if they will not see God? Will they be blind or useless?* 
Those who say this do not realize that if there are to be no 
bodies, there will be no bodily eyes, but if there are to be 
bodies there will be something for bodily eyes to see. But let 

1 Jerome, Commentary on Isaias 6.1 (PL 24.93) . 

2 Jerome, Commentary on Job 425 (PL 26.1262) and Commentary on 
Zacharias 24.11 (PL 26.792) . 

1 Wisd. 1.1. 



224 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

this be enough to say, and when you consider, after reading 
and rereading all of it from the beginning of my treatise, you 
will probably perceive with certainty that a clean heart ought 
to prepare you, with His help, to see God. As for the spiritual 
body, I will try in another work to see what arguments I 
can find with the Lord's help. 2 



148. A memorandum to his holy brother, Fortunatianus 1 

(413) 

I now remind you of what I asked at our meeting, that 
you would be so kind as to see our brother, 2 of whom we 
spoke, and ask him to pardon me if he took any rather 
strong and emphatic remark of mine as directed against him 
in that letter, which I do not regret having written, in such 
way as to say that the eyes of this body do not see God and 
will not see Him. As a matter of fact, I added the reason why 
I said this : namely, to prevent the belief that God is Himself 
corporeal or visible in any locality or space relation for the 
eye of this body can see in no other way and also to 
prevent that expression, 'face to face,' 3 from being taken to 
mean that God is limited by the parts of a body. Therefore, 

1 do not regret having said this, because we should not have 
such an irreverent idea of God as to imagine that, instead of 

2 De civitate Dei 22.29. In Retractations 2.41, Augustine says of the 
subject treated in this letter: 'I have written a book on the Vision of 
God, in which I undertook a careful examination of the future nature 
of the spiritual body at the resurrection of the saints, and whether 
and how God, who is a spirit, can be seen by a body; but that very 
difficult question at the end I explained as best I could in Book 22 of 
The City of God: 

1 Bishop of Sicca, one of the seven chosen to debate with the Donatists 
at the Conference of Carthage (411). 

2 A brother bishop, not named, but suspected of anthropomorphism. 

3 1 Cor. 13.12. 



LETTERS 225 

being everywhere wholly present. He can be distributed 
through portions of space. These latter are the kinds of 
objects we know through our eyes. 

Now, suppose a man has no such idea of God, but believes 
Him to be a changeless and incorporeal spirit, everywhere 
present, if he imagines that this body of ours will undergo 
such a change when it turns from animal to spiritual that 
even with such a body we shall be able to see that incorporeal 
substance without space relations, neither distributed through 
portions of space, nor limited by bodily features and dimen- 
sions, but everywhere wholly present, I wish he would en- 
lighten me, if his opinion is true. However, if he is wrong 
in this, it is much more endurable to have him arrogate 
something to the body than to derogate from God. And if 
his opinion is true, it will not contradict my words, as I ex- 
pressed myself in that letter. I said that the eyes of this body 
can see nothing but corporeal objects, which are separated 
from them by some intervening space, because, if there is no 
intervening space, we do not see those objects through the 
eyes. 

Moreover, if our bodies are going to be changed into some- 
thing so unlike themselves that they will have eyes capable 
of seeing that substance which is not distributed through 
portions of space, nor limited by it, having one part here, 
another there, a smaller part in a smaller space, a larger 
part in a larger space, but, everywhere incorporeally wholly 
present, these bodies will be something very different. They 
will not be different merely through the removal of mortality, 
corruption, and the weight of matter, but they will be changed 
in some way into the very quality of the mind itself, if they are 
going to be able to see in a way which will be granted to the 
mind then, but which is not granted even to the mind at 
present. If, when a man's behavior is changed, we say he is not 
the man he was; if, with the changes brought on by age, we 



226 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

say the body is not what it was, how much greater the 
change wrought by that transformation, which not only 
makes it live forever, but even makes it see the invisible! 
Therefore, if they are to see God, it will not be the eyes of 
this body that will see Him, because the body will not be 
changed so as to have such power and ability as to do that, 
and that opinion is not opposed to what I said in my letter. 
But, if it will only not be itself to this extent that it is now 
mortal, but then immortal, now weighing down the soul, but 
then freed of weight and able to move with ease, to see those 
things which are perceived in spatial relations and are 
separated by intervening space, if it will not be other than 
itself, then it will absolutely not see the incorporeal substance 
which is everywhere wholly present. Whether this view or that 
be true, the second one of the two is true: that the eyes of 
this body will not see God, for either they will belong to this 
body and they will not see Him, or they will not belong to 
it if they do see Him, since after such a change they will 
belong to a far different body. 

However, I am ready, if this brother has some better 
knowledge of this matter, to learn either from him or from his 
source of knowledge. If I were speaking in mockery, I would 
say that I am ready to learn even that theory of a corporeal 
God with separate parts occupying different places. I do not 
say this because I am not speaking in mockery; I am entirely 
sure that such a God does not exist, and I wrote that letter to 
forestall belief in such a one. And, while I was careful to 
convey my rebuke without mentioning names, I showed too 
great a disregard for the character of a brother and a bishop; 
I did not think of him in the manner a brother and a bishop 
ought to do. I do not condone this, I condemn it; I do not 
excuse it, I blame it; I ask pardon for it; let him remember 
our early affection and forget this latest offense. Let him by 
aU means do what he was angry with me for not doing: let 



LETTERS 227 

him show his mildness by making the allowance for me which 
I did not make for him in writing that letter. I ask through 
your Charity what I should have liked to ask him in person if 
I had the opportunity of meeting him. When I had tried to 
do so through the letter of a man worthy of respect and 
excelling all of us in honor, he would not come, probably 
suspecting some trick on my part, according to the usual run 
of human affairs, I suppose. Do you, to the best of your 
ability, get him to believe that I am far removed from that, 
and you can do it more easily because you are in personal 
touch with him. Tell him how deep and how true my sorrow 
was, when I spoke to you of the hurt I had done to his heart. 
Let him know that I do not look down on him, that I greatly 
fear God in him, and that I think of our Head, in whose body 
we are brothers. 4 I think it would not do for me to go to the 
place where he lives, because it might be a subject of ridicule 
for strangers, of grief for ours, and of shame for us. All this 
can be properly accomplished by your Holiness and Charity; 
it certainly is accomplished by Him who dwells by faith in 
your heart. 5 I trust our friend will not turn from Him in 
you when he recognizes Him in himself. 

In this matter, I have certainly not found anything better 
to do than to ask pardon of my brother, who has complained 
of being hurt by the sharpness of my letter. I hope he himself 
will do what he knows is enjoined on him by Him who spoke 
by the Apostle when he said: 'Forgiving one another, if any 
have a complaint against another, even as God has forgiven 
you in Christ. 56 'By ye therefore followers of God as most dear 
children, and walk in love as Christ also hath loved you.' 7 
Walking in this love, let us examine peaceably and as carefully 

4 Col. 1.18. 

5 Eph. 3.17. 

6 Cf. Col. 3.13. 

7 Cf. Eph. 5.1,2. 



228 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

as we can into this question of the spiritual body which we 
shall have at the resurrection, because, 'if we are otherwise 
minded, this also God will reveal to us/ 8 if we abide in Him. 
Tor he that abideth in charity, abideth in God and God in 
him/ because 'God is charity,' 9 whether He exists as its 
ineff able fount or grants it to us through His Spirit. If, then, it 
can be taught that charity will be seen at some time by bodily 
eyes, perhaps it will be possible for God, also, but, if charity 
will never be so seen, much less will its fount be seen, even 
if anything higher or more appropriate can be said of so 
sublime a subject. 

Certain eminent men, deeply versed in the holy Scriptures, 
who have greatly helped the Church and the exemplary 
studies of the faithful by their writings have said, when 
occasion was offered them, that the invisible God is invisibly 
seen, that is, by that nature which is also invisible in us, 
namely, by the clean mind and heart. When blessed Ambrose 
was treating of Christ as the Word, he said: 10 'Jesus is not 
seen by corporeal, but by spiritual eyes,' and a little further 
on: 'The Jews did not see Him, for their foolish heart was 
blinded,' 11 showing by this how He is seen. Likewise, when he 
was speaking of the Holy Spirit, he inserted the words of 
the Lord when He said: 'I will ask the Father and he shall 
give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you 
forever; the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive 
because it seeth him not nor knoweth him.' 12 'With good 
reason, then/ he says, 'did He show Himself in the body, 
since He is not seen in the substance of the divinity. We have 
seen the Spirit, but it was under a corporeal appearance; let 
us see the Father, also, but, since we cannot see Him, let us 

8 Phil. 3.15. 

9 1 John 4.16. 

10 Expositio evangelii secundum Lucam 1.5,6. (CSEL 32) . 

11 Mark 6.52. 

12 John 14.16,17. 



LETTERS 229 

hear Him.' And a little later he says: 'Let us then hear the 
Father, for the Father is invisible, but the Son is also in- 
visible' 13 according to His divinity, 'for no man hath seen 
God at any time.' 14 Since, then, the Son is God, inasmuch as 
He is God, the Son is not seen. 

The saintly Jerome says: 'The eye of man cannot see God 
as He is in His own nature, and this is true not only of man, 
but also of Angels, Thrones, Powers and Dominations, as 
well as of any creatures that can be named, for the creature 
cannot behold its Creator.' 15 In these words that learned man 
shows clearly enough what he thinks about the world to 
come, which has a bearing on this question. For, to whatever 
degree our eyes are changed for the better, they will resemble 
the eyes of the angels. But he also said that the nature of the 
Creator is invisible both to them and to any heavenly being 
whatever. Now, if from this any question originates or any 
doubt arises whether we shall not be better endowed than 
the angels, we have this plain statement of the Lord, when He 
said of those who are to rise again to enter the kingdom: 
'They shall be like the angels of God.' 16 On this point the 
same holy Jerome speaks thus in another place: 17 'Therefore, 
man cannot see the face of God, but the angels of even the 
least in the Church see the face of God. 18 "We see now 
through a glass in a dark manner, but then face to face," 19 
when we shall have advanced from the state of men to that of 
angels, and shall be able to say with the Apostle: "But we all 
beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are trans- 
formed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the 

13 CoL 1.15; 1 Tim. 1.17. 

14 John 1.18; 1 John 4.12. 

15 Source of quotation unknown. 

16 Matt. 22.30; Mark 12.25; Luke 20.36. 

17 Commentary on Isaias 1.10 (PL 24.33) . 

18 Matt. 18.10. 

19 1 Cor. 13.12. 



230 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

Spirit of the Lord/ 520 although it is true that no creature may 
see the face of God according to His essential nature, but, 
when He is believed in, then He is seen by the mind.' 

In these words of the man of God, there are many points 
to consider: first, that according to the very clear statement 
of the Lord he himself thinks that we shall see the face of 
God when we have advanced to the state of angels, that is, 
when we become like the angels, which will obviously be at 
the resurrection of the dead. Secondly, he shows plainly by 
the testimony of the Apostle that we are to understand the 
face of the interior, not of the exterior man, when we shall 
see face to face, because the Apostle was evidently speaking 
of the face of the heart when he said what was quoted on 
this : c We beholding the glory of the Lord with open face are 
transformed into the same image.' If anyone doubts of this, 
let him review that passage and notice what the Apostle was 
speaking about, namely, the veil which 'remaineth in the 
reading of the Old Testament, 3 until each one is converted to 
Christ, that the veil may be taken away. It was then he said : 
'But we beholding the glory of the Lord with open face,' a 
face which was not open among the Jews, of whom he said : 
'the veil is upon their heart,' 21 to show that the face of our 
heart is opened when the veil is removed. Finally, to prevent 
anyone who might be unobservant and undiscriminating 
from believing that God is visible either to angels or men 
when we have become like the angels either now or in the 
future, he expressed his opinion in the clearest terms when 
he said that no creature may see the face of God according to 
His essential nature, but, when He is believed in, then He is 
seen by the mind. From this he has made it quite evident that 
when He has been seen by men with bodily eyes, as if He were 
Himself corporeal, He has not been seen according to His 
essential nature, for in that He is seen by the mind when He 

20 2 Cor. 3.18. 

21 2 Cor. 3.14-16. 



LETTERS 231 

is believed in. And, since He is invisible even to the heavenly 
beings, unless He appears in corporeal aspect, how much more 
is this true of dwellers on the earth? 

In another place 22 he said even more plainly: 'It is not 
alone the Godhead of the Father, but even that of the Son and 
of the Holy Spirit, which is one nature in the Trinity, that 
cannot be seen by the eyes of the flesh, but only by the eyes 
of the mind, of which the Saviour Himself said : "Blessed are 
the clean of heart, for they shall see God." ' 23 What is clearer 
than this line of argument? If he had merely said that the 
Godhead of neither Father nor Son nor Holy Spirit, which 
is one nature in the Trinity, could be seen by the eyes of the 
flesh, and had not added at once 'but the eyes of the mind, 3 
perhaps someone might have said that it was no longer to be 
called flesh when the body had become spiritual. Thus, by 
adding this and saying 'eyes of the mind,' he differentiated 
this kind of vision from every bodily kind. And, lest anyone 
think that he had spoken only of the present time, he ap- 
pended the testimony of the Lord, wishing to show what he 
meant by eyes of the mind, since in this testimony promise 
is made not of present but of future sight: 'Blessed are the 
clean of heart for they shall see God.' 

The most blessed Athanasius, 24 Bishop of Alexandria, when 
he was arguing against the Arians, who say that only God 
the Father is invisible, but think that the Son and the Holy 
Spirit are visible, proved by the authority of holy Scriptures 
and by his own careful reasoning that the Trinity is equally 
invisible, pressing the point vigorously that God has not been 
seen except by taking the appearance of a creature; that, 
according to the essential nature of His Godhead, God is 
completely invisible, that is, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, 
except in so far as He can be known by mind and spirit. 

22 Commentary on Isaias 3.1 (PL 24.93) . 

23 Matt. 5.8. 

24 Orationes adversus Arrianos 1.631 4.14; 4.36 (PG 36.114,352,524) , 



232 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

Gregory, 25 also, a holy bishop of the East, said plainly that 
when God, invisible by nature, appeared to the patriarchs, as 
to Moses, with whom He spoke face to face, 26 He could foe 
seen only by taking on some combination of visible matter, 
preserving His invisibility intact. This is also what our Am- 
brose said : that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit 
are seen under that appearance which their will has chosen 
but their nature has not formed. 27 This conforms to the truth 
of the saying that 'No man hath seen God at any time, 3 which 
is the word of the Lord Christ Himself, and of this: 'Whom 
no man hath seen nor can see, 528 which is the word of the 
Apostle, or rather of Christ through His Apostle; thus, those 
testimonies of the Scriptures are not repudiated wherein it is 
said that God has been seen, because He is both invisible by 
the essential nature of the Godhead, and can be seen when He 
wills by means of a created form taken according to His 
pleasure. 

Moreover, if His nature is invisible, as it is immortal, that 
nature will certainly not be changed in a future life, so as to 
turn from invisible to visible, because it will not be possible 
for it to turn from immortal to mortal, for it is at the same 
time unchangeable. Doubtless, the Apostle praised His nature 
when he set down these two qualities together, saying: 'Now 
to the king of ages, invisible and immortal, the only God, be 
honor and glory forever and ever. 329 Therefore, I do not 
venture to make a distinction by saying c to the immortal for- 
ever and ever,' but to the invisible not forever and ever, but 
only in this life. However, as those testimonies cannot be 
false which say: 'Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall 

25 Gregory Nazianzen (328-390) De Filii divinitate et consubstdntialitate 
tractatus f a treatise now variously attributed to Gregory of Elvira 
(died c.392) or to Phoebadius of Agen (end of 4th century) . 

26 Exod. 33.11. 

27 Letter 147. 

28 1 Tim. 6.16. 

29 I Tim, 1.17. 



LETTERS 233 

see God' and We know that when he shall appear, we shall 
be like to him because we shall see him as he is,' 30 we cannot 
deny that the children of God will see God, but it will be as 
invisible things are seen, as He promised to show Himself 
when He appeared to men visibly in the flesh and said : 'And 
I will love him and will manifest myself to him,' 31 being in 
full view before the eyes of men when He spoke. But how are 
invisible things seen except by the eyes of the heart, as I 
mentioned a short time ago when I quoted Jerome's opinion 
about the vision of God? 

For this reason, the above-mentioned Bishop of Milan said 
that even in the resurrection it is not easy to see God, except 
for those who are clean of heart, and therefore it is written: 
'Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God. 3 He 
says: 'How many kinds of blessed He had enumerated, yet 
to none of them had He promised the ability to see God!' 
Then he went on and said: 'If, then, those who are clean of 
heart will see God, doubtless others will not see Him.' 32 And 
lest we should take those others to be the ones of whom it is 
said : 'Blessed are the poor; blessed are the meek,' 33 and the 
rest, he forthwith adds: The unworthy will not see God,' 
evidently intending us to understand that, although those 
unworthy will rise again, they will not be able to see God, 
since they will rise to damnation because they refused to 
cleanse their hearts by the true faith 'that worketh by 
charity.' 34 Thereupon he follows up and says: 'Nor is he who 
does not wish to see God able to see Him.' Then, because 
it occurred to him that all the wicked do wish to see God, he 
at once went on to show what he meant by 'he who does 
not wish to see God,' since, obviously, the wicked soul does 

30 1 John 3.2. 

31 John 14.21. 

32 Cf. Letter 147. 

33 Matt. 5.3,4. 

34 Gal. 5,6. 



234 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

not wish to see God in the measure in which he refuses to 
cleanse his heart so that he may see Him; and he says: God 
is not seen in any locality, but in the clean heart; God is not 
sought by bodily eyes, nor limited by our sight, nor held by 
touch, nor heard by His utterance, nor perceived in His ap- 
proach. 5 By those words blessed Ambrose intended to warn 
men who wish to see God what their preparation ought to be, 
that is, to cleanse their heart by faith c that worketh by charity,' 
by the gift of the Holy Spirit from whom we receive the 
pledge 35 by which we know that we desire that vision. 

In regard to the various members of God, to which 
Scripture constantly refers, the same Scripture says that God 
has wings, 36 which we obviously have not, to prevent us from 
believing that we are like God according to the form and 
figure of this flesh. As, then, we think of protection when we 
hear 'wing/ so we ought to think of action when we hear 
'hands, 3 and of presence when we hear 'feet,' and of sight by 
which one acquires knowledge when we hear 'eyes,' and of 
acquaintance by which one is made known when we hear 
'face/ If the same Scripture makes any other such reference, I 
think it is to be understood in a spiritual sense, and I am not 
the only one or the first one to think so, but all who are 
endowed with any kind of spiritual understanding do so when 
they oppose those who are called anthropomorphists. And 
not to draw this out much longer, by many quotations from 
their writings, I include this one passage from holy Jerome, to 
let that brother know that, if anything stirs him to opposition 
in this matter, he does not have ta deal with me alone, but 
even more with my predecessors. 

When, then, that man, so learned in the Scriptures, was 
commenting on the psalm 37 where it says: 'Understand, ye 

35 2 Cor. 5.5. 

36 Ps. 16.8. 

37 Ps, 93.8,9. 



LETTERS 235 

senseless among the people : and you fools be wise at last. He 
that hath planted the ear, shall he not hear? or he that hath 
formed the eye, doth he not consider?' he said, among other 
things: 'This passage is directed chiefly against the anthro- 
pomorphists who say that God has members such as we have. 
For example, God is said to have eyes : the eyes of the Lord 
look upon all things; the hand of the Lord makes all things; 
and it says: "Adam heard the footsteps of the Lord walking 
in paradise." 38 They take these expressions literally, and they 
attribute our human inadequacies to the magnificence of 
God. But I say that God is all eye, He is all hand, He is all 
foot. He is all eye because He sees all things; He is all hand be- 
cause He effects all things; He is all foot because He is every- 
where present. See, then, what it says: "He that hath planted 
the ear, doth he not hear?" It does not say: "He that hath 
planted, doth he not then have an ear?" and it does not say: 
"doth he not then have eyes?" What does it say? "He that hath 
planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that hath formed the 
eye, doth he not consider?" He brought together the members, 
he gave the faculties. 339 

I have thought well to give all these quotations from the 
works of Latin and Greek writers who have lived before us 
in the Catholic Church, and have expounded the divine 
words, to let that brother know that, if any view of his differs 
from theirs, it is to be examined and either learned or taught 
with careful and quiet attention, after laying aside any 
bitterness of dissension, restoring and preserving in its integrity 
the sweetness of fraternal charity. Still, we are not obliged to 
regard the arguments of any writers, however Catholic and 
estimable they may be, as we do the canonical Scriptures, so 
that we may not with all due respect to the deference owed 
them as men refute or reject anything we happen to find in 

38 Gen. 3.8. What Adam heard was the voice of the Lord God In paradise. 

39 Breviarium in Psalmum 93 (PL 26.1108) . 



236 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

their writings wherein their opinions diif er from the established 
truth, or from what has been thought out by others or by us, 
with divine help. I wish other thinkers to hold the same 
attitude toward my writings as I hold toward theirs. To sum 
up, with all these excerpts which I have quoted from the 
works of holy and learned men, Ambrose, Jerome, Athanasius, 
Gregory, and others whom I might have cited to the same 
effect, if I had not thought it would take too long, I believe 
with unshaken faith, by the help of the Lord, and, as far as 
He grants it, I understand that God is not corporeal, that 
He has no members of a human form, that He cannot be 
distributed through parts of space, that He is by nature 
unchangeably invisible, that He has not appeared in that 
same nature and substance, but when He is described in the 
holy Scriptures as having been seen by bodily eyes He has 
shown Himself as He willed and to whom He willed by taking 
a visible appearance. 

Concerning the spiritual body which we shall have at the 
resurrection and how much of a change it will undergo for 
the better, there are many other difficulties which can engage 
us: whether it will be merged into the simplicity of the soul so 
that the whole man becomes spirit, or whether, as I think 
more likely, but have not sufficient certitude to affirm, it will 
become a body so spiritual that it may be called spiritual 
because of some indescribable facility it will have, while 
retaining the corporeal substance which can have life and 
consciousness only through the soul which makes use of it 
and even now the soul and body have not the same nature, 
since the body is called animal whether, if. the nature of the 
body is retained, although in an immortal and incorruptible 
state, it will then help the soul to see visible, that is, corporeal, 
objects, as now we are unable to see such an object except 
through the body, or whether our soul will then have the 
ability to know corporeal things without the intervention of 



LETTERS 



237 



any bodily organ (for God does not know material objects 
through bodily senses) on these matters I confess that I 
have not yet read anything which I think satisfactory either to 
learn or to teach. 

Consequently, if this warning of mine, such as it is, does 
not displease this brother, let us, to the best of our ability, and 
with His help, make ready a clean heart for that vision ac- 
cording to what is written : 'that we shall see him as he is.' 4 " 
And let us examine peacefully and carefully into the question 
of the spiritual body, if so be that God might deign to point 
out to us, according to His Scriptures, something clear and 
certain, if He knows that this will be useful to us. If a more 
careful inquiry should discover that the body will undergo 
such a change as to be able to see the invisible, 1 do not think 
that such a power in the body would deprive the mind of its 
sight, so that the exterior man would then be able to see God, 
but the interior one could not, as if God were only exterior to 
man and not interiorly in man, since it is most plainly written : 
'that God may be all in all'; 41 or that He should be interiorly 
in man so as to be seen exteriorly by the exterior man but not 
interiorly by the interior man, whereas He is wholly present 
everywhere without any spatial relations. If these suppositions 
are absurd for it is more likely that the saints will be filled 
with God; they will not be empty within and surrounded by 
Him without, nor will they be blind within and unable to see 
Him who fills them, but furnished with eyes exteriorly and 
able to see Him only as they are surrounded by Him it re- 
mains a fact that meantime we have complete certainty of the 
vision of God according to the interior man. If, then, the 
body attains this by some marvellous change, something will 
be added, nothing will be taken away, 

It will be better for us, then, to assert what we do not 

40 1 John 3.2. 

41 I Cor. 15.28. 



238 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

doubt, that the interior man will see God, as it alone is now 
able to see charity, which is praised in these words: 'God is 
charity,' 42 as it alone is able to see c peace and holiness without 
which no man shall see God.' 43 For, it is no bodily eye which, 
at present, beholds charity, peace, holiness and other things 
of like nature; it is the eye of the mind which now sees all 
these things, to the extent of its ability, and it sees them with 
greater clarity in proportion to its own purity. Thus, whether 
or not we reach the conclusion we are seeking about the 
nature of the future body, we may believe without reserve that 
we shall see God, since we are certain, in spite of all, that the 
body will rise again, and that it will be immortal and incor- 
ruptible. We possess the clearest and strongest assurances on 
this point from the holy Scriptures. Nevertheless, if that 
brother now takes to himself as a matter of complete certainty 
what I am still only formulating about the spiritual body, he 
will have good reason to be angry if I do not listen patiently 
to his exposition of it, so long as he listens patiently to my 
inquiry. Now, however, I ask you in Christ's Name to beg his 
pardon for me for that sharpness in my letter which I hear has 
offended him with good reason, and to gladden me by your 
answer, with the Lord's help. 

42 1 John 4.8. 

43 Heb. 12.14. 



LETTERS 239 

149. Augustine gives greeting in the Lord to his blessed, 

reverently esteemed and estimably revered, holy 

and religiously cherished brother and fellow 

bishop, Paulinus 1 (414) 

The Lord has suddenly gladdened us by your letter with 
its tidings of the safe arrival of our brother and fellow priest, 
Quintus, and those who sailed with him, so, with thanks to 
Him 'who lifteth up them that are cast down, and consoleth 
the lowly,' 2 as well as to the sincerity of your heart, I am 
taking advantage of the imminent departure of my son, our 
fellow deacon, Rufinus, who is sailing from the port of Hippo, 
to answer you and thus pay my debt. I approve the kindly 
plan which the Lord has inspired in you, and which you have 
been so kind as to suggest to me. May He also further it, may 
He favor it, as He has already greatly relieved my anxiety, 
since that much-loved man has been borne along and com- 
mended not only by his good works, but also by your holy 
prayers. 

I received the letter of your Reverence, in which you asked 
me many questions, roused me to examine into many points, 
and taught me by your requests. I answered at once and 
sent my letter by the bearers of those same holy consolers of 
ours, but I learn from your latest that mine was not delivered 
to your Reverence. I cannot recall how far I went in that 
letter toward answering your questions; when I looked for 
a copy, by way of verifying it, I could not find one. However, 
I am quite sure that I did answer some of your questions, 
but I did not finish all of them because the bearer was in 
a hurry and kept urging me to make an end of it. I sent 
with it, as you requested, a copy of the letter which I wrote 

1 Bishop of Nola. This is an answer to Letter 121, written in 410, al- 
though it is supposed that intervening letters were lost. 

2 Cf. Ps. 145.8. 



240 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

you from Carthage on the resurrection of the body, in which 
the question of bodily functions was raised. I am sending 
this now, as well as a copy of another which I surmise did 
not come to hand either, since you have asked the same 
questions again which, as I reread it, I see that I answered. I 
have no idea whom I charged with that letter. But the letter 
of your Charity I did not see the bearer to which mine 
was the answer, as it shows, was forwarded to me by our 
people at Hippo, when I was staying with my holy brother 
and fellow bishop, Boniface, 3 and I answered immediately, 
without delay. 

As I wrote you then, I had not been able to consult any 
Greek texts on certain words of Psalm 16, but afterward I 
secured some and consulted them. One of them had the 
same reading as our Latin text: "destroying them from the 
earth, divide them' ; another text had what you wrote : 'from 
the few of the earth. 34 But the former has a clear meaning: 
"destroying them from the earth,' which Thou hast given 
them, 'divide them' among the Gentiles, which also happened 
to them when they were overwhelmed and overthrown by a 
dread war. I have no idea how the second version is to be 
understood, unless it means that, in contrast with the de- 
stroyed people, some remnants of them were saved, at least 
among the few of them of whom the Scripture says that they 
are to be divided, that is, distributed and separated, saying: 
'Lord, from the few, 5 that is, from the remnants which Thou 
hast saved of the people, 'divide them from the earth, 3 to make 
us understand by earth the Church, the inheritance of the 
faithful and the holy, which is also called the land of the 
living, 5 and which can be correctly understood of this passage : 

3 Bishop of Cataqua, one of those present at the Conference of 
Carthage (411). 

4 Cf. Ps. 16.14. 

5 Ps. 26.13; 51.7; 141.6. 



LETTERS 241 

'Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land' 6 by 
inheritance. But, when it says: 'From the few of the earth, 
divide them,' it adds 'in their life,' to make clear that this will 
happen while they live here. Many, during their lifetime, seem 
to be joined to the Catholic Church and its unity, by par- 
taking of the sacraments, but when they die they are 
separated from the Church. These, then, are divided from 
the few believers among them, from the earth, which the 
Father cultivates as a farmer his field, but they are divided in 
their life, that is, openly, as we see. But it continues: 'Their 
belly is filled from thy hidden stores,' 7 that is, in addition to 
their being openly divided, 'their belly is filled even from thy 
hidden stores,' which thou dost bestow in secret on the con- 
science of the wicked; here he uses 'belly* to represent the 
secrets which are hidden within. 

As to the following passage, 'They are full of pork', I have 
explained what I think of it. What readings other texts have 
or are truthfully reported to have because the more carefully 
written copies explain this same well-known ambiguity of the 
Greek word by the accent, 8 according to the Greek method of 
writing is a matter somewhat obscure, but it seems to fit in 
better with the more acceptable meaning. He had said: 'Their 
belly is filled from thy hidden stores/ by which words the 
hidden judgments of God are meant, and no doubt they 
are hidden from the wretched, who rejoice even in evil, whom 
'God gave up to the desires of their heart.* 9 It is as if the 
question were asked how those who are filled in secret with 
the anger of God can be known, and the answer would 
be what is said in the Gospel: 'By their fruits you shall know 

6 Matt. 5.4. 

7 Ps. 16.14. 

8 Uion, of sons, has a form uon; sus, pig, also has a genitive plural won. 
The ambiguity arises rather from the omission of the letter iota than 
from the similarity of accent* 

9 Rom. 1.24. 



242 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

them/ 10 and this is followed by: They are full of children,' 11 
that is, of fruits, which evidently means their works. Hence, 
we read elsewhere: 'Behold he hath been in labor with in- 
justice: he hath conceived sorrow and brought forth ini- 
quity,' 12 and in another passage: 'Then when concupiscence 
hath conceived it bringeth forth sin. 313 Therefore, the evil 
children are the evil works, by which they are known, and it 
is as if their belly were filled from the hidden stores of God 
by His interior judgments of their thoughts: the good 
children are good works. For this reason He says to the 
Church, His spouse : 'Thy teeth are as a flock of sheep that are 
shorn, which come up from the washing, all with twins, and 
there is none barren among them.' 14 By this twin offspring 
the twofold object of love is meant, namely, God and the 
neighbor: c On these two commandments dependeth the 
whole law and the prophets.' 15 

That interpretation by which the passage : 'They are filled 
with children,' is thus expounded had not occurred to me 
when I wrote to you before, but in revising a very short 
commentary on the same psalm which I had dictated long 
ago, I discovered that I had set that down rather briefly. I 
also looked at the Greek texts to see whether the word trans- 
lated by 'children' was in the dative case or the genitive, 
which has the uses of the ablative in that language, and I 
found it was the genitive. If it were translated literally it 
would read: 'They are full of children/ but the translator has 
correctly followed the sense and has rendered it in the Latin 
idiom: They are filled with children. 3 In the following: 'And 
they have left to their little ones the rest of their substance/ 16 

10 Matt. 7.16. 

11 This is the Vulgate reading. 

12 Ps. 7.15. 

13 James 1.15. 

14 Cant. 4.2. 

15 Matt. 22.40. 

16 Ps. 16.14. 



LETTERS 243 

I think 'little ones' is to be taken simply as children of the 
flesh. Thus, according to this explanation of the reading 'of 
children/ not 'of pork/ we have that sentence which they 
uttered: 'His blood be upon us and upon our children/ 17 
and this is how they left to their little ones the rest of their 
works. 

In Psalm 15, in the words: 'He made wonderful' or 'Let 
him make wonderful all his desires among them/ 18 nothing 
prevents us from accepting the reading 'in them' for 'among 
them'; in fact, it seems a more fitting rendering. That is 
what the Greek texts have, but often, when that language 
has 'in them/ our texts translate 'among them/ when it 
seems to fit the sense. Let us take it, then: 'To the saints who 
are in his land, he hath made wonderful all his desires in 
them/ which most of the texts have, and let us understand 
by 'his desires' the gifts of that grace which is given freely, that 
is, because He willed it, not because it was due. In the same 
way we have : 'Thou hast crowned us as with a shield of thy 
good will/ 19 and: 'By thy will thou hast conducted me/ 20 
and: 'Of his own will hath he begotten us by the word of 
truth/ 21 and: 'Thou hast set aside for thy inheritance, O 
God, a free rain/ 22 and: 'Dividing to everyone according as 
he will/ 23 and numberless other passages. Consequently, 'He 
hath made wonderful all his desires in them/ that is, to whom 
if not 'to his saints who are in his land'? For, if 'land/ as we 
showed above, can be taken in a good sense without adding 
'his/ how much more when it says 'his land'? Therefore, He 
has made wonderful all His desires in them; indeed, He has 

17 Matt. 27.25. 

18 Ps. 15.3. 

19 Ps. 5.13. 

20 Ps. 72.24. 

21 James 1.18. 

22 Ps. 67.10. 

23 1 Cor. 12.11. 



244 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

made them wonderful, in that He wonderfully freed them 
from despair. 

In admiration of this the Apostle cries out: C O the depth 
of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God.' 
He had said before : c God hath concluded all in unbelief, that 
he may have mercy on all.' 24 This is what follows in the 
psalm: Their infirmities are multiplied, afterwards they 
made haste.' 25 He puts infirmities for sins, as the Apostle says 
to the Romans: Tor if Christ when as yet we were weak died 
for the ungodly'; here he calls the weak ungodly. Then a 
little later, repeating the same thought, he says: 6 God com- 
mendeth his charity towards us, because when as yet we were 
sinners, Christ died for us;' here he calls sinners those whom 
he called weak above. In the same manner, in subsequent 
verses, he develops the same idea in other words: Tor if when 
we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of 
his Son.' Therefore, by the words: 'Their infirmities were 
multiplied,' we understand that their sins were multiplied. 
For 'the law entered in that sin might abound,' but since 
'where sin abounded grace did more abound,' 26 therefore 
'afterwards they made haste.' c He has not come to call the just 
but sinners, for they that are in health need not a physician, 
but they that are ill, 327 whose infirmities are obviously 
multiplied so that the remedy of so great a grace is needed to 
heal them, and that he to whom many sins are forgiven 
should love much. 28 

The ashes of a heifer and the sprinkling of blood and the 
multiplying of bloody victims signified this, but did not effect 
it. Therefore, it says afterward: C I will not gather together 
their meetings for blood-offerings, 5 that is, the blood of those 

24 Rom. 11.33,32. 

25 Ps. 15.4. 

26 Rom. 5.6,8,10. 

27 Matt. 7.13,12; Mark 2.17; Luke 5,32. 

28 Luke 7.47. 



LETTERS 245 

sacrifices which were immolated as a figure of the blood of 
Christ, 'nor will I be mindful of their names by my lips. 329 
Doubtless their names were found in that multiple list of 
infirmities: 'fornicators, idolaters., adulterers, effeminate, liers 
with mankind, thieves, covetous, extortioners, drunkards, 
railers, 3 and any others who 'shall not possess the kingdom of 
God.' But where sin did abound, grace did more abound, 
and afterward they made haste, for these things are past, 'but 
you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified 
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our 
God. 530 For this reason He will not be mindful of their 
names by His lips. It is true that the texts that have been more 
carefully corrected and enjoy a higher degree of authority 
have 'my desires,' 31 instead of 'his desires/ but the effect is 
the same, because the words are spoken in the person of the 
Son of God. It is clear that He speaks in person, since those 
words so clearly point to Him, and the Apostles used the same 
words when they said : 'Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell nor 
wilt thou give thy holy one to see corruption.' 32 Inasmuch as 
the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit possess the same 
gifts of grace, it is eminently right for the Son to call them 
His desires. 

As for what is meant in Psalm 58 when it says of the Jews: 
'Slay them not, lest at any time they forget my law,' 33 it seems 
to me appropriate to consider it a prophecy: thus, that same 
race, even when defeated and overcome, would not yield to 
the superstitions of the victorious people, but would remain 
firm hi the Old Law, thus preserving over the whole earth 
the testimony of the Scriptures whence the Church was to be 
called into being. There is no clearer testimony to prove to 

29 PS. 15.4. 

30 Cf. 1 Cor. 6.9-11. 

31 Ps. 15.3. 

32 Acts 257, from Ps. 15.10. 

33 Cf. Ps. 58.12. 



246 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

the nations this salutary fact that the Name of Christ attained 
its pre-eminent authority as the hope of eternal salvation by 
no sudden and unexpected contrivance of the spirit of 
human presumption, but was foretold and written down 
long before. If that prophecy were not proved from the texts 
of His enemies, what else would they think it was but some- 
thing invented by our texts? Therefore, 'Slay them not' do 
not blot out the very name of the race 'lest at any time they 
forget thy law,' which would certainly have happened if they 
had been compelled to accept the rites and sacrifices of the 
Gentiles and had failed to preserve the very name of their 
own religion. What was written of Cain was a figure of them, 
that 'the Lord set a mark upon him that no one should kill 
him.' 34 Finally, after saying: 'Slay them not, lest at any time 
they forget thy law, 3 as if in answer to the question what was 
to be done to them so that they might escape death, to further 
the purpose of giving testimony to the truth, that is, they 
should not be destroyed and should not forget the Law of 
God, it adds at once: 'Scatter them by thy power.' 35 For, if 
they had remained in one part of the earth, they would not 
have added their testimony to the preaching of the Gospel, 
which bears fruit all over the world. 36 Therefore: 'Scatter 
them by thy power,' that they who denied, persecuted, and 
killed Him may everywhere bear witness to Him by that 
very Law which they do not forget, and which foretold Him 
whom they do not follow. But it does them no good not to 
forget it, for it is one thing to hold the Law of God in memory, 
and another to understand it and carry it out. 

You ask what is meant by these words in Psalm 67 : 'But 
God shall break the heads of his enemies : the hairy crown of 
:hem that walk on in their sins/ 37 It seems to me it means 

34 Cf. Gen. 4.15. 

35 Ps. 58.12. 

36 Col. 1.6. 

37 Ps. 67.22. In Letter 121, Paulinus had wrongly given this as Psalm 66. 



LETTERS 247 

simply that God will break the heads of His enemies who 
are too overweening, who rise too high in their sins. By a 
certain hyperbole he describes pride as rising so high and 
rushing along with such eagerness that it is like striding and 
running over the hair of the head. Likewise, in the same 
psalm,, where it says: 'The tongue of thy dogs from the 
enemies by the same/ 38 dogs should not always be taken in an 
evil sense, otherwise the Prophet would not blame 'dogs not 
able to bark and loving to dream 9 : 39 doubtless they would be 
praiseworthy dogs if they both knew how to bark and loved 
to watch. And certainly those 300 men 40 a most sacred 
number according to the letter of the Cross 41 would not 
have been chosen to win the victory because they lapped water 
as dogs do, unless some great mystery were signified. Good 
dogs watch and bark to protect their house and their master, 
their flock and their shepherd. Finally, even here in the 
praises offered by the Church, when a selection is made from 
this prophecy, it is the tongue of dogs that is mentioned, not 
their teeth. 'The tongue of thy dogs,' it says, 'from the enemies,' 
that is, that those who used to be thy enemies and raged against 
thee may become thy dogs and may bark for thee. It added 
'from the same' to make them understand that this is not 
effected by themselves, but c by the same/ that is, by His 
mercy and grace. 

Concerning the Prophets mentioned by the Apostle when 
he says that in the Church 'God gave some apostles and some 
prophets,' 42 I understand it as you wrote it, that in this 
passage he means those Prophets of whom Agabus 43 was one, 

38 Ps. 67.24. 

39 Isa. 56.10. , , , _ 

40 Judges 75-7. This was the band with which Gideon defeated the 
Madianites. , . ., 

41 C is the symbol for 100; it Is the initial letter of crux; this would 
make CCC most sacred. 

42 Eph. 4.11. 

43 Acts 11.27,28. 



248 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

not those who foretold the coining of the Lord in the flesh. 
But we find Evangelists of whom we read that they were not 
Apostles, as Mark and Luke. As to 'pastors and doctors/ 
whom you earnestly wished me to distinguish, I think they are 
the same, as you also did, so that we do not take some as 
pastors and others as doctors. That is why, after he had 
mentioned pastors first, he added doctors, to let pastors 
know that teaching is part of their duty. He did not say 'some 
pastors and some doctors/ but, after he had differentiated 
the previous terms by listing each one with its distinguishing 
word, 'some apostles and some prophets and other some 
evangelists,' he joined these two nouns as if they were one 
term : 'and other some pastors and doctors.' 

I must say it is very difficult to make a distinction in that 
passage where he writes to Timothy and says : 'I desire there- 
fore first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and 
thanksgivings be made.' 44 In the Greek language they are 
distinguishable, but few translators can be found among us 
who have taken the trouble to render them carefully and 
intelligently. Notice what you yourself wrote: *I supplicate 
supplications/ where the Apostle, who undoubtedly wrote 
this letter in Greek, did not use the same word for both, but 
where the Latin has f obsecro y [I supplicate], he used the 
Greek f parakaleo j [I demand] and where your Latin writer has 
'obsecrationes [supplications], he had f deeseis j [entreaties]. 
However, other texts, including ours, have 'deprecationes* 
[invocations] instead of ' obsecrationes. 9 Most of the Latin 
texts have the other three words which follow: 'prayers, 
intercessions, thanksgivings. 5 

If, then, we try to differentiate these forms of expression 
according to the peculiarities of the Latin language, we shall 
hold to our own knowledge, such as it is, but I shall be sur- 

44 1 Tim. 2.1. 



LETTERS 249 

prised if we keep to the meaning and usage of the Greek 
speech. Many of our people think that there is no difference 
between 'precatio* and f deprecatio/ and in daily use that has 
generally held good, but those who speak Latin with greater 
precision use 'precatio* to ask for good things, 'deprecatio* to 
ward off evils. They claim that 'precari' means to ask God 
for good things in our prayers; 'imprecari* to call down evil, 
which is usually expressed nowadays by 'maledicere' [curse] ; 
'deprecari* to ward off evil by prayer. However, let us rather 
follow the present-day usage of speech; whether we find 
'precationes 3 or 'deprecationes* in our text, which in Greek is 
'deeseis/ let us not think we have to correct it. It is an ex- 
tremely difficult matter to distinguish 'orationes,* which in 
Greek is 'proseuchas* from 'preces* or 'precationes.' The fact 
that some texts have 'adorationes* [adorations] instead of 
'orationes/ because the Greek has f proseuchas* not f euchas/ is, 
I think, a matter of unskillful translation, for it is widely 
known that 'orationes* are called 'proseuchas 3 in Greek. 
Certainly there is a difference between praying and adoring. 
However, the Greek does not use that word but another in: 
'The Lord thy God shalt thou adore,' 45 and 'I will adore to- 
ward thy holy temple,' 46 and similar passages. 

According to the texts, where our translators have e inter- 
pellationes' [intercessions], yours, I believe, have f postulationes* 
[requests]. The Greek word is 'enteuxeis* [intercessions] and 
this one word the translators have tried to render in these 
two ways, since some have * postulationes* and other 'interpel- 
lationes? Of course, you notice and you know that there is a 
difference between f inter pellare' and 'postulare.* We are in the 
habit of saying : 'They petition with an intercession, 3 but 'they 
intercede with a petition.* However, when a word is used with 
an allied meaning, and the very similarity of meaning wins 

45 Matt. 4.10. 

46 Ps. 5.8. The Greek for adore is proskunco, bow down. 



250 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

understanding for it, we are not to disgrace it with a black 
mark. 47 We read of the Lord Jesus Christ that 'He makes inter- 
cession for us. 548 Could He possibly intercede without asking 
something for us? On the contrary, the word intercession is 
used because He petitions for us. This is plainly said of Him 
in another place: 'And if any man sin, we have an advocate 
with the Father, Jesus Christ the just: he is the propitiation for 
our sins, 549 It may be that your texts have 'petition for us,' 
instead of 'intercede for us,' in that passage about the Lord 

Tesus- however, in Greek, the word which is here translated 


'intercessions,' and which you wrote as 'petitions, is the same 

as the word in that other passage, where it is written: 'He 
makes intercession for us.' 

Since, then, he who pleads prays and he who prays pleads, 
while he that makes intercession with God does so for this end, 
that he may plead and pray, what does the Apostle mean by 
using these terms so that we cannot miss the difference of 
meaning? When a word is taken in a general sense, and with 
due regard for common usage of speech, it comes to one and 
the same thing whether you say precatio, oratio, inter pellatio 
or postulatio; but if some individual meaning is to be drawn 
from these separately, it is difficult to achieve this with 
exactness. Naturally, there is much to be said about it which 
cannot be gainsaid. 

I prefer to understand by these words what the entire, or 
almost the entire, Church observes: that we take as sup- 
plications \precationes] those prayers which are said in 
celebrating the Mysteries, before we begin to consecrate what 
lies on the table of the Lord; prayers [orationes] are said when 
it is blessed and sanctified and broken for distribution; and 
the whole Church, for the most part, closes this complete 

47 Nota censoria, the colored marks used by Roman censors to strike 
voters from the lists. 

48 Rom. 8.34. 

49 1 John 1.2. 



LETTERS 251 

petition with the Lord's Prayer. The original Greek word 
helps us to understand this distinction: the Scripture seldom 
uses the word euche in the sense of oratio, but generally and 
much more frequently euche means votum [vow, offering, 
wish]; whereas proseuche, the word used in the passage we 
are treating, is always rendered by oratio. As I said above, 
some unskillful translators, looking at proseuche as a de- 
rivative, have insisted on rendering it not oratio but adoratw, 
which, however, in Greek is proskunesis. It is because euche 
is sometimes used for oratio that they think proseuche ought 
to be adoratio. But, as I said, if it is more usual for euche to 
mean votum in Scripture, if we take the word 'prayer* hi its 
general sense, what we say at the offering of what is vowed is 
more properly called prayer, that is, proseuche. Now, all the 
things which are offered to God are vowed, especially the 
oblation at the holy altar, for in this Sacrament we show 
forth that supreme offering of ours, by which we vow to 
abide in Christ, even to the union of the Body of Christ. The 
outward sign of this is that 'we, being many, are one bread, 
one body.' 50 Consequently, I think that at this Consecration 
and this preparation for Communion the Apostle fittingly 
wishes that proseuchas, that is, prayers, should be made, or, 
as some have unskillfully rendered it, adoration, that is, what 
takes place at the offering, although this is more commonly 
expressed in Scripture by euche. Intercessions [interpel- 
lationes], however, or, as your texts have it, requests [postula- 
tiones], are offered while the blessing is being given to the 
people, for at that time, by the laying on of hands, the 
bishops, as intercessors, offer the members of their flock to the 
most merciful Power. When this is completed and all have 
received the holy Sacrament, the whole is ended by thanks- 
giving, and this last is the very term called to our notice by 
the Apostle. 



50 1 Cor. 10.17. 



252 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

My very special reason for saying all this was that after I 
had briefly defined and interpreted these terms, no one should 
think of overlooking the passage which follows : 'for all men, 
for kings and those who are in high station, that we may 
lead a quiet and peaceable life in all piety and charity, 551 and 
that no one should imagine, by a common frailty of the 
human mind, that these 52 are not also to be made for those 
at whose hands the Church suffers persecution, since the 
members of Christ are to be gathered from every class of 
men. Hence he continues and says: Tor this is good and 
acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have 
all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the 
truth.' And that no one might say that there can be a way 
of salvation in a good manner of life and in the worship of 
the one almighty God, without partaking of the Body and 
Blood of Christ, he says: Tor there is one God and one 
mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 553 to make 
clear that what he had said above : 'He will have all men to 
be saved' is to be realized only through a mediator who would 
not be God, as the Word is always God, but the man Christ 
Jesus, since 'the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.' 54 

Do not be disturbed, then, by what the same Apostle says 
about the Jews : 'As- concerning the gospel, indeed, they are 
enemies for your sake, but as touching the elect, they are 
dear for the sake of the fathers/ 55 Indeed, that 'depth of the 
riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God,' those 
'incomprehensible judgments and unsearchable ways' of 
His 56 strike deep admiration into faithful hearts which do 
not doubt that from the depths of His wisdom, 'reaching from 

51 Cf. 1 Tim. 2.1,2. 

52 I.e., supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings. 

53 1 Tim. 2.3,4. 

54 John 1.14. 

55 Rom. 11.28. 

56 Rom. 11.33. 



LETTERS 253 

end to end mightily, and ordering all things sweetly/ 57 there 
should be a reason why He is pleased to allow men to be 
born, to increase and multiply, whom He did not make 
wicked, but who He foreknew would be wicked. His design 
is deeply hidden, but by making a good use of the wicked for 
the benefit of the good, He exalts the omnipotence of His 
goodness, since, as they make a bad use of His good works, so 
His wisdom makes a good use of their evil works. 

The Apostle thus praises the depth of this mystery: e l 
would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery, lest 
you should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in 
part hath happened in Israel until the fullness of the gentiles 
should come in. And so all Israel should be saved.' 58 He said 
'in part,' because not all of them were blind; there were some 
among them who recognized Christ. But the fullness of the 
Gentiles comes in among those who have been called ac- 
cording to the plan. And so all Israel shall be saved because 
of the Jews and of the Gentiles who have been called ac- 
cording to the plan, and there arises a truer Israel of which 
the same Apostle says: c and upon the Israel of God,' 59 but he 
calls those others Israel according to the flesh: 'Behold, 5 he 
says, 'Israel according to the flesh/ 60 Then he inserts the 
testimony of the Prophet: 'There shall come out of Sion he 
that shall deliver and shaU turn away ungodliness from 
Jacob. And this is to them my covenant, when I shall take 
away their sins' 61 not, indeed, from all the Jews, but from 
the elect. 

This is the setting for the passage you posed for ex- 
planation: c As concerning the Gospel, indeed, they are 
enemies for your sake/ Now, the price of our redemption is 

57 Wisd. 8.1. 

58 Rom. 11.25,26. 

59 Gal. 6.16. 

60 1 Cor. 10.18. 

61 Rom. 11.26,27. 



254 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

the Blood of Christ, who could manifestly not be killed except 
by His enemies. Here is the use of wicked men for the benefit 
of the good. In what comes next: c But as touching the elect, 
they are dear for the sake of the fathers,' he shows that it is 
not the enemies but the elect who are dear. It is usual in the 
Scripture to speak of a part as of the whole, as, for example, 
he praises the Corinthians in the first part of his Epistle, as if 
all of them were like the special ones who deserved praise, 
but later, in other passages of the same Epistle, he blames them 
as if all deserved blame, whereas only certain ones deserved 
it. This manner of speech on the part of the divine Scriptures 
will be found scattered liberally throughout the whole col- 
lection of its writings by anyone who searches carefully, and it 
solves many points which seem to be contradictory. He says 
that some are enemies and some beloved, but, because they 
were of the same people, he seems to say that they are all the 
same. And even of those enemies who crucified the Lord, 
several were converted and stood forth as elect, but they 
became elect only when they were converted, counting that 
as the beginning of their salvation, but from the point of view 
of the foreknowledge of God they were not elect only at that 
time, but before the foundation of the world, as the same 
Apostle says that 'He chose us before the foundation of the 
world.' 62 Therefore, there are two ways in which those 
enemies were loved: either because both were included in 
one people, or because some of them, who had raged as 
enemies even to the shedding of Christ's Blood, became 
beloved according to the election which was hidden in the 
foreknowledge of God. He added to this : 'for the sake of the 
fathers,' because what had been promised to the fathers was 
bound to be fulfilled, as he says toward the end of the 
Epistle to the Romans: Tor I say that Christ was minister of 
the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the 

62 Eph. 1.4. 



LETTERS 255 

promises made to the fathers; but that the gentiles are to 
glorify God for his mercy.' 63 It is according to that mercy 
that he says : 'Enemies for your sake/ as well as what he said 
above: 'By their offense salvation is come to the gentiles.' 64 

But when he had said : 'As touching the election ... for the 
sake of the fathers,' he added : Tor the gifts and the calling 
of God are without repentance.' 65 You see, of course, that 
he means those who belong to the number of the predestined. 
In another place -he says of these: 'We know that to them 
that love God, all things work together unto good, to such 
as according to his purpose are called.' 66 Tor many are 
called, but few chosen,' 67 but those who are chosen are them- 
selves called according to His purpose, and in their case the 
foreknowledge can emphatically not be mistaken. Tor whom 
he foreknew he also predestinated to be made conformable 
to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born 
amongst many brethren. And whom he predestinated, them 
also he called.' This calling is according to His purpose, that 
is, without repentance. c But whom he called, them also he 
justified, and whom he justified them also he glorified. If God 
be for us, who is against us?' 68 

. Those who walk by faith 'that worketh by charity/ 69 though 
it should be for some time, if they do not persevere unto 
the end, are not included in that calling. Doubtless they 
could have been taken away, 'lest wickedness alter their 
understanding,' 70 if they had belonged to that predestination 
and calling which is according to His purpose and without 
repentance. And let no one presume to judge the hidden 

63 Rom. 15.8,9. ' 

64 Rom. 11.11. 

65 Rom. 11.29. 

66 Rom. 8.28. 

67 Matt. 20.18. 

68 Rom. 85931. 

69 Gal. 5.6. 

70 Col. 2.18. 



256 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

deeds of others so as to say: 'They were not taken away 
from this life before they left the faith because they did 
not walk faithfully in this life, and the Lord knew that this 
was in their hearts, although it seemed otherwise to men/ 
What is to be said of infants who receive the sacrament of 
Christian grace, as is usual at that age, and thus undoubtedly 
have a claim to eternal life and the kingdom of heaven if 
they die at once, whereas, if they are allowed to grow up, 
some even become apostates? Why is this, except that they are 
not included in that predestination and calling according to 
His purpose and without repentance? Why some are included 
and others are not can be for a hidden reason, but not for 
an unjust one. 'Is there injustice with God? God forbid! 571 
For this also forms part of that depth of His judgments which 
the Apostle admires even as he fears. And his reason for 
calling them judgments is to prevent anyone from thinking 
that such things happen through the injustice or the im- 
prudence of the doer, or accidentally or through the chance 
passing of any part of the centuries which have been so 
disposed by the great wisdom of God. 

Coining now to the Epistle to the Colossians where it is 
written: 'Let no man seduce you willing in humility,' 72 and 
the rest which follows, as far as you said it was obscure 
to you, I do not myself find it as yet clear of fog. How I 
wish you could have asked me that in a personal conversation ! 
In that feeling for words, which it seems to me that I have, 
there is implied a certain pronouncement to be made by the 
expression of the face and the tone of voice, which cannot 
be expressed by letters so as to be even partially understood, 
and which thereupon becomes more obscure because, I 
think, it is not properly expressed. As to the words: 'Touch 

71 Rom. 9.14. 

72 Col. 2.18. 



LETTERS 257 

not, taste not, handle not/ 73 if they are considered as a 
commandment of the Apostle forbidding us to touch, taste, 
or handle something or other, it is just the opposite, if I am 
not deluded by the obscurity of the passage. Surely he used 
those words in mockery of those by whom he did not want 
his followers to be deceived and led astray. They were the ones 
who made a distinction of foods according to the worship of 
angels 74 and issued decrees for this life, saying: 'Touch not, 
taste not, handle not, 3 although 'all things are clean to the 
clean,' 75 Tor every creature of God is good/ 76 as he assures 
us in another place. 

Let us, then, look at the whole setting of that sentence, and 
we may thus grasp the Apostle's meaning, as far as we can, 
by examining his intention. He was afraid that those to whom 
he wrote those words were being led astray by the shadows of 
things and by the fair name of knowledge, that they were being 
turned away from the light of truth which is in Christ Jesus 
our Lord. He perceived that they should be put on guard 
against that preoccupation with vain and useless observances 
under the name of wisdom and knowledge, against the 
superstition of the Gentiles, especially of those who were 
called philosophers, and against Judaizing tendencies, for 
these shadows of things to come were to be rolled away 
since Christ their light had now come. Therefore, when he 
reminded them and wrote to them: How great care he had 
for them, and for those who were at Laodicea, and whosoever 
had not seen his face in the flesh, that their hearts might 
be comforted, being joined in charity, unto all the riches of 
fulness of understanding unto the knowledge of the mystery 
of God, which is Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures 

73 Col. 221. ,_,.,.. 

74 I.e., they worshiped angels as divinities and accepted the Jewish view 
of unclean foods. 

75 Tit. 1.15. 

76 1 Tim. 4.4. 



258 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

of wisdom and knowledge, I say this/ he said, c that no man 
may deceive you by plausible speech.' 77 Because they were 
attracted by love of truth, he feared that they might be de- 
ceived by a pretense of truth. Therefore he pointed out in 
Christ what they held most dear, namely, the treasure of 
wisdom and knowledge, for it was under the name and 
by the promise of this that they could have been led into 
error. 

Tor though I be absent in body, 3 he said, c y et m spirit I 
am with you, rejoicing and beholding your order and what 
is lacking to your faith.' He feared for them because he saw 
what was still lacking to them. 'As therefore you have 
received Jesus Christ our Lord,' he says, c walk ye in him, 
rooted and built up in him, and confirmed in the faith, as 
also you have learned, abounding in that thanksgiving.' 78 He 
wishes them to be nourished by faith that they may become 
capable of sharing in the treasures of wisdom and knowledge 
which are hidden in Christ, that they may not be taken in 
by plausible speech before they have become strong, and so 
stray away from the path of truth. Then, revealing more 
openly what he fears for them, he says: 'Beware lest any 
man cheat you by philosophy and vain deceit, according to 
the tradition of man, according to the elements of the world, 
and not according to Christ, for in him dwelleth all the fulness 
of the Godhead corporally.' He says 'corporally' because they 
were being deceived by something shadowy an adapted 
use of the word, as the noun 'shadow' is certainly not a literal 
term in these matters, but is transferred by a form of 
comparison. 'And you are filled in him/ he says, 'who is the 
head of all principality and power.' 79 By the principalities and 
powers the superstition of the Gentiles or the philosophers 
were leading them astray, preaching that theology which they 

77 Cf. Col. 2.1-4. 

78 Col. 2.5-7. 

79 Col. 2.8,10. 



LETTERS 259 

call 'according to the elements of this world/ But he wished 
them to understand that the head of all and the beginning of 
all is Christ, as He Himself, when asked 'Who art thou?' 
answered : 'The beginning who also speak unto you,' for 'all 
things were made by him and without him nothing was 
made. 580 He wishes them to be marvellous despisers of these 
marvels when He shows, by speaking of its head, that they 
have become a body: 'And you are filled in him, who is the 
head of all principality and power.' 

Following this, lest they be led astray by the shadows of 
Judaism, he adds: 'In whom also you are circumcised with 
circumcision not made by hand in despoiling of the body of 
the flesh' or, as some have it: 'despoiling the body of the 
flesh of sin' 'in the circumcision of Christ, buried with him 
in baptism, in whom also you are risen again by the faith 
of the operation of God who hath raised him up from the 
dead.' 81 See how he shows two things: in what manner 
they are this body of Christ, which should despise those other 
things, cleaving to their Head, the great Mediator of God 
and men, Christ Jesus, 82 and that they need no lying and 
feeble intermediary by whom they may cleave to God. 'And 
you,' he says, 'when you were dead in your sins, and the 
uncircumcision of your flesh' he calls it uncircumcision 
which is signified by the foreskin, that is, carnal sins, of 
which we are to be despoiled 'he hath quickened together 
with him, forgiving you all offenses, blotting out the hand- 
writing of the decree that was against us, which was contrary 
to us' because the Law made them guilty when it had 
entered in that sin might abound 'taking it from our midst 
and fastening it to the cross, stripping himself of the flesh, he 
hath confidently exposed the principalities and powers, 

80 John 8.25; 1.3. 

81 Col. 2.11,12. 

82 1 Tim. 2.5. 

83 Col. 2.13-15. 



260 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

triumphing over them in himself.' 83 Certainly it was not the 
good, but the wicked principalities and the wicked powers, 
namely the diabolical and demoniac ones, which He exposed; 
that is, He made an example of them, so that by stripping 
Himself of the flesh He might show that His followers were 
to be stripped of the carnal vices through which these evil 
powers lorded it over them. 

Now, note carefully what conclusion he draws; this is 
what we have been leading up to by recalling all these details. 
'Let no one then,' he says, 'judge you in meat/ as if he had 
said all the foregoing because they were being led by observ- 
ances of this kind away from the truth by which they had 
been made free, as it is said in the Gospel: 'and the truth 
shall make you free, 584 that is, shall make free men of you. 
'Therefore/ he says, 'let no man judge you in meat or in drink 
or in respect of a festival day, or of the new moon, or of the 
sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come. 5 This is on ac- 
count of Judaism. Then he follows with the superstitions of the 
Gentiles : 'But the body is Christ's, 3 he says, let no man seduce 
you.' It is shameful, he says, and altogether improper and 
foreign to the nobility of your liberty that, being the body 
of Christ, you should be seduced by shadows and should 
seem to be convicted of sin by failing in these observances. 
Therefore, 'Let no man seduce you willing in humility, 85 of 
heart. If this were expressed by a Greek word, it would 
sound familiar even in the popular Latin usage. Thus, we 
generally say of one who apes the rich that he is thelodives, 
and whoever apes wisdom is called thelosapiens, and other 
words of the same sort; therefore, thelohumilis, which is more 
fully written thelon humilis, that is, wanting to be humble, 
putting on humility, which is understood as wishing to seem 
humble, aping humility. This is effected by such observances 

84 John 8.32. 

85 Col. 2.16-18. 



LETTERS 261 

as those wherein the heart of men is made humble as if. by 
religion. But he added 'and the worship of angels/ or, as 
your texts have it, 'the religion of angels/ which in Greek is 
called threskeia, meaning by angels the principalities who 
were set in charge of the elements of this world, whom they 
thought to worship by these observances. 

Therefore, since you are the body of Christ, let no man 
overcome you wishing to seem humble of heart in the worship 
of angels, 'walking in the things which he hath not seen, 5 or, 
as some texts have it, 'walking in the things which he hath 
seen. 3 He wanted to say either 'walking in the things which 
he hath not seen,' because men perform those acts under 
the influence of suspicions and rumors, not because they see 
that there is an obligation of doing them, or, obviously, 
'walking in the things which he hath seen,' thinking that 
these observances are great because he has seen them done 
by men whose authority he respects, though they give no 
reason for their acts, and thus he is great in his own eyes 
because he has happened to witness the secrets of some 
forms of worship. But the fuller meaning is: 'Walking in the 
things which he hath not seen, in vain puffed up by the sense 
of his flesh.' It is remarkable how he says here of a man that 
he is in vain puffed up by the sense of his flesh, whom 
he referred to above as 'would-be humble 5 [thelohumilis], for 
it happens in a surprising way that the mind of man is puffed 
up more by false humility than it would be by open pride. 
'And not holding the head, 5 he says and by this he wishes us 
to understand Christ 'from which the whole body by joints 
and bands being supplied with nourishment and compacted, 
groweth unto the increase of God. If then you be dead with 
Christ from the elements of this world, why do you yet decree 
as living in this world? 586 

86 Col. 2.18-20. 



262 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

To these words he attaches the utterances of those who are 
puffed up by the vanity of an affected humility, who make 
decrees concerning this world through these supposedly rea- 
sonable observances: 'Touch not, taste not, handle not. 5 Let 
us recall how we are to understand this, as we said above. He 
does not wish them to be judged by these observances which 
are expressed by 'Touch not, taste not, handle not. All which/ 
he says, c are unto destruction by the very use.' He says that 
all these things tend rather to destruction when a man refrains 
from them through superstition, thus abusing them, which 
means that he does not use them 'according to the precepts 
and doctrines of men.' 87 This is clear, but what follows needs 
close examination: 'Which things have indeed a show of 
wisdom in observance and in humility of heart and trouble 
of body, 5 or, as others translate it: e not sparing the body 
not in any honor to the filling of the flesh. 387 Why, you ask, 
does he say that these things have a show of wisdom when he 
censures them so severely? 

I will tell you what you yourself can note in the Scriptures, 
that wisdom is often treated as if it dwelt in this world, and 
is then called more explicitly the wisdom of this world. Do 
not be troubled that the writer did not here add 'of this 
world,' for in another place where he says: 'Where is the 
wise? where is the scribe? 588 he does not add c of this world,' so 
as to say: 'Where is the wise of this world?* yet this is under- 
stood. So also of that 'show of wisdom, 3 for nothing is said by 
them in superstitious observances of this nature which does 
not seemingly display a certain show of wisdom according 
to the elements of this world and the phenomena of nature. 
Then, too, when he says: 'Beware lest any man cheat you by 
philosophy/ he does not say 'of this world/ for what is 
philosophy in Latin but love of wisdom? Therefore, he says: 



87 Cf, Col. 231-25. 

88 1 Cor. 1.20. 



LETTERS 263 

'those things have indeed a certain show of wisdom' that is, 
some such show is made by them according to the elements of 
this world and the principalities and powers c in observance 
and humility of heart 3 for they so act that the heart is 
humbled by the vice of superstition 'not sparing the body,' 
while it is cheated of the foods from which it is obliged to 
abstain 'not in any honor to the filling of the flesh,' not 
because it is more honorable for the flesh to be filled with one 
food rather than another, since it is not under the necessity 
of being refreshed and nourished by a special food except in 
certain forms of ill health. 

Your inquiry about the Gospel is one that commonly 
disturbs many: how it happened after the Resurrection that 
the Lord, although He rose in the same body, was both 
recognized and not recognized by persons of both sexes who 
had known Him. The first question usually raised is whether 
some effect was produced in His body or in their eyes, which 
prevented recognition of Him. When we read: 'Their eyes 
were held that they should not know him,' 89 it seems as if 
some impediment to recognition had been effected in the 
eyes of those who beheld Him; and when it is plainly said 
elsewhere: 'He appeared to them in another shape,' 90 
obviously in His own body with another appearance some 
effect was produced which acted as an impediment to prevent 
them, that is, their eyes were subjected to a delay in rec- 
ognition. But, since there are two factors in a body by which 
its appearance is recognized features and coloring I am 
surprised that before the Resurrection, when He was so 
transfigured on the Mount that His face 'shone as the sun,' 91 
no one was troubled at His being able to transform the color 
of His body into that perfection of brilliance and light, but 

89 Luke 24.16. 

90 Mark 16.12. 

91 Matt. 17.1,2; Mark 9.1,2. 



264 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

after His Resurrection it caused so much trouble that He 
changed His features so as not to be recognized, yet with the 
same effortless power resumed His original coloring then and 
His original features after the Resurrection. Those three 
disciples, before whose eyes He was transfigured on the 
Mount, would not have recognized Him if He had come to 
them in that guise from somewhere else, but because they 
were with Him they most certainly recalled His looks. Yet, He 
rose in the same body. What has that to do with it? Assuredly, 
it was the same body in which He was transfigured on the 
Mount, and His body in manhood was the same as that in 
which He was born, yet, if anyone who had known Him 
only in infancy had suddenly seen Him as a man, he would 
certainly not have recognized Him. Cannot the power of 
God make a sudden change in features such as a man's age 
effects by the lapse of years? 

Concerning the words He said to Mary: 'Do not touch 
me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father,' 92 you know 
that my understanding of them is no different from yours. 
He wished to signify that a spiritual touch, that is, the ap- 
proach of faith, seeks Him out where He is believed to be on 
high with the Father. And no one should doubt that His 
being recognized in the breaking of bread 93 is the Sacrament 
which brings us together in recognizing Him. 

On the words of Simeon, where he says to the Virgin 
Mother of the Lord : 'And thy own soul a sword shall pierce,' 94 
I have set forth in another letter what I think, and I sent you a 
copy some time since, which you saw among other things. As 
to his adding : 'That out of many hearts thoughts may be re- 
vealed,' I think it is to be taken in the sense that by the Passion 
of the Lord both the plots of the Jews and the weakness of the 

92 John 20.17. 

93 Luke 24.30,31. 

94 Luke 2.35. 



LETTERS 265 

disciples were made manifest. It is possible to believe that 
tribulation is signified by the word 'sword/ that tribulation 
through which her mother's heart was wounded by the feeling 
of grief. That sword was in the lips of the persecutors., of 
which it says in the psalm: c And a sword is in their lips.' 95 
They were the 'sons of men whose teeth are weapons and 
arrows and their tongue a sharp sword.' 96 The iron which 
pierced the soul of Joseph 97 seems to me to be an expression 
of bitter tribulation; thus, it is plainly said: 'The iron pierced 
his soul until his word came,' that is, he remained that long 
in bitter tribulation until his prediction was fulfilled. From 
then on he was held in great esteem and was free from 
tribulation. But, lest human wisdom should receive the 
credit because his word came, that is, what he foretold 
came to pass, in its own way the holy Scripture gives the 
glory of it to God, and adds at once: 'The word of the Lord 
inflamed him.' 98 

To the best of my ability I have answered your questions, 
helped on by your prayers and by the arguments which you 
sent. For you argue by questioning, you put searching ques- 
tions, and you teach by your humility. It is profitable that 
many opinions should be worked out on the obscure passages 
of the divine Scriptures; this is willed by God as a motive 
for our industry, and though some have different views, yet 
all agree in faith and sound doctrine. You will pardon my 
pen for being in such a hurry that I am now running to 
meet the designated bearer on the ship. In this letter I 
greet again our son Paulinus, 99 most sweet in the charity 
of Christ, and I urge him briefly to make haste to give such 

95 PS. 58.8. 

96 Ps. 56.5. 

97 Gen. 40; 41. 

98 Ps. 104.18,19. 

99 Not the recipient of this letter, but evidently a recent arrival among 
the 'brethren* of Bishop Paulinus. 



266 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

thanks as he can to the mercy of the Lord, who, knowing how 
to give help in trouble, has brought him, after a most violent 
storm, to the harbor to which you have traveled over a calmer 
sea though you put no trust in the sea's calmness and 
who has given you to him to shelter and nourish in his be- 
ginnings. Let all his bones say: 'Lord who is like to thee?' 100 
He will draw no richer fruit from reading or hearing my 
teachings and discussions or my ardent exhortations than by 
looking upon your manner of life. My fellow servants who 
are with me repeat their greeting to your holy and most up- 
right Benignity. Our fellow deacon, Peregrinus, has not 
returned to Hippo since he left with our holy brother 
Urban, 101 when he went to assume the burden of his epis- 
copate ; however, we know from their letters and from popular 
report that they are well, in the name of the Lord. With 
brotherly affection we greet our fellow priest, Paulinus, and 
all who enjoy your presence in the Lord. 



150. Augustine gives greeting to the ladies, Proba 1 and 

Juliana, his noble, distinguished and deservedly 

honored daughters (413) 

You have filled our heart with joy, adding to our pleasure 
by your affection and to our gratification by your promptness. 
You have given us the news that a member of your family 
has become a consecrated virgin; you have thereby forestalled 
the swiftest flight of ever-busy rumor, which has the first word 
everywhere, and by the surer and more trustworthy message 
of your letter you have given us cause to exult in the certainty 

100 Ps. 34.10. 

101 Bishop of Sicca. Peregrinus also became a bishop of an unnamed see. 

1 Cf. Letters 130, 131. She was the wife of Sextus Anicius Probus, 
formerly consul and praetorian prefect. Juliana was married to her 
son, Olybrius; Demetrias, the consecrated virgin, was their daughter. 



LETTERS 267 

of this best of blessings before we had time to doubt of it on 
hearsay. Who can express in words, who can describe with 
adequate praise, how incomparably more glorious and re- 
warding it is for Christ to have virgin spouses of your blopd 
than for the world to have manly consuls? If it is a great and 
splendid thing to inscribe your famous name on the scrolls of 
time, how much greater and more splendid is it to rise above 
earthly fame by purity of heart and body ! Therefore, let this 
maiden, noble by birth, more noble by sanctity, find greater 
joy in being destined, through this divine union, to an 
especially high rank in heaven than she would have if she 
were to become the foundress of an illustrious line through 
an earthly marriage. Undoubtedly, the daughter of the 
Anicii 2 made a higher choice when she elected to magnify so 
illustrious a family by refusing to marry rather than to enlarge 
it by bearing children, and to imitate here in the flesh the 
life of angels rather than of the body to increase still more 
the number of mortals. It is a richer and more fruitful hap- 
piness not to become big with child but to grow great in 
mind; not to store milk in the breast but ardor in the heart; 
not to bring forth earth through travail but heaven through 
prayer. Ladies, most worthy of honor, deservedly illustrious 
and distinguished daughters, may you enjoy in her what you 
gave up in order that she might be born of you; may she 
persevere to the end, clinging to her espousals which have 
no end. May many servants imitate their mistress, many base- 
born follow this noble maiden, many perilously placed in high 
estate rise higher by imitating her lowliness; may virgins who 
envy the lofty rank of the Anicii choose instead its holiness! 
By no amount of wishing could they attain the one, but, if 
they earnestly desire the other, they will soon have it. May the 
right hand of the Most High keep you safe and happy, ladies 

2 A patrician family dating from the time of the Roman Republic, and 
numbering many famous members. 



268 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

most worthy of honor, distinguished daughters. In the love 
of the Lord, and with the respect due to your merits, we 
send greetings to the children of your Holiness 3 and in par- 
ticular to your singularly holy daughter. We have received 
with gratitude the memento 4 of her taking the veil. 



151. Augustine gives greeting in the Lord to Caecilian* 

deservedly distinguished lord, son most worthy of 

my tribute of honor (c. 413) 

The complaint you make in your letter of my attitude 
toward you is the more gratifying to me as a sign of your 
love. If, then, I should try to excuse my silence, what else 
shall I try to do but to show that you had no valid reason to 
be angry with me? And as I love most in you that you were 
so good as to be hurt by my reticence something I had 
thought of no importance in the midst of your anxieties I 
shall be false to my own case if I hasten to excuse myself. For, 
if you should not have been hurt at my not writing to you, it 
would mean that you consider me of no account, because you 
do not care whether I speak or keep silence. On the other 
hand,, as you took it hard that I did keep silence, your 
displeasure is my distinction. Therefore, my regret at having 
failed you is outweighed by my joy at your having missed my 
words. That an old friend, a man of such worth and im- 
portance something for you to ignore, but for me to ac- 
knowledge stationed among strangers, loaded down with 
public duties, should deign to reproach me with failing to 

3 While this title was not reserved to the Pope at this time, it is unusual 
to find it applied to a woman. 

4 Apophoreta, trinkets usually bestowed on guests at Roman banquets. 
Cf, Petronius, Cena Trimalchionis 31. 

1 Prefect of the Province of Africa; cf. Letter 86. 



LETTERS 269 

offer you the comfort of my words is a matter of honor to me, 
not of grief. Pardon me, therefore, for my thanks that you 
deem me not unworthy of your displeasure at my silence. I 
now take the word of your Benignity a quality in which 
you excel above measure that in the midst of your many 
great tasks, not personal but public, that is, concerned with 
the common welfare, it is possible for my letters not only not 
to be burdensome, or rather, it is impossible for them to be 
burdensome, but that they can even be agreeable. 

When I learned that a letter of the holy Pope Innocent, 2 
so worthy of veneration for his singular merits, had been 
sent to me by the brethren, and when it was reported by 
reliable sources that it had been given to me through your 
Excellency, I had not supposed that any page of yours had 
been delivered with it, because as you were absorbed in 
weightier matters you would not have cared to be tied down 
to the task of writing and answering. It certainly seemed 
natural to me, as you had condescended to bring the holy 
writings of so holy a man that I should receive them with 
some addition of yours. For this reason I decided not to load 
down your mind with my letters, unless I were obliged to do 
someone the favor of a recommendation, in a case where I 
could not refuse the service of an introduction, which it is 
our usual custom to grant to all- a public duty sometimes 
inconvenient but not for that reason to be shirked. That is 
what I did. I recommended a friend of mine to your Benignity, 
and I have received his answer thanking me, as I also thank 
you. 

If I had harbored any harsh thought against you, especially 
in that matter 3 with which your letter was permeated, al- 
though it was not explicitly put, God forbid that I should 

2 Innocent I (402-417) . 

3 The murder of Marcellinus who presided over the Conference of 
Carthage. Cf. Letters 128, 129, 133, 138, 139. 



270 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

write any such thing to you when I was asking a favor either 
for myself or for someone else. I should either have held my 
peace, biding my time until I had a personal interview with 
you, or, if I had thought it a fit subject to be treated in a 
letter, I would rather have taken up that point and I would 
have dealt with it in such a way that you could scarcely have 
borne my grief. For, after his 4 wicked and cruel perfidy, 
when through the agency of your anxious care which I shared 
I had vainly and vehemently insisted that he should not pierce 
our heart with that sorrow nor murder his own conscience by 
such a monstrous crime, I left Carthage at once, keeping my 
departure secret, lest the many important persons who feared 
the power of his sword even inside the Church might hold me 
back by their violent tears and lamentations, with the idea that 
my presence would be some protection to them. Although 
I had not been able to plead adequately for his 5 life, I might 
have been forced to petition for their security, although, in 
fact, the walls of the church 6 were sufficient to protect their 
personal safety. On my side I was cruelly straitened because 
he 7 could not tolerate me, as he was obliged to do, and in ad- 
dition I was forced to do what it was not fitting for me to do. 
I was deeply grieved at the lot of my venerable fellow bishop, 8 
pastor of so important a church, of whom it was said that it 
was his duty, after the abominable treachery of such a man 
was revealed, to abase himself in order to win pardon for 
others. I admit it: I lacked strength of heart to bear such 
trouble, so I left. 

4 Marinus, Count of Africa, who, in collusion with the Donatists, 
arrested Marcellmus and his brother Apringius under the false 
pretense that they had sided with Heraclian in his revolt against 
Honorius. It is noteworthy that Augustine carefully refrains from 
mentioning names in this letter, but they are inserted where needed for 
clearness. 

5 Marcellinus. 

6 The right of sanctuary was fully recognized in the ancient world. 

7 Count Marinus. 

8 Archbishop Aurelius. 



LETTERS 271 

This would also be a reason for my silence toward you, as It 
was of my departure, if I had believed that you had worked 
on him to avenge your injuries so basely. Those who believe 
that do not know how and how often and to what effect you 
have spoken with us, when with anxious care we tried to bring 
it about that the more intimate his contacts with you, the 
more frequent your visits to him, the more numerous your 
private talks with him, the more regard he might have for 
your judgment, so as not to inflict such destruction on those 
who were said to be your enemies, thereby letting it be 
thought that you were implicated in that course of conduct. I 
do not believe this, and neither do these brethren of mine 
who both heard at the interview and saw at the hearing, as 
well as in every gesture, the signs of your kindness of heart. 
But I beg of you, pardon those who do believe it, for they are 
men, and there are so many windings and dark places in the 
minds of men that, although all the mistrustful are deservedly 
blamed, they even think they ought to be praised for being 
cautious. Their cases were waiting. From one of those whom 
he had suddenly ordered to be arrested we learned that you 
had suffered a grievous wrong. It is said that his brother, 9 
also, in whom the persecutor especially injured the Church, 
answered you somewhat harshly, as if he were defending his 
brother. Both were thought to be objects of suspicion to you. 
They were summoned after they had gone away, and, while 
you remained there and were reported to be conferring with 
him secretly, they were suddenly ordered to be held. Men 
were saying that your friendship was not new but of long 
standing. Your being so close to him and the continued 
conversations between you two alone strengthened that rumor. 
His power was great at that time; it made false representations 
easy. It was not much trouble to secure an agent who, in 
exchange for a guarantee of immunity, would say what he 

9 Apringius, proconsul of Africa. 



272 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

was ordered to say. All these practices were regularly current 
at that time, so that by a single witness almost anyone could 
be rushed out of life on a seemingly damaging and plausible 
charge with no danger to the ruling authority. 

Meantime, as there was a report that they might be 
rescued by a group from the Church, we were being made 
sport of by false promises, to the effect that a bishop would 
be sent to court on their behalf, not only with his consent 
but even with his active support, and this further promise 
was confided to episcopal ears that, until some defense was 
undertaken for them, there would be no investigation into 
their case. Finally, the day before they were struck down, 
your Excellency came to us. You gave us such hope as you 
had never before given, that he might possibly give them over 
to you to take care of, as you had spoken to him seriously and 
wisely; all of which, discussed with you so intimately and 
secretly, does not do you honor, but adds to your responsibility 
and has this effect, that no one would doubt that the plot for 
their death was shared and contrived between you, if that 
death were to follow upon all these happenings. After in- 
forming us of what you had said, you jumped up in the 
midst of your story and, stretching out your hands toward the 
place where the mysteries of the faithful are celebrated, to 
our stupefaction, you swore so solemnly to having said such 
things that not only then, but even now, after such a revolting 
and unheard-of murder, when I recall all your gestures, I feel 
deeply abashed at believing any evil of you. You said that 
Marinus had been so deeply moved by your words that you 
strongly hoped he would give you their lives as a farewell gift. 

I confess to your Charity that on the following day, after 
the abominable deed had been hatched from that plot, when 
we were suddenly informed that they had been taken out of 
prison and brought before his tribunal, we were upset, of 
course, but when I recalled what you had said to us the day 



LETTERS 273 

before, and what day was due to follow on this one that 
It was the eve of the feast of blessed Cyprian 10 I thought 
he had chosen that day to grant your request, and give joy 
to the whole Church of Christ, by having in mind to go up 
to the shrine of the great martyr more resplendent in the 
goodness of his act of mercy than in his power of life and 
death; when, behold, a messenger rushed in to us and, be- 
fore we could ask what kind of hearing they had, we learned 
that they had been beheaded. The place, which was near, had 
been picked out; it was not a place set apart for public 
executions, but a pleasure spot of the city, and there is good 
reason to believe that he had ordered others to be executed 
there several days before, so that it would not be a hateful 
novelty for them to be killed by his orders, not only suddenly 
but even in a place so near, since it had been his plan thus to 
snatch them from under the eyes of the Church. He gave 
sufficient proof that he did not fear to inflict torture on that 
Mother whose intervention he did fear, namely, the holy 
Church, among whose faithful, baptized in her bosom, we 
knew that he was included. But, after the outcome of this 
monstrous undertaking, when he had gone to such lengths, 
using you without your knowledge to put us almost at ease, 
almost sure of their safety on the previous day, who of the 
usual run of men would have any doubt that we had been 
made sport of and their life had been taken by you, also? 
Therefore, as I said, good Sir, even if we do not believe this, 
pardon those who do believe. 

However, it would be alien to my heart and life, such as 
they are, to intercede with you for anyone or to ask a favor of 
you for anyone if I believed that you had instigated this great 
wrong and had been a partner in this accursed cruelty. But 
I confess openly that if you continue to be intimate with him 
hereafter as you have been heretofore pardon the free speech 

10 September 16. 



274 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

of my sorrow you will force us to believe much of what we 
liave not wanted to believe. It is natural for me not to believe 
this, as I do not believe the former rumors about you. By the 
unexpected success of his sudden act of power, your friend 
has made no less an attack on your reputation than he has 
made on their life. In saying this I am not trying to kindle 
your hatred against him, forgetful of my own soul and pro- 
fession, but I am summoning you to a more faithful charity. 
Whoever de^ls with the wicked so as to make them repeat 
their wickedness knows how to take counsel of his anger, for, 
as the wicked do harm by consent, so the virtuous do good by 
opposition. Indeed, he has pierced his own souKftore grievously 
and deeply with the very sword that so Insolently slew them, 
and this he will be forced to know and feel after this life, if 
he does not amend his life by repentance and by availing him- 
self of the patience of God. By a profound judgment of God 
it has often been permitted that the good be deprived of the 
present life by the wicked, lest such suffering be considered 
itself an evil. What harm is it for beings destined to die to lose 
the life of the flesh? And what do those who fear death achieve 
except to die a little later? Whatever misfortune befalls the 
dying comes from their life, not their death, for, if at death 
their souls have been such as to be succored by Christian 
grace, then, indeed, their death is not the sunset of a good life, 
but the dawn of a better. 

The conduct of the older brother appeared to be more 
conformable to this world than to Christ, although he did 
amend his youthful and previously worldly life in no small 
measure by taking a wife. It is probable, however, that the 
merciful God showed him mercy by willing him to be a sharer 
in his brother's death, for this latter lived the Christian life 
devoutly and wholeheartedly. This reputation preceded him 
that he might appear in this light in defense of the Church; 11 

11 At the Conference of Carthage in 411. 



LETTERS 275 

it followed him after he had come. What uprightness of 
character was his, what fidelity in friendship, zeal for learning, 
sincerity of devotion, purity in his married life, restraint in 
his judgment, patience toward his enemies, courtesy toward 
his friends, humility toward those consecrated to God, charity 
toward all, readiness to grant favors, moderation in asking 
them, love in his good deeds, sorrow for his sins ! What great 
glory of honor, what resplendent grace, what conscientiousness 
in his piety, what compassion in helping, what goodness in 
pardoning, what truthfulness in pleading! How modestly he 
spoke of what it is good to know, how carefully he looked 
into what ca not be usefully ignored! What contempt he 
had for thing? of this life, what hope and longing for eternal 
goods ! The bond of marriage prevented him from leaving all 
worldly concerns and enrolling himself in the army of Christ, 12 
for he was already bound before he began to sigh for the 
better life, when it was no longer allowable for him to break 
those bonds, however much they held him to a lower state. 

One day, after they had both been imprisoned, his brother 
said to him: C I suffer these misfortunes as a due penalty for 
my sins, but you, whose life we have known as so constantly 
and fervently Christian, what evil deserving has brought you 
to such straits?' He replied : 'Have you so low an esteem of the 
bounty divinely bestowed on me if, indeed, this testimony of 
yours on my life is true as to think that what I suffer, even if I 
should suffer to the shedding of my blood, is not for the 
punishment of my sins so that they may not be held against 
me at the judgment to come?' Perhaps someone might think 
from this that he was conscious of some secret sins of impurity. 
I will tell, therefore, what the Lord God, to my great con- 
solation, willed me to learn openly from his mouth. I had an 
interview alone with him on this subject while he was being 
held under guard, feeling anxious, because of human frailty, 

12 The religious life of celibacy. 



276 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

lest there be something in his life that might need greater and 
more public penance in order to reconcile him with God. At 
my suspicion, false as it was, he blushed he was a man of 
extraordinary modesty but he received my warning very 
gratefully, smiling gravely and respectfully, and taking my 
right hand in both of his, he said: 'I swear by the mysteries 
which are offered by this hand that I have never had sexual 
intercourse outside my marriage, either before or after it.' 

What loss did death bring him which was not, rather, a 
great gain, when with these good works he went to meet 
Christ, without whom no good is profitably possessed? I 
should not recall these facts to you if I believed you would 
be offended by praise of him, but, as I do not believe it, 
neither do I believe that other rumor that his death could 
not have occurred without your I do not say instigation 
but at least consent and desire. Therefore, the more blameless 
you are, the more sincerely you share our judgment that 
Marinus dealt a more cruel blow to his own soul than he did 
to the body of Marcellinus, when, in despite of us, in despite 
of his own promises, in despite of such numerous and such 
weighty petitions and warnings from you, in despite of the 
Church, and, in the Church, of Christ Himself, he attained the 
goal of his false plot by the death of a hero. Is there any com- 
parison between the rank of the one and the prison of the 
other, when the one acted like a madman in his high position 
the other rejoiced in his chains? The conscience of a wicked 
man, with its dread and penal shadows, outweighs not only 
all prisons, but even all hell. What hurt did it do you so long 
as it did not destroy your reputation? However, your repu- 
tation is intact both with those who know you better than we 
do and with us who saw the care you took in concert with us 
to prevent so monstrous a crime from being committed, care 
which was expressed with such feeling that we seemed to 
look with our very eyes into the invisible workings of your 



LETTERS 

heart. Therefore, whatever injury he did he did to himself. 
He stabbed his own soul, his own life, his own conscience; 
finally, he ravaged his very reputation, a treasure which the 
most degraded of men covet. The more he is hated by all 
good men, the more he has tried to please the wicked, or has 
taken pleasure in having pleased them. 

What greater proof can there be that he did not have the 
obligation which he pretended to have, than that he did not 
meet the approval of the very one 13 whose command he dared 
to allege as an excuse for an evil deed, which he committed 
as if innocent, under the cloak of another's authority? Let the 
holy deacon Quintianus relate to your Excellency for he 
went as attendant to the bishop whom we sent to appeal for 
them how it was not thought well to ask a pardon for them 
lest some stigma of the charge should thus be attached to 
them, but only a directive by which the jailer should be 
ordered to free them from all molestation. Although there may 
have been other reasons which we suspect but which there is no 
need to set down in writing, 14 it was with a gratuitous and 
unnecessary cruelty that he caused such bitter grief to the 
Church, to whose bosom his brother, fearing death, had fled 
for refuge that he might find alive the adviser of so great 
a crime; whose help he himself sought when he had offended 
his patron and this help could not be refused. If you love this 
man, renounce him; if you do not wish him to suffer eternal 
punishment, tremble for him. This is what you must do to 
safeguard your own reputation as well as his life, for, whoever 
loves in him what God hates hates him as well as his own self . 

Since this is the case, I do not believe it true of your 
Benignity that you were either the instigator of this great 
crime or a partner to it, or that you showed a malicious 

13 Emperor Honorius, by whom Marinus was disavowed and disgraced. 

14 The hatred of the Donatists because of the judgment rendered by 
MarcelHnus at the Conference of Carthage was the real reason. 



278 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

cruelty in deceiving us far be this from your life and 
character ! But I wish that your friendships may not be such 
as he wickedly boasts of, to his own destruction, thereby 
strengthening public suspicion; let them be such as bring a 
man to penance, great and real penance which is needed as 
a remedy for such terrible wounds. You will be his friend in 
proportion as you are an enemy to his evil deeds. I greatly 
desire to learn from your Excellency's answer where you were 
on the day when the deed was committed, how you received 
the news, what you did afterwards, whether you saw him, 
what you said to him, what you heard from him. I have not 
been able to get any news bearing on this matter from you 
since I left hastily on the following day. 

I read in your letter that you are forced to believe that I 
left Carthage in order not to see you, and by these words you 
force me to disclose the reasons for my absence. One of them 
is that I am no longer able to bear the labor which has to be 
borne in that city, and, if I were to explain why, there is only 
one other thing to be said, that, in addition to my usual poor 
health, which is known to all who are acquainted with me, I 
suffer also from advancing age, an ailment common to hu- 
mankind. The other reason is that I have decided, if the Lord 
wills, to spend on my work in the field of studies connected 
with sacred literature all the time left me from my duties 
which the Church urgently claims from me by reason of my 
obligation to that service. I think, if it pleases the mercy of 
God, that this work will be useful to posterity. 

However, if you are seeking to hear the truth, there is one 
thing in you of which I thoroughly disapprove, and that is 
that a man of your age and of your life and uprightness should 
still wish to be a catechumen, as if it were not possible for 
the faithful to carry out the duties of public office more 
devotedly and faithfully in proportion as they are themselves 
more devoted and more faithful. What good do you ac- 



LETTERS 279 

complish in the midst of these great toils and troubles of 
yours unless you work for the common good? If you do not 
accomplish this, it would be better to spend your nights and 
days in sleep than to waste your time on public duties which 
do not promote the general welfare. Indeed, I do not doubt 
that your Excellency . . . 15 



752. Macedonius 1 to the deservedly esteemed lord, his uniquely 
cherished father, Augustine (414) 

I received the long-awaited letter of your Holiness through 
Boniface, 2 bishop of the holy law, whom I was the more de- 
lighted to welcome as he brought me my heart's desire word 
of your Holiness and of your well-being, deservedly esteemed 
lord and uniquely cherished father. Therefore, he secured 
what he asked without delay. But, as the opportunity has 
arisen, I do not wish to remain without my pay for this same 
slight service in which I accommodated him at your request. 
The pay I crave to receive is one which will be a gain to me 
without loss to the payer, or, rather will be my gain to the 
glory of the bestower. 

You say that it is part of your priestly office to intercede 
for condemned persons, and to be displeased if you do not 
succeed, as if you thereby failed to carry out that part of your 
duty. I have a serious doubt about this, whether it is part 
of religion. For if sin is so strictly forbidden by the Lord that 
no opportunity of repentance is granted after the first, how can 
we argue that any crime, of whatever sort, should be forgiven 
us, and how can we approve it by wishing it to go unpunished? 

15 An extensive lacuna is here indicated by Goldbacher. 

1 Vicar of Africa, entrusted with the duty of enforcing imperial decrees 
against the Donatists. 

2 tl. Letter 149 n. 3. 



280 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

And If it is a fact that the one who approves a sin is no less in- 
volved in all the circumstances of a sin than the one who com- 
mits it, it is clear that we are implicated in a share of the guilt 
as often as we wish the one who is subject to the penalty to go 
unpunished. Besides, here is another point, which is even 
more serious. All sins seem to deserve forgiveness when the 
guilty person promises amendment, but human behavior has 
now come to this pass that men wish to have the punishment of 
their crime remitted and at the same time to keep the profit 
which they gained by their evil deeds. Your priestly office 
thinks that intercession should be made for these, also, al- 
though the fact that the same motive for the crime continues 
to be present gives no hope at all for them in the future. Who- 
ever holds tenaciously to the object of his sin shows that he 
will commit the same again when opportunity allows. 

This is my reason for consulting your Prudence : I earnestly 
desire to be freed of the doubt which weighs me down; do 
not imagine that I am consulting you for any other reason. 
This is what I have decided to do: to show gratitude to 
intercessors, especially those as highly esteemed as you are. 
Often, when I seem unwilling to do something on my own 
impulse, lest any relaxation of discipline should encourage 
others to commit crime, I long to give in to good intercessors, 
so that what I grant willingly may seem to be a concession to 
another's merit, while the severity of the verdict is preserved. 
May the eternal God keep your Holiness safe for a long time 
to come, esteemed lord and truly beloved father. 

You promised me some writings of your Holiness, 3 but I 
have not received any. I ask you to send them now with your 
answer to this letter, so that I may at least feed on your words, 
if it is not granted me meantime to see your Holiness. 

3 The first three Books of the City of God. 



LETTERS 281 

153. Augustine, bishop, servant of Christ and of his house- 
hold, gives greeting in the Lord to his beloved 
son, Macedonius (414) 

When a man is as much burdened with public duties and 
as devoted to the interest of others and to the public welfare 
rather than his own, as you are and I congratulate you 
it is not right for us to deprive you of our conversation nor to 
delay you with a foreword. Here, then, is what you wanted 
to learn from me, or to discover whether I knew the answer. 
If you judged that it was a trifling or superfluous matter, you 
would see that there was no place for it among such great 
and such exigent cares. You ask me why we say that it is 
part of our priestly duty to intercede for condemned persons, 
and to be displeased if we do not succeed, as if we were 
failing to carry out that part of our duty. You then say that 
you have a serious doubt about this, whether it is part of 
religion. Thereupon, you add your reason for being disturbed 
and you say: 'If sin is so strictly forbidden by the Lord that 
no opportunity of repentance is granted after the first, how 
can we argue that any crime of whatever sort should be for- 
given?' You press the point still more closely and you say that 
we approve an act by wishing it to go unpunished, and, if it 
is a fact that the one who approves of a sin is involved in 
all the circumstances of it no less than the one who commits 
it, it is clear that we are implicated in a share of the guilt as 
often as we wish the one who is subject to the penalty to go 
unpunished. 

Anyone who did not know your gentleness and kindness 
would be affronted by these words. But we who know that 
you wrote this in order to raise the question, not to give an 
opinion, have no hesitation in answering these words at once 



282 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

by other words of yours. As if you did not wish us to delay 
on this question, you either forestalled what we were going 
to say, or you advised us what we ought to say, and you said: 
'Besides, here is another point, which is even more serious. 
All sins seem to deserve forgiveness when the guilty person 
promises amendment! Before I discuss that more serious 
point which follows in your letter, I shall take up this 
concession which you have made and use it to remove that 
obstacle which makes it seem possible for our intercession to be 
curtailed. So, then, as far as opportunity is granted, we 
intercede for all sins because 'all sins seem to deserve for- 
giveness when the guilty person promises amendment.' This 
is your sentiment and it is also ours. 

We do not in any way approve the faults which we wish 
to see corrected, nor do we wish wrong-doing to go un- 
punished because we take pleasure in it; we pity the man 
while detesting the deed or crime, and the more the vice 
displeases us, the less do we want the culprit to die un- 
repentant. It is easy and simple to hate evil men because 
they are evil, but uncommon and dutiful to love them 
because they are men; thus, in one and the same person 
you disapprove the guilt and approve the nature, and you 
thereby hate the guilt with a more just reason because by it 
the nature which you love is defiled. Therefore, he who 
makes war on the crime in order to free the man is not in- 
volved in a share of the wrong-doing, but, rather, of human 
feeling. Moreover, there is no other place but this life for 
correcting morals; whatever anyone has sought out for him- 
self in this life, the same will he have after it. Consequently, 
we are forced by our love for humankind to intercede for the 
guilty lest they end this life by punishment, only to find that 
punishment does not end with this life. 

Do not doubt that this duty of ours is a part of religion 



LETTERS 283 

because God, 'with whom there is no iniquity,' 1 whose power 
is supreme, who not only sees what each one is but also 
foresees what he will be, who alone cannot err in His 
judgment because He cannot be deceived in His knowledge, 
nevertheless acts as the Gospel expresses it: 'He maketh his 
sun to rise upon the good and bad, and raineth upon the 
just and the unjust.' The Lord Christ, exhorting us to 
imitate His wonderful goodness, says: 'Love your enemies, 
do good to them that persecute you, that you may be the 
children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his 
sun to rise upon the good and bad and raineth upon the 
just and the unjust. 32 Is there anyone who does not know that 
many abuse this divine clemency and kindness to their own 
destruction? The Apostle upbraids these and reproves them 
gravely, saying: 'And thinkest thou, O man, that judgest 
them that do such things, and dost the same, that thou shalt 
escape the judgment of God? Or despiseth thou the riches of 
his goodness and patience and longsuffering? Knowest thou 
not that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance? But 
according to thy hardness and impenitent heart thou treasurest 
up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of 
the just judgment of God who will render to every man 
according to his works. 53 Is the fact that some persist in their 
wickedness any proof that God does not persist in His patience, 
punishing very few sins in this world, lest we fail to believe 
in His divine providence and, saving many for the last judg- 
ment, to justify His future decree? 

No, I do not think that heavenly Master commands us to 
love wickedness when He commands us to love our enemies, to 
do good to those who hate us and to pray for those who 
persecute us, although, without doubt, if we worship God 

1 2 Parai. 19.7. 

2 Matt. 5.44,45. 

3 Rom. 2.3-6. 



284 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

devoutly, we can have no enemies and persecutors roused 
to bitter hatred against us except the wicked. Are we, then, 
to love the wicked? Are we to do good to the wicked? Are we 
to pray for the wicked? Just so. He who commands this is 
God, yet He does not for this include us in the ranks of the 
wicked, nor does He Himself join their ranks by sparing them 
and granting them life and health. His intention, as far as it is 
given to the good man to know it, is expressed by the Apostle 
when he says : 'Knowest thou not that the benignity of God 
leadeth thee to penance?' We wish to add that we do not 
spare or favor the sins of those for whom we intercede. 

In the case of some whose sins are public, after they have 
been released from your severe sentence, we keep them from 
participation in the Sacrament of the altar so that, by 
repentance and by punishing themselves, they may be able 
to make atonement to Him whom they have flouted by their 
sin. The one who repents sincerely effects nothing less than 
this : he does not allow his wrong-doing to remain unpunished. 
Thus God spares the one who does not spare himself, but 
no one who despises His high and holy judgment escapes it. 
But, if He shows such patience by sparing the wicked and 
abandoned, and by granting them life and health, although 
He knows that many of them will not do penance, how much 
more, in the case of those who promise amendment, even 
though we are not sure whether they will do what they 
promise, should we be merciful to the extent of bending your 
inflexible decision by interceding for them! Without pre- 
sumption, because He commands it, we pray for them to 
God from whom none of their future conduct is hidden. 

Vice, however, sometimes makes such inroads among men 
that, even after they have done penance and have been re- 
admitted to the Sacrament of the altar, they commit the 
same or more grievous sins, yet God makes His sun to rise 
even on such men and gives His gifts of life and health as 



LETTERS 285 

lavishly as He did before their fall. And, although that same 
opportunity of penance is not again granted them in the 
Church, 4 God does not forget to exercise His patience toward 
them. Suppose one of these were to say to us: 'Either give me 
the same chance of doing penance again or pronounce me 
hopeless and let me do whatever I please as far as my resources 
allow and human laws do not forbid, indulging in illicit 
love and every kind of riotous living, condemned, indeed, by 
God but praised by most men; or, if you withdraw me from 
this baseness, tell me whether it will do me any good for the 
next life to despise in this life all the enticements of the most 
seductive pleasure, to curb the impulses of my passions, to 
chastise my body by withholding from it many lawful and 
allowable pleasures, to punish myself by penance more severe 
than the former, to groan more sorrowfully, to weep more 
freely, to live better, to give more lavish alms to the poor, 
to burn more ardently with that charity which "covereth a 
multitude of sins," ' 5 would anyone of us be so far gone in 
folly as to say to this man: 'None of those acts will do you 
any good for the life to come; go and enjoy the sweetness of 
this life at least'? May God keep this monstrous and sacri- 
legious madness far from us! It may, therefore, be a careful 
and useful enactment that the opportunity of that very humble 
penance be granted only once in the Church, lest that remedy, 
by becoming common, be less helpful to sick souls, for it is 
now more effective by being more respected. Yet, who would 
dare to say to God: 'Why do you pardon this man a second 
time when he has been caught again in the snare of sin 
after his first penance?' Who would dare to say that such are 
not included in the saying of the Apostle: 'Knowest thou not 
that the patience of God leadeth thee to penance?' 6 or that 

4 This applied only to public canonical penance, and did not imply 
refusal of sacramental absolution to relapsed but sincere penitents. 

5 1 Peter 4.8. 

6 Ci Rom. 2.4. 



286 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

this other saying is limited so as to exclude them : 'Blessed are 
all they that trust in him/ 7 or that the following does not 
apply to them: 'Do ye manfully and let your heart be 
strengthened, all ye that hope in the Lord'? 8 

Since, therefore, God shows such great patience and mercy 
toward sinners that they are not damned forever if they amend 
their conduct in this life, and since He looks to no one to show 
Him mercy, because no one is happier than He, no one 
more powerful, no one more just, it follows that we men ought 
to be such toward other men, for, whatever praise we heap up 
on this life of ours, we never say that it is without sin, because, 
if we did, 'We deceive ourselves,' as it is written, 'and the 
truth is not in us/ 9 Consequently, although the prosecutor 
and the defender are two different persons, and the role of 
intercessor is not the same as that of judge it would take 
too long, and it is not necessary in this speech to discourse 
on these various duties the very avengers of crime, who are 
not to be influenced by their personal anger but are to act as 
agents of the law, and those who enforce the law against 
proved injuries done to others, not to themselves, as judges 
should do, all these quail before the divine judgment, recalling 
that they have need of the mercy of God for their own sins, 
and they do not think they do an injury to their office if 
they show mercy to those over whom they have the lawful 
power of life and death. 

When the Jews brought the woman taken in adultery to the 
Lord Christ they tempted Him by saying that the Law com- 
manded such a person to be stoned, and when they asked 
what He would command for her He answered: 'He that is 
without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.' 10 

7 PS. 2.13. 

8 Ps. 30.25. 

9 1 John 1.8. 
10 John 8.3-7. 



LETTERS 287 

Thus, He did not reject the Law which commanded the 
stoning of women guilty of this sin, and at the same time, by 
rousing fear in those whose verdict could have put her to 
death, He recalled them to thoughts of mercy. I think that 
upon hearing this verdict of the Lord, her husband himself, 
if he was there and was demanding satisfaction for this 
breach of marital fidelity, was thoroughly frightened into 
changing his mind from its desire for revenge into a sentiment 
of pardon. See how the accuser is warned not to seek ven- 
geance for his personal injuries, when even judges are thus 
forbidden to avenge themselves in punishing an adulteress, 
and are obliged to enforce the Law, not to indulge their 
private feeling! Thus, when Joseph, to whom the Virgin 
Mary, Mother of the Lord, was espoused, discovered that 
she was with child and knew that it was not his child, he 
could only believe that she was an adulteress, yet he was un- 
willing to punish her, although he was not thereby accessory 
to the sin. This good intention was credited to him as virtue; 
therefore this is written of him: 'And being a just man, and 
not willing publicly to expose her, he was minded to put her 
away privately. But while he thought on these things, the 
Angel appeared to him' 11 and revealed to him that what 
he had thought was the result of sin was the act of God. 

If, then, the hurt feeling of the accuser and the rigor of 
the judge are tempered by the knowledge of our common 
human weakness, what do you think the defender or the 
intercessor ought to do for the accused, when even you good 
men who are now judges, after having gained much ex- 
perience by pleading men's cases in the law courts, know 
how much more willingly you usually undertake a defense 
than a prosecution? Yet there is a great difference between 
the defender and the intercessor, for the former expends his 
effort chiefly in diminishing or covering up the charge of 

11 Matt. 1.18-20. 



288 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

guilt, while the intercessor works for the removal or reduction 
of the penalty, even when there is evidence of guilt. The 
just who are with God perform this service for sinners; sin- 
ners themselves are exhorted to do the same for themselves, 
for it is written: 'Confess your sins one to another and pray 
one for another.' 12 Every man claims for himself from every 
other man, where possible, this human consideration, for 
what each one would punish if it occurred in his own house 
he wishes to leave unpunished in another's house. For, if he 
is summoned to a friend's house and if the friend is angry 
in his presence at someone on whom he has the power to 
avenge himself, or if he suddenly comes upon an angry man, 
he is considered, not a man of great uprightness, but a most 
inhumane one, if he does not intervene. I know that you your- 
self with some of your friends in the Church at Carthage in- 
terceded for a cleric whose bishop was deservedly angry with 
him and certainly there was no fear there of a physical 
punishment, but of a disciplinary measure short of blood- 
shed yet, when you wished something to go unpunished 
which even you disapproved of, we did not estimate you as 
favorers of guilt ; we listened to you as most considerate inter- 
cessors. So, if it is right for you to moderate an ecclesiastical 
sanction by intercession, how much more ought a bishop to 
intercede against your sword, since the sanction is invoked that 
the one against whom it is directed may lead a good life, but 
the sword is drawn that he may not live at all ! 

Finally, the Lord Himself intervened among men that the 
adulteress might not be stoned, and thus He commended to us 
the duty of intercession, except that He achieved by fear what 
we gain by prayer. He is the Lord, we are the servants; He 
used fear in such a way that we ought to be afraid, for who 
of us is without sin? When He said to those who offered the 
sinful woman to Him for punishment that he who knew 

12 James 5.16. 



LETTERS 289 

himself to be without sin should first cast a stone at her, 
their savagery died as their conscience trembled, for then 
they slipped away from that gathering and left the poor 
woman alone with the merciful Lord. Let the piety of 
Christians yield to this sentence as the impiety of the Jews 
yielded to it; let the humility of adorers yield as the pride 
of persecutors has yielded; let the submission of the faithful 
yield as the lying pretense of the tempter yielded. Pardon 
the wicked, good Sir; be more perfect as you are more merci- 
ful, humble yourself more profoundly as you rise higher by 
your power. 

Looking upon your conduct, I have called you a good 
man, but do you look upon the words of Christ and say to 
yourself: 'None is good but God alone. 513 Although this is 
true and Truth has said it it ought not to be imagined 
that I said that through a deceitful flattery, or that I set my- 
self up as if in contradiction to the Lord's words, calling you a 
good man, whereas He says: 'None is good but God alone,' 
for the Lord did not contradict Himself when He said: C A 
good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth 
good things.' 14 God, therefore, is uniquely good, and this He 
cannot lose. He is good; He is not good by sharing in any 
other good, because the good by which He is good is Himself. 
But, when a man is good, his good is from God, because he 
cannot be his own good. All who become good do so through 
His spirit; our nature has been created to attain to Him 
through acts of its own will. If we are to become good, it is 
important for us to receive and hold what He gives, who is 
good in Himself; whoever neglects this is evil in himself. 
Therefore, in so far as a man acts uprightly, that is, performs 
his good works intelligently, lovingly, and devoutly, in so far 

13 Mark 10.18; Luke 18; 19. 

14 Matt. 12.15; Luke 6.45. 



290 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

he is good; whereas, in so far as he sins, that is, turns away 
from truth and love and piety, in so far he is evil. But, who 
is without some sin in this life? We say a man is good whose 
good deeds predominate, and a man is perfect whose sin is 
very slight. 

For this reason, those whom the Lord Himself calls good 
because they receive a share of divine grace He also calls 
evil because they have the defects of human weakness, until 
the whole of which we are composed is healed of all evil 
tendency and crosses over into that life where there will be 
no more sin forever. Certainly it was the good, not the 
wicked, whom He taught to pray when He instructed them to 
say: C 6ur Father who art in heaven.' 15 These, then, become 
sons of God, not by natural generation, but bf grace; to them, 
as to those who receive Him, c He gave power to be made the 
sons of God.' 16 In the fashion of the Scriptures this spiritual 
generation is called adoption, 17 to distinguish it from the gene- 
ration of God from God, of the Co-eternal from the Eternal; 
hence it is written: 'Who shall declare his generation?' 18 He 
showed then that those are good who by His will say truthfully 
to God: e Our Father who art in heaven,' but in the same 
prayer He taught them to say, among other things : 'Forgive us 
our debts as we also forgive our debtors. 319 Although it is 
evident that these debts are sins, He afterward expressed this 
more definitely when He said: Tor if you will forgive men 
their offenses, your Father will forgive you also your offenses.' 20 
The baptized recite this prayer, and thenceforth none of 
their past sins remain, for Holy Church grants the baptized 
forgiveness of all. But, as they live afterward in a state of 

15 Matt. 6.9. 

16 John 1.12. 

17 Rom. 8.15; 9.4; Gal. 4.5; Eph. 1.5. 

18 Isa. 53.8. 

19 Matt. 6.12. 

20 Matt. 6.14. 



LETTERS 291 

mortal frailty, they necessarily contract other guilt which re- 
quires forgiveness; otherwise they could not truthfully say: 
'Forgive us our debts/ They are good, then, in virtue of being 
sons of God, but, in so far as they sin, as they admit by their 
own truthful confession, they are evil. 

Possibly, someone may say that there is a difference between 
the sins of the good and the sins of the bad, which is not im- 
probably said on frequent occasions. Nevertheless, the Lord 
Jesus spoke without any ambiguity when He said that God 
was the Father of those whom He called evil. In the same 
sermon in which He taught that prayer, He said in another 
place, exhorting them to pray to God: 'Ask and you shall 
receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened 
to you. For 'very one that asketh receiveth and he that 
seeketh findeth and to him that knocketh it shall be opened'; 
and a little further on: 'If you then being evil know how to 
give good gifts to your children, how much more will your 
Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask 
Him?' 21 Is God, then, the Father of evil men? Perish the 
thought! How, then, does He say 'Your Father who is in 
heaven' to those whom He addresses as 'you, being evil,* 
except that Truth shows both what we are by God's goodness 
and what we are by human defect, praising the one, correcting 
the other? Well was it said by Seneca, 22 a contemporary of 
the Apostles, several of whose letters 23 to the Apostle Paul 
are extant: 'He who hates bad men hates all men,' 24 Yet, 
bad men are to be loved, so that they may not continue to be 
bad, just as sick men are to be loved so that they may not 
remain sick, but may be cured. 

21 Matt. 7.7,8,11; Luke 11.9,10,13. 

22 Latin writer and Stoic philosopher (AJ>. 2-65) . His Moral Essays 
commended him to early Christian authorities and led to the belief 
that he had known St. Paul. 

23 Regarded by modern criticism as pious forgeries. 

24 Cf. De ira 2.6-10; 3.26,28; De beneficiis 4.26; 5.17.3; 757. 



292 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

Whatever sin we commit during our sojourn in this life, 
after that remission of sin which is effected by baptism, even 
if such sin is not of a kind to entail segregation from the 
divine altar, is not expiated by unprofitable regret, but by 
the sacrifices of mercy. Therefore, what we accomplish in 
making you act on our intercession you know that you offer 
to God for yourselves, for you need the mercy which you 
grant to others. Notice who said: 'Forgive and you shall be 
forgiven, give and it shall be given to you. 325 Yet, even if our 
life were such that there would be no reason for us to say: 
Torgive us our debts/ 26 our soul ought to be more full of 
mercy the more it is free from evil, so that, if we are not 
pierced through by the words of the Lord : 'He that is without 
sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her/ we may at 
least follow the example of Him who was certainly without 
sin, and who said to the woman, deserted by her terrified 
captors: 'Neither will I condemn thee, go and now sin no 
more.' 27 The sinful woman could have feared, after the 
departure of those who had recognized their own sins as a 
prelude to forgiving another's, that He who was without sin 
might have condemned her with perfect justice. But, when 
she answered that no man had condemned her, He, un- 
troubled in conscience and overflowing with mercy, said: 
"Neither will I condemn thee,' as if He were saying: 'If 
wickedness could pardon thee, why dost thou fear innocence?* 
And lest He should seem to approve rather than to forgive her 
evil deeds, He said: *Go and now sin no more,' to show that 
He pardoned the person but did not condone the guilt of 
the person. You see, then, that it is a matter of religion and 
does not involve us in a share of the evil-doing when we 
intercede, if not as criminals for criminals, at least as sinners 

25 Luke 6.37,38. 

26 Matt. 6.12; Luke 11.4. 

27 John 8.7; 11. 



LETTERS 293 

for sinners, and, I think, with sinners please take this as 
spoken sincerely and without offense. 

Surely, it is not without purpose that we have the institution 
of the power of kings, the death penalty of the judge, the 
barbed hooks of the executioner, the weapons of the soldier, 
the right of punishment of the overlord, even the severity 
of the good father. All those things have their methods, their 
causes, their reasons, their practical benefits. While these are 
feared, the wicked are kept within bounds and the good live 
more peacefully among the wicked. However, men are not to 
be called good because they refrain from wrong-doing through 
their fear of such things no one is good through dread of 
punishment but through love of righteousness even so, it is 
not without advantage that human recklessness should be 
confined by fear of the law so that innocence may be safe 
among evil-doers, and the evil-doers themselves may be cured 
by calling on God when their freedom of action is held in 
check by fear of punishment. However, the intercession of 
bishops is not a violation of this arrangement of human af- 
fairs; on the contrary, there would be neither motive nor 
opportunity for intervention if it were not for this. The more 
the penalty of the offender is deserved, the more gratefully 
the bounty of the intercessor and of the one who pardons 
is received. It is for this reason, as I see it, that a more 
unyielding justice shines forth in the Old Testament in the 
time of the ancient Prophets, to show that penalties were 
levied against the wicked for a good purpose; but in the New 
Testament we are urged to pardon offenders with mercy, 
either as a saving remedy by which our own sins may be 
pardoned, or as a means of commending gentleness, so that 
truth, when preached by those who pardon, may not be so 
much feared as loved. 

It is a matter of great importance what intention a man has 
in showing leniency. Just as it is sometimes mercy to punish, so 



294 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

it may be cruelty to pardon. For, to use a well-worn case as 
an example, who would not truthfully say that a person is 
cruel who would allow a child to play with snakes because he 
was obstinately set on so doing? Who would not call another 
kind-hearted who would restrain the child even to the extent 
of beating him if words had no effect? For this reason, re- 
straint should not go so far as death, because there must be 
someone to whom restraint is beneficial. Yet it makes a great 
difference when one man is killed by another, whether it hap- 
pened through a desire of injuring him, or of carrying off 
something dishonestly, as it might be done by an enemy, a 
thief; or whether it happened in the course of inflicting 
punishment or carrying out an order, as by a judge, an 
executioner; or through self-defense or the rescue of another, 
as a thief is killed by a traveler or an enemy by a soldier. And 
sometimes the one who was the cause of death is more at fault 
than the killer, as would be the case if a man were to default 
on the one who stood bail for him, and the latter should pay 
the required penalty instead of the other. Nevertheless, not 
everyone who causes another's death is guilty. What if a 
man were to seek to ravish someone and should kill himself 
because he did not get his wish? Or if a son, fearing the 
blows which he deserved from his father, should kill himself 
by falling? Or if someone should commit suicide because one 
man had been set free or to prevent another from being 
freed? Because these circumstances have been the cause of 
another's death, are we to consent to sin? are we to deprive 
a father of the authority to inflict punishment for wrong- 
doing which is done through a desire of correcting, not of 
injuring or are we to forego the works of mercy? When 
these things happen, we owe them human regret, but we 
have no right for that reason to put restraint on the will of 
the doers to prevent them from happening again. 

In the same way, when we intercede for an offender who 



LETTERS 295 

deserves condemnation, there sometimes are consequences 
which we do not intend, either in the person who is set free 
through our intercession, so that he goes rioting about more 
extravagantly, because his unchecked boldness goes to greater 
lengths of passion, being ungrateful for the leniency shown, 
and his single escape from death may be the cause of many 
other deaths; or it may be that the object of our kindness 
changes for the better and mends his morals, but he may be 
the cause of another's perishing as a result of an evil life, 
because the latter, seeing that the former has escaped punish- 
ment, commits the same crimes or even worse ones. Yet, I 
think, these evil consequences are not to be laid to our charge 
when we intercede with you, but, rather, the good aims which 
we have in view and which we intend when we act thus, that 
is, to commend mildness so as to win men's love for the word 
of truth, and to ensure that those who are freed from temporal 
death may so live as not to fall into eternal death from which 
they can never be freed. 

There is good, then, in your severity which works to secure 
our tranquility, and there is good in our intercession which 
works to restrain your severity. Do not be displeased at being 
petitioned by the good, because the good are not displeased 
that you are feared by the wicked. Even the Apostle Paul used 
fear to check the evil deeds of men, fear not only of the 
judgment to come but even of your present instruments of 
torture, asserting that they form part of the plan of divine 
providence, when he said : 'Let every soul be subject to higher 
powers, for there is no power but from God; and those that 
are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, 
resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist, purchase 
to themselves damnation : for princes are not a terror to the 
good work but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of 
the power? Do that which is good and thou shalt have praise 
for the same; for he is God's minister to thee for good. But 



296 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

if thou do that which is evil, fear, for he beareth not the 
sword in vain : for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute 
wrath upon him that doth evil. Wherefore be subject of neces- 
sity, not only for wrath but also for conscience sake. For there- 
fore also you pay tribute, for they are the ministers of God, 
serving unto this purpose. Render therefore to all men 
their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom 
custom, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. Owe no 
man anything but to love one another.' 28 These words of 
the Apostle show the usefulness of your severity. Thus, as 
those who fear are ordered to render love to those who cause 
them fear, so those who cause fear are ordered to render love 
to those who fear. Let nothing be done through desire of 
hurting, but all through love of helping, and nothing wiU 
be done cruelly, inhumanly. Thus, the sentence of the judge 
will be feared, but not so as to cause the religious motive 
of the intercessor to be scorned, because it is only by yielding 
and pardoning that the good effect of amending a man's life 
is produced. But, if perversity and impiety are so great that 
neither punishment nor pardon can avail to correct them, it 
is still true that, whether severity or leniency is shown, the 
obligation of charity is fulfilled by the good through their 
intention and upright conscience which God beholds. 

In the following part of your letter where you say: 'But 
now human behavior has come to this pass that men wish to 
have the punishment of their crime remitted and at the same 
time to keep the profit which they gained by their evil deeds/ 
you are speaking of the lowest kind of men, who are 
absolutely unable to be helped by the remedy of repentance. 
If the offense committed has involved theft, and restitution 
is not made, although it is possible to make it, there is no 
repentance but only pretense. If, however, there is true re- 
pentance, the sin will not be forgiven unless there is restitution 

28 Rom. 13.1-8. 



LETTERS 



297 



of stolen goods, but, as I said, where restitution is possible. 
Often, however, the thief dissipates the goods either by 
connivance with other offenders or by living an evil life 
himself, and has nothing left with which to make restitution. 
To him we certainly cannot say: Tay back what you took/ 
unless we believe that he has it and denies it. But in the 
case where he suffers some physical punishment at the hands 
of the offended party, because it is believed that he has the 
means of paying back, he is free of guilt, because, even if he 
has no means of paying back what he took, he pays the 
penalty of the sin by which he wrongfully stole through the 
corporal pains applied to make him pay back. It is not an 
uncivilized thing to intercede for such persons, as one 
does for those convicted of crimes, since it is not done to 
save them entirely from making restitution, but so that man 
may not show cruelty to man, especially the one who has al- 
ready been given satisfaction for the guilty act, but still wants 
his money and fears to be cheated of it, without seeking to be 
avenged. Finally, in such cases, if we can convince the injured 
party that those for whom we intercede do not possess what is 
demanded, there is a cessation of their importunity on us. 
Sometimes, indeed, merciful men, in a state of real doubt, 
are not willing to inflict certain punishment for the sake 
of uncertain money. This is the mercy which it befits us to 
challenge and exhort them to show, for it is better for you 
to lose the money if he has it than to torture or kill him if 
he does not have it. In this case it is more effective to intercede 
with creditors than with judges, because the judge who has 
the power to enforce restitution and does not do it might 
seem to be a party to the theft, although in using force he 
must display a regard for honesty without losing human 
feeling. 

This, indeed, I would say with complete assurance, that 
the one who intercedes for a man to save him from restoring 



298 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

his ill-gotten goods and who fails, when someone has fled 
to him for refuge, to force him to make restitution as far 
as he honestly can, is a party to the theft and the guilt. It 
would be more merciful for us to withhold our succor from 
such men than to offer it to them, for he does not succor who 
helps someone to sin when he should hinder him and turn him 
away from it. But can we or ought we for that reason either 
extort the money from them or hand them over to another's 
extortion? We act within the limits of our episcopal juris- 
diction, threatening them sometimes with human, but es- 
pecially and always with divine, judgment. In the case of 
those who refuse to make restitution, of whom we know 
that they have stolen and have the means to pay, we rebuke 
and reproach them, showing our detestation of them, some 
in private, some publicly, according as the diversity of char- 
acters shows the possibility of reforming them. Yet, in this 
we avoid rousing them to greater madness; sometimes, if an 
aggravation of the fault to be cured is not feared, we even 
cut them off from Communion at the holy altar. 

Indeed, it often happens that they deceive us either by 
saying that they have not stolen or by insisting that they 
have no means of making restitution, but often, too, you are 
deceived by thinking either that we do not make them pay 
back or that they have the means of paying back. All or 
almost all of us men love to call or consider our suspicions 
knowledge, since we are influenced by the credible evidence 
of circumstances; yet some credible things are false, just 
as some incredible ones are true. Therefore, mentioning 
some who 'wish to have the punishment of their crime re- 
mitted and at the same time to keep the profit which they 
gained by their evil deeds/ you added something else when 
you said: Tour priestly office thinks that intercession should 
be made for these, also.' It is possible that you might know 
something I do not know and that I might think I ought to 



LETTERS 299 

intercede for someone in a case where I could be deceived., 
but you could not, because I believed that a man did not 
possess what you knew that he did possess. Thus it could be 
that we might not have the same idea of a man's guilt, but 
neither of us would approve a failure to make restitution. As 
men we have different ideas about a man, but in the concept 
of justice we are one. In the same way it is also possible for 
me to know that someone has nothing, while you are not 
too sure that he has, but you have good grounds for suspecting 
him and in this way it seems to you that I intercede for a 
man 'who wishes to have the punishment of his crime re- 
mitted and to keep the profit which he gained by his evil deed/ 
To sum up, then, neither to you, nor to men such as we re- 
joice to find you if any others can be found nor to those 
who 'with great eagerness pursue interests foreign to them, 
utterly unprofitable and even extremely dangerous and 
deadly,' 29 nor to my own heart would I dare to say, as I 
would not think or decide that intercession should be made 
for anyone to enable him to possess unpunished what he has 
wrongfully taken, but I hold rather that he should restore 
what he has taken, when his offense has been pardoned, al- 
ways supposing that he still has either what he took or 
some other means of making restitution. 

It is not true, however, that everything which is taken 
from an unwilling donor is wrongfully taken. Most people 
do not want to give due credit to their doctor, or to pay a 
workman his hire, yet when these receive their due from 
unwilling debtors they do not acquire anything unlawfully; on 
the contrary, it would be wrong to deprive them of it. But 
there is no reason for a judge to take money for a just judg- 
ment or a witness for true testimony, because the advocate 
is paid for legal protection and the lawyer for truthful 
advice; the two former have to make an inquiry into both 

29 Sallust, Jugurtha 15. 



300 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

sides, the latter stand on one side. But when verdicts and 
testimony are sold, they are unfair and untrue, because 
just and true ones are not to be sold, and it is much more 
infamous for money to be taken when it is infamously even 
if willingly paid. The one who pays for a just verdict usually 
demands his money back on the ground that it was wrongfully 
taken from him, since justice ought not to be for sale; 
while the one who pays for an unjust verdict would like 
to demand his money back, if he were not afraid or ashamed 
of having paid it. 

There are other personages of lower rank who not un- 
commonly take pay from both sides, such as a court attendant 
by whom a service is performed or on whom it devolves. What 
is extorted by these with excessive dishonesty is usually de- 
manded back, but if paid according to accepted custom it 
is not asked back, and those who do demand it contrary to 
custom we disapprove of more vigorously than those who 
accept it according to custom, since many officials, necessary 
to human affairs, are influenced or attracted by gains of 
this kind. If these latter change their way of life and attain 
to a higher degree of virtuous living, they are more ready 
to distribute to the poor, as if it were their own, what they 
have acquired in this way than they are to pay it back to 
those from whom they have received it as a form of 
restitution of what is not their own. However, we think that 
those who have done an injury to human society by theft, 
rapine, calumny, oppression, housebreaking ought to pay what 
they owe rather than give it away, following the example of 
the tax collector, Zacchaeus, in the Gospel, who received the 
Lord into his house, was suddenly converted to a holy life, 
and said : 'The half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I 
have wronged any man of anything I restore him fourfold.' 30 

If there is to be a more sincere regard for justice, it would 

30 Luke 19.8. 



LETTERS 301 

be more honest to say to the advocate: 'Pay back what you 
received when you stood against truth, supported evil-doing, 
deceived the judge, won your case by lying, as you see that 
many of the most honorable and eloquent men seem to 
allow themselves to do, not only with safety but even with 
renown,' rather than to say to any minor official struggling 
to perform some duty: Tay back what you received when at 
the judge's order you held a man who was needed for some 
case, when you tied him so that he could not resist, shut him 
up so that he could not run away, and finally produced 
him while the trial was going on, or dismissed him when it 
was finished.' It is easy to see why no one says this to an 
advocate, because a man naturally does not wish to ask back 
what he gave a patron to win a bad case, just as he does not 
wish to pay back what he received from his opponent when 
he won his case dishonestly. Finally, how hard it is to find 
an advocate or a truly good man who has been an advocate, 
who would say to his client: 'Take back what you paid me 
for representing you so dishonestly, and give back to your 
opponent what you took from him as a result of my dishonest 
pleading.' Yet, anyone who thoroughly repents of his dishonest 
former life ought to do even >this, so that, if the dishonest 
litigant is not willing to make amends for his injustice after 
this warning, he at least will take no pay for the injustice. 
Otherwise, it might happen that there is an obligation to 
pay back what is secretly taken from another by theft, but 
none to pay back what is gotten by deceiving the judge and 
evading the law in the very court of law where offenses are 
punished. And what about lending money at interest, 31 which 
the very laws and judges require to be paid back? Who is 
more cruel: the one who steals from or cheats a rich man 
or the one who destroys a poor man by usury? What is 
acquired this way is certainly ill-gotten gain, and I would 

31 Forbidden by early Church law. 



302 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

wish restitution to be made of it, but it is not possible to sue 
for it in court. 

And now, if we look carefully at what is written: 'The 
whole world is the wealth of the faithful man, but the un- 
faithful one has not a penny, 532 do we not prove that those 
who seem to rejoice in lawfully acquired gains, and do 
not know how to use them, are really in possession of other 
men's property? Certainly, what is lawfully possessed is not 
another's property, but lawfully' means justly and justly 
means rightly. He who uses his wealth badly possesses it 
wrongfully, and wrongful possession means that it is another's 
property. You see, then, how many there are who ought to 
make restitution of another's goods, although those to whom 
restitution is due may be few; wherever they are, their 
claim to just possession is in proportion to their indifference 
to wealth. Obviously, no one possesses justice unlawfully: 
whoever does not love it does not have it; but money is 
wrongly possessed by bad men while good men who love 
it least have the best right to it. In this life the wrong of evil 
possessors is endured and among them certain laws are 
established which are called civil laws, not because they 
bring men to make a good use of their wealth, but because 
those who make a bad use of it become thereby less injurious. 
This comes about either because some of them become faithful 
and fervent and these have a right to all things or because 
those who live among them are not hampered by their evil 
deeds, but are tested until they come to that City where they 
are heirs to eternity, where the just alone have a place, the 
wise alone leadership, and those who are there possess what 
is truly their own. Yet, even here, we do not intercede to 
prevent restitution from being made, according to earthly 
customs and laws, although we should like you to be indulgent 
to evil-doers, not to make them take pleasure or persist In their 

32 Prov. 17.6 (Septuagint) . 



LETTERS 303 

evil, but because, whenever any of them become good, God 
is appeased by the sacrifice of mercy, and if evil-doers did 
not find Him merciful there would be no good men. 

For a long time I seem to have been putting a burden on a 
busy man by my talk, whereas it would have been possible to 
explain quickly what was asked by a man as clear-sighted and 
experienced as you are. I ought to have made an end of this 
long since, and I would have if I had thought you would be 
the only one to read what you urged me to write. May you 
enjoy a happy life in Christ, my dearest son. 



154. Macedonius to his justly revered lord and truly estimable 
father, Augustine (c. 414) 

I am deeply impressed by your wisdom, both in the writings 
which you have published and in those which you did not 
refuse to send, 1 taking pity on my anxiety. The former have 
a superlative degree of penetration, knowledge, and holiness, 
and the latter are so full of moderation that, if I do not do 
what you advise, I should have to account the fault in my- 
self, not in my office, justly revered lord and estimable 
father. For you do not insist, as most men in your circle do, 
on extorting from me whatever any anxious client happens 
to want, but you suggest what you think can properly be 
asked of a judge weighed down by many cares, and you do 
this with a due regard and respect, which is a most successful 
way of overcoming difficulties among good people. Therefore, 
I have granted to those you recommended the fulfillment of 
their desire, having previously opened the way to hope. 

I have finished your Books; 2 they were not so dull and 
quiet that they allowed me to attend to anything but them- 

1 Letter 153. 

2 Cf. Letter 152 n. 3. 



304 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

selves; they took hold of me, and while they wrested me 
from some of my anxieties, they bound me with their own 
chains may God be good to me! so that I am in doubt 
what to admire most in them: the lofty state of the priesthood, 
the teachings of philosophy, the extensive knowledge of 
history, or the charm of their style, which is such as to 
bewitch even the unlearned, so that they cannot stop while 
they are reading, and when they have finished they want 
to take them up again. Even those who boast of holding to 
their opinion are convinced that, in the inexplicable way 
of nature, evil happenings came out of those good old times, 
as they call them, and that all men were led astray by their 
own pleasures, imbued as they were with a certain sweetness; 
that through these they were led not to happiness but to the 
abyss; whereas these teachings of ours, these mysteries of the 
one, true God, besides promising eternal life, assuage these 
earthly and inevitable circumstances into which we are born. 
You used the most impressive example of the recent calamity, 2 
which strengthens your argument very solidly; still, if you 
could have chosen another, I wish you had not relied on this 
one. But, if ever a foolish complaint had arisen on the part 
of those who had to be convinced, you would be bound to 
marshal the arguments of truth. 

I have written this in the midst of my preoccupation with 
other cares, which may be vain when we think of the end of 
the world, but are still pressing enough, being part of the 
consequence of our being born. If I have time, and if my 
life holds out, I shall write again from Italy, so as to pay my 
debt to such learning by due if not adequate services. May the 
almighty God keep your Holiness safe and happy for an 
extended age, justly revered lord and truly estimable father. 

3 The siege of Rome by Alaric. 



LETTERS 305 



155. Augustine, bishop, servant of Christ and of His family, 

gives greeting in the Lord to his beloved son, 

Macedonius (c. 414) 

Although I do not recognize in myself the wisdom with 
which you endow me, I do owe and return the most lively 
thanks to your great and sincere kindness toward me, and 
I am delighted that the result of my studies has given pleasure 
to a man of such character and influence as you are. My 
joy is the greater because I discern the yearning of your mind, 
with its love for eternal life and truth and charity itself, 
directed toward that divine and heavenly country whose 
king is Christ, and in which alone we find eternal happiness 
if we live uprightly and devoutly in this world, and also 
because I see you drawing near to that life and I embrace 
you in your ardent desire to attain it. This is the source from 
which true friendship flows, not to be valued by temporal 
advantages, but to be drunk in through freely given love. 
No one can be a true friend of man unless he is first a friend 
of Truth; if friendship does not come into being spontaneously, 
it cannot exist at all. 

The philosophers have much to say on this subject, but one 
does not find among them true affection, that is, true worship 
of the true God, to which all the activities of right living 
ought to be directed. This arises chiefly, as I understand it, 
because they wanted to construct their own happiness for 
themselves, in one way or another, and they thought this 
was more a matter of doing than of receiving, whereas 
God is its only giver. Only He who made man makes man's 
happiness. He who lavishes such gifts on His creatures, both 
bad and good existence, human nature, vigorous faculties of 
sense, strength of body, abundance of resources will give 



306 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

Himself to the good to be their happiness, because their 
goodness is also His gift. But there are others who, in spite of 
this toilsome life, of these bodies doomed to death under 
this burden of corruptible flesh, have chosen to be the origi- 
nators and the creators, so to speak, of their own happiness, 
striving for it and holding it as if it were the result of their 
own strength, not seeking it and hoping for it from that 
source of strength, and these have not been able to see that 
God resists their pride. Hence, they fell into the most extra- 
vagant error, as when they assert that a wise man is happy 
even in the bull of Phalaris, 1 and are then forced to admit 
that happiness is sometimes to be shunned. For they yield 
to an accumulation of bodily ills and decree that in their 
most grievous afflictions it is allowable to deprive oneself of 
life. I do not wish to discuss here how wicked it is for an 
innocent man to kill himself, something which even a guilty 
person has absolutely no right to do; I have spoken at length 
on this in the first of those three books 2 which you have so 
kindly and so thoroughly read. But let us consider with 
certainty, let us determine, not proudly but temperately, how 
that life can be happy which the wise man does not hold and 
enjoy, but which he is obliged to forego by laying hands on 
himself. 

There is in Cicero, as you know, in the last part of Book 5 
of the Tusculan Disputations, 3 a passage worth noting in 
connection with what I am saying. When he was treating of 
physical blindness, he asserted that it was possible for a 
wise man to be happy in spite of being blind, and he said 
that there were many things in which he could take pleasure 
through the sense of hearing; and likewise, if he was deaf he 

1 A tyrant of Sicily (c. 550 B.C.) who shut rebellious subjects in a 
brazen bull and roasted them to death. 

2 City of God 1.17-28. 

3 Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 538; 110; 40.117. 



LETTERS 307 

transferred the objects in which he delighted to the sense of 
sight, but if a man were deprived of both faculties, if he were 
both blind and deaf, he did not dare to make the same state- 
ment and say that he was happy. He added, however, that if 
a man suffered most intense bodily pains which fell short 
of causing death, he should kill himself and so reach the 
harbor of unconsciousness, having freed himself by this 
courageous act. So the wise man yields to unbounded mis- 
fortunes and is overpowered by them to the extent of being 
forced to commit murder upon himself ! If he does not spare 
himself, whom would he spare in order to escape these evils? 
Certainly he is always happy, certainly he cannot lose by any 
overwhelming misfortune this happiness which he has set up 
by his own power. And behold! In blindness and deafness 
and intense bodily sufferings he has either lost his happiness, 
or, if his life is still happy in the midst of these trials, it 
follows from the arguments of the most learned men in this 
field that there is sometimes a happiness which the wise man 
cannot bear, or what is even more senseless which a wise 
man ought not to bear, but should flee from it, break it off, 
cast it away and cut himself off from it by the sword or by 
poison or by any other form of voluntary death. Thus he may 
reach the harbor of unconsciousness, or become entirely non- 
existent as the Epicureans and others who share a like folly 
think. Thus he is happy because he has been freed from 
that other happiness as if it were a pestilence. What an 
extreme display of pride! If the happy life is found in the 
midst of bodily suffering, why does the wise man not remain 
and enjoy it? But, if life is wretched, I ask you what else 
but pride prevents you from admitting it, from praying to 
God, from making supplication to His justice and mercy, 
for He has the power to change or moderate the evils of 
this life, to arm us with strength to bear them, or to set us free 
from them entirely, and give us after them a truly happy life 



308 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

where no evil is admitted and the supreme good is never 
lost? 

This is the reward of faithful souls, and in the hope of 
attaining it we pass through this temporal and mortal life, as 
something endurable rather than pleasurable, and we bear 
its evils courageously with a right understanding and with 
divine help when we rejoice in our confident hope of eternal 
goods, relying on the sure promise of God. The Apostle en- 
courages us to do this when he says: 'Rejoicing in hope, 
patient in tribulation/ 4 and by putting 'rejoicing in ^ hope' 
first he shows the reason for 'patient in tribulation.' This 
is the hope to which I exhort you through Jesus Christ our 
Lord. God Himself was our Master when He hid the majesty 
of His divinity, appearing in the weakness of flesh, and 
taught us not only by the prophetic utterance of His speech 
but also by the example of His Passion and Resurrection. By 
the one He showed us what we should bear, by the other 
what we ought to hope for. Men would have shown their 
gratitude for this if they had not been puffed up and 
carried away by empty pride, which made them try to 
fashion their own happiness for themselves, whereas God 
alone truthfully promises His worshipers that He will grant 
them happiness after this life. Indeed, there is much more 
meaning to that statement of Cicero where he says: 'This 
life is indeed a death which I could weep over if I found it 
pleasing. 35 How is it, then, that it is counted a happy life if 
it is fitting to weep over it? Is it not rather proved to be a 
sad life since it is fitting to weep over it? Therefore, I beg 
of you, good Sir, accustom yourself in this life to find your 
happiness in hope, that you may find it in reality when the 
reward of eternal bliss is granted to your constancy and 
devotion. 

4 Rom, 12.12. 

o Cicero, Tusc. Disp. 1.31; 75. 



LETTERS 309 

If the length of my letter bores you, 'You cooked this dish 
yourself 56 when you called me wise. Hence, I have ventured 
to say these things to you, not to display wisdom as it may be 
in me, but to show what it would be in you. In the present 
life wisdom consists in the true worship of the true God; in 
the life to come it is to be an assured and entire enjoyment 
of Him; here, constant devotion; there, everlasting bliss. If 
I have any of that wisdom which is the only true wisdom, I 
have received it from God; I have not provided it for myself, 
and I confidently hope that it will be completed in me by 
Him from whom I humbly rejoice that It has been begun, 
not distrustful of what He has not yet given, nor ungrateful 
for what He has given. If anything in me is worthy of 
praise, it is because of His gift, not for any ability or merit of 
mine. Some keen and highly endowed intellects have fallen 
into grievous errors because they rushed along with too 
great confidence in their own strength, and failed to make 
humble and sincere prayer to God to show them the way. But 
what can any man deserve when He who brought us freely 
offered grace, not merited reward, found all men sinners and, 
free from sin Himself, set all men free? 

If, then, true strength delights us, let us say to Him what 
we read in the sacred writings: 'I will love thee, O Lord, 
my strength/ 7 and if we wish to be truly happy as we cannot 
fail to wish let us hold with faithful heart to what we learn 
in the same writing: 'Blessed is the man whose trust is in 
the name of the Lord and who hath not had regard to vanities 
and lying follies.' 8 How great, indeed, is the vanity, how 
great the folly, how great the lie, for a mortal man leading 
a life harried by the vicissitudes of soul and body, weighed 
down by so many sins, subject to so many temptations, a 

6 Terence, Phormio 318. 

7 Ps. 17.2. 

8 Ps. 39.5. 



310 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

prey to so much corruption, doomed to such just penalties 
for such a man to trust in himself for his own happiness, 
when he cannot even guard himself from error in that part 
of himself most worthy of his nature, that is, his mind and 
reason,, unless God, the light of our minds, assists him! 
Let us, therefore, I beseech you, cast off the vanities and lying 
follies of false philosophers, because there will be no strength 
in us unless He by whom we are helped is with us; there will 
be no happiness unless He who is our joy is with us, unless 
His gift of immortality and incorruption swallows up our 
whole changeable and corruptible nature, which of itself is 
weak and is, in a sense, the source of all our miseries. 

Since we know that you are devoted to the public welfare, 
you must see how plainly the sacred writings show that 
the happiness of the state has no other source than the hap- 
piness of man. One of the sacred writers, filled with the Holy 
Spirit, speaks thus as he prays: 'Rescue me out of the hand 
of strange children, whose mouth hath spoken vanity: and 
their right hand is the right hand of iniquity; whose sons 
are as new plants in their youth: their daughters decked 
out, adorned round about after the similitude of a temple: 
their storehouse full, flowing out of this into that, their 
sheep fruitful in young, abounding in their goings forth: 
their oxen fat. There is no breach of wall nor passage, nor 
crying out in their streets. They have called the people happy 
that hath these things, but happy is the people whose God is 
the Lord. 39 

You see that a people is not called happy because of an 
accumulation of earthly good fortune, except by the 'strange 
children,' that is, by those who do not belong to the regene- 
ration by which we become sons of God. The Psalmist prays 
to be rescued out of their hand, lest he be drawn by them 
into that false opinion and into their impious sins. Truly 

9 PS. 143.11-15. 



LETTERS 311 

they speak vanity when they 'have called the people happy 
that hath these things' the things which he had listed above, 
in which that good fortune consisted, the only good fortune 
which the lovers of this world seek. Therefore, 'their right 
hand is the right hand of iniquity' because they have pre- 
ferred those things which should have been set aside, as the 
right hand is preferred to the left. Happiness in life is not 
to be attributed to the possession of those things; they should 
be subordinate, not pre-eminent; they are intended to follow, 
not to lead. If, then, we were to speak to him who prayed 
thus and desired to be rescued from the 'strange children' 
who 'called that people happy that hath these things,' and 
if we said: 'What is your own opinion? What people do 
you call happy?' he would not say: 'Happy is the people 
whose strength is in their own mind.' If he had said this, he 
would, it is true, distinguish that people from the former 
which made happiness consist in that visible and corporeal 
good fortune, but he would not yet have passed beyond all 
the vanities and lying follies, for, as the same writings teach 
elsewhere: 'Cursed be everyone that placeth his hope in 
man.' 10 Therefore, he ought not to place it in himself, because 
he himself is a man. Thus, in order to pass beyond the 
boundaries of all vanities and lying follies, and to place 
happiness where it truly exists, he says: 'Happy is the people 
whose God is the Lord.' 

You see, therefore, where we are to seek what all, both 
learned and unlearned, desire; but many, because of their 
wanderings and their self-sufficiency, do not know where it 
is to be sought and found. In a certain divine psalm 
two classes of men are held up to scorn: both 'they that 
trust in their own strength' and 'they that glory* in the 
multitude of their riches,' 11 that is, both the philosophers of 

10 Cf. Jer. 17.5. 

11 Ps. 48.7. 



312 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

this world and those who despise even such a philosophy and 
call that people happy who abound in earthly riches. There- 
fore, let us ask of the Lord our God, by whom we were 
created, both the strength to overcome the evils of this life, 
and happiness in the next life, which we may enjoy in His 
eternity after this life, so that in the strength and in the 
reward of the strength 'he that glories,' as the Apostle says, 
'may glory in the Lord.' 12 Let us wish this for ourselves, let 
us wish it for the state of which we are citizens, for the hap- 
piness of the state has no other source than the happiness 
of man, since the state is merely a unified group of men. 

Therefore, if all your prudence which makes you try to 
provide against human vicissitudes, if all the fortitude which 
keeps you from being frightened by any wickedness directed 
against you, if all the temperance which shields you from 
corruption in the midst of such foulness of evil conduct on 
the part of men, if all the justice which makes you judge 
rightly as you allot to each one what is his, aims at this, 
strives for this, that those whose welfare you have at heart 
may be safe in body and secure from the dishonesty of any- 
one, that they may enjoy peace and may have 'sons established 
as new plants, daughters decked out in the similitude of a 
temple, storehouses full, flowing out of this into that, their 
sheep fruitful in young, their oxen fat, their property spoiled 
by no breach of wall, no outcry of quarreling heard in their 
streets' 13 in that case, yours are no true virtues, and theirs 
no true happiness. That respectful attitude of mine which 
you praised with kind words in your letter should not prevent 
me from speaking the truth. If, as I say, any administrative 
act of yours, endowed with the virtues which I have listed, is 
limited to this end and aim, that men may suffer no undue 
distress according to the flesh, if you think it is not incumbent 

12 2 Cor. 10.17. 

13 Cf. Ps. 143.11-15. 



LETTERS 



313 



on you that they should make a return for that tranquility 
which you try to secure for them, that is, not to speak in 
riddles, that they should worship the true God in whom is all 
the fruition of the peaceful life, such effort on your part 
will bring you no return in true happiness. 

It seems that I am here speaking disrespectfully, and, in a 
sense, as if I had forgotten the usual form of my intercession. 
But, if respect is merely a certain fear of displeasing someone, 
I am not showing respect by fearing in this case. I should 
first of all, and with good reason, fear to displease God, 
and secondly to displease that friendship which you have 
been so kind as to confer on me, if I were less free in warning 
you where I think a salutary warning is needed. I should 
certainly be more respectful when I intercede with you for 
others, when, in fact I intercede for you yourself, if I spoke 
freely in proportion to my friendship, and, the more faithful 
I am, the better friend I am, yet I would not say this to you 
if it were not to show my respect. And if this, as you say, c is a 
most successful way of overcoming difficulties among good 
people,' 14 may it help me with you in your own behalf, that 
I may enjoy you in Him who has opened for me this door to 
you, and has given me confidence, especially as what I ask 
I now think is easy for your mind to accept, supported and 
strengthened as it is by so many divine helps. 

If you recognize that you have received the virtues which 
you have, and if you return thanks to Him from whom you 
have received them, directing them to His service even in 
your secular office; if you rouse the men subject to your 
authority and lead them to worship God, both by the example 
of your own devout life and by your zeal for their welfare, 
whether you rule them by love or by fear; if, in working for 
their greater security, you have no other aim than that they 
should thus attain to Him who will be their happiness 

14 Cf. Letter 154. 



314 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

then yours will be true virtues, then they will be increased by 
the help of Him whose bounty lavished them on you, and 
they will be so perfected as to lead you without fail to that 
truly happy life which is no other than eternal life. In that 
life, evil will no longer have to be distinguished from good 
by the virtue of prudence, because there will be no evil 
there; adversity will not have to be borne with fortitude, 
because there will be nothing there but what we love; 
temperance will not be needed to curb our passions, because 
there will be no enticements to passion there; nor shall we 
have to practise justice by helping the poor out of our 
abundance, for there we shall find no poor and no needy. 
There will be but one virtue there, and it will be the same 
as the reward of virtue, which the speaker in the sacred 
writings mentions as the object of his love: 'But it is good 
for me to stick close to my God.* 15 This will constitute the 
perfect and eternal wisdom, as it will constitute the truly 
happy life, because to attain it is to attain the eternal and 
supreme good, and to stick close to God forever is the sum of 
our good. Let this be called prudence because it will cling 
most providently to the good which cannot be lost, and 
fortitude because it will cling most stoutly to the good from 
which it cannot be parted, and temperance because it will 
cling most chastely to the good in which there is no corruption, 
and justice because it will cling most uprightly to the good 
to which it is deservedly subject. 

Yet, this virtue consists in nothing else but in loving what 
is worthy of love; it is prudence to choose this, fortitude to 
be turned from it by no obstacles, temperance to be enticed by 
no allurements, justice to be diverted by no pride. Why do we 
choose what we exclusively love, except that we find nothing 
better? But this is God, and if we prefer or equal anything to 
Him in our love, we know nothing about loving ourselves. 
15 Ps. 72.28. 



LETTERS 



315 



We are made better by approaching closer to Him than 
whom nothing is better; we go to Him not by walking, but 
by loving. We will have Him more present to us in proportion 
as we are able to purify the love by which we draw near to 
Him, for He is not spread through or confined by corporeal 
space, He is everywhere present and everywhere wholly 
present, and we go to Him not by the motion of our feet 
but by our conduct. Conduct is not usually discerned by what 
one knows but by what he loves; good or bad love makes 
good or bad conduct. By our crookedness we are far from 
the uprightness of God; we are made straight by loving 
what is upright, that we may rightly cling to the upright One. 
Let us strive, then, with the greatest possible effort to 
bring to him those whom we love as ourselves, if we know that 
we love ourselves by loving Him. For Christ, who is Truth, 
says that on these two commandments depend the whole 
Law and the Prophets: that we love God with our whole 
heart and our whole soul and our whole mind, and that we 
love our neighbor as ourselves. 16 Obviously, in this passage 
the neighbor is not to be rated by blood relationship but by 
the fact that he is a fellow being endowed with reason, 
which makes all men kin. For, if money is a reason which 
makes men partners, much more is their common nature a 
reason to draw them together, not for business purposes but 
because of their birth. Hence, that writer of comedy whose 
charming genius is not devoid of the splendor of truth 
composed this speech where one old man speaks to another: 

'Have you so much time to spare from your own affairs 
That you can meddle in other people's business which 
is none of yours?' 

and he gives this answer to the other old man: 
16 Cf. Matt. 22.40,3739; Mark 12.30-31; Luke 10.27. 



316 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

'I am a man : I hold that no human interest is foreign 
to me. 317 

They say that at that sentence, the whole theatre, though 
filled with foolish and ignorant people, rang with applause. 
Thus, the kindship of human souls stirs the feeling of all so 
naturally that every man feels himself a neighbor of every 
other man. 

Therefore, with that love which the divine law commands, 
a man ought to love God and himself and his neighbor; 
yet three commandments were not given and it was not 
said: 'on these three/ but *on these two commandments de- 
pendeth the whole law and the prophets,' that is, on the 
love of God with the whole heart and the whole soul and 
the whole mind, and of the neighbor as oneself, doubtless to 
make it clear that there is no other love by which a man 
loves himself than that by which he loves God. Whoever loves 
himself in any other way ought to be said rather to hate him- 
self, since he thus becomes wicked and is deprived of the light 
of justice, when he turns from a higher and more excellent 
good and is directed upon himself as to something lower 
and defective, and what is so truthfully written then takes 
place in him: 'He that loveth iniquity hateth his own soul/ 18 
Thus, as no one loves himself except by loving God, there 
was no need of man being commanded to love himself, once 
the commandment to love God has been given. He ought, 
then, to love God and his neighbor as himself so as to lead 
whatever men he can to worship God, using as means either 
the comforting force of kindness, or the imparting of learning, 
or the restraint of discipline, because he knows that 'on these 
two commandments dependeth the whole law and the pro- 
phets.' 

17 Terence, Heautontimoreumenos 75-77. 

18 Ps. 10.6. 



LETTERS 317 

Whoever chooses this with careful discrimination is pru- 
dent; whoever is turned from it by no trial is strong; he who 
is enticed by no other pleasure is temperate; the one who is 
puffed up by no self-esteem is just. By means of these virtues 
which have been divinely imparted to us by the grace of the 
Man, Christ Jesus, the Mediator of God between the Father 
and us, through whom we are reconciled to God in the spirit 
of charity, after the hostility of our sin, by means of these 
virtues, I repeat, which are divinely imparted to us, we now 
live the good life, and afterward receive its reward, the life 
of happiness, which must necessarily be eternal. In this life 
these virtues are seen in action, in the next in their effect; 
here they are at work, there they are our reward; here, their 
function, there their final end. Therefore, all good and holy 
men, supported by divine help, in the midst of all kinds of 
sufferings hear the call of hope of that blessed end where 
they will be forever happy; but, if they were to remain for- 
ever in those same sufferings and most bitter pains, even if 
they had all possible virtue, no sane or reasonable being 
could doubt that they would be anything but wretched. 

'Godliness/ then, 'which is the true worship of God, is 
profitable to all things,' 19 since it deflects or blunts the troubles 
of this life and leads to that other life, our salvation, where 
we shall suffer no evil and enjoy the supreme and everlasting 
good. I exhort you as I do myself to pursue this happiness 
more earnestly and to hold to it with strong constancy. If you 
were not even now a sharer in it, if you did not judge that 
your earthly honors should be subordinate to it, you would 
not have said to the Donatist heretics in your edict designed 
to bring them back to the unity and peace of Christ: 'This 
is enacted for your benefit; it is for you that the priests of the 
incorrupt faith labor, that the august emperor and we, his 
judges, also labor, 5 and many other points which you made in 

19 1 Tim. 4.8. 



318 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

the same edict, so that it is clear that, though you wear the 
girdle of an earthly judge, you are thinking for the most 
part of the heavenly country. If I have aimed at speaking to 
you at too great length about true virtue and true happiness, 
I beg you not to regard it as an intrusion on your duties, as, 
indeed, I trust it is not, since you show a disposition so 
strong and so marvelously worthy of praise that you do not 
slight the earthly cares while busying yourself more willingly 
and more intimately with the heavenly ones. 



156. Hilarius 1 to Bishop Augustine, his truly holy, deservedly 
esteemed, and ever-cherished lord (414) 

The kindness of your Holiness, known to all, has induced 
my Insignificance, as some of ours are traveling from Syracuse 
to Hippo, to entrust them with this letter to your Reverence, 
object of my praise, begging the supreme Trinity to keep 
you safe and sound, by the favor of our God, that you may 
receive and review this writing of mine, holy lord, rightly 
and deservedly revered, and ever worthy of my affection. 
Therefore, I ask you to be so kind as to remember me in 
your holy prayers, and to enlighten my ignorance on some 
points which certain Christians at Syracuse maintain, saying 
that it is possible for man to be sinless and to keep the com- 
mandments of God with ease, if he wishes; that an unbaptized 
infant cut off by death cannot justly be deprived of heaven 
because it is born without sin ; that a rich man who continues 
to live rich cannot enter the kingdom of heaven unless he sells 
all he has, and that it cannot do him any good to keep the 
commandments while keeping his riches; that we ought not to 

1 A Sicilian layman, not to be identified with the Hilarius, Bishop of 
Narbonne of Letter 178, or with the Hilarius, layman of Aries, of 
Letter 226. 



LETTERS 319 

swear at all; and what is the nature of the Church of which 
it is written that it has neither wrinkle nor spot, 2 whether it 
is the one in which we now gather or the one we hope for. 
Some have made out that it is this Church into which we 
now gather the people and that it cannot be sinless. On these 
points, with such appeals as I can make, I beg your Holiness 
to order us to be more fully instructed, so that we may know 
how far we ought to hold these views. I pray the mercy of 
God to keep your Holiness safe for many years, holy lord, 
rightly and deservedly revered, ever worthy of affection. 



757. Augustine,, bishop, servant of Christ and of His Church, 

gives greeting in the Lord to his beloved son, 

Hilarius (414) 

From your letter I have learned not only of your good 
health but also of your religious zeal for the Word of God 
and your devout care for your salvation, which is in Christ 
Jesus, our Lord. Giving thanks to God, therefore, I have not 
put off paying the debt of my answer. 

Now if you ask whether anyone attains to such perfection 
of goodness in this life as to live here entirely without sin, 
note what was said by the Apostle John, whom the Lord 
loved especially among tfye disciples. He said: 'If we say 
that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not 
in us.' 1 So, if those of whom you wrote me say that they are 
without sin, you see that they deceive themselves and the 
truth is not in them. However, if they confess that they are 
sinners in order to win the mercy of God, let them refrain 
from deceiving others in whom they attempt to instil this 

2 Cf. Eph. 5.27. 
1 John 1.8. 



320 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

pride. The Lord's Prayer is necessary to all, since the Lord 
gave it to the very rams of the flock, that is, His Apostles, 
so that each one may say: 'Forgive us our debts as we also 
forgive our debtors.' 2 But He to whom these words were 
not necessary, of Him it is to be said that He is without sin. 
If the Lord had foreseen that there would be some who 
would be better than His Apostles turned out to be, no 
doubt He would have taught them another prayer, in which 
they would not ask to have their sins forgiven, because all 
had already been forgiven in baptism. If holy Daniel con- 
fessed his own sins as well as those of his people, not before 
men with a false pretense of humility, but before God, that is, 
in the prayer which he addressed to God, as it is expressed 
in his truthful utterance, 3 then it seems to me there is nothing 
else to be said to such people but the words which the Lord 
ordered the Prophet Ezechiel to say to a certain proud man : 
'Art thou then wiser than Daniel?' 4 

It is clear, however, that if anyone, helped by the mercy 
and grace of God, refrains from those sins which are called 
crimes, and does not fail to wash away the sins which are in- 
separable from this life by the practice of works of mercy 
and pious prayers, he will deserve to depart from this life 
without sin. However, as long as he lives here, he will have 
some sins, but as these have not been lacking, so the remedies 
by which they are washed away ,have been at hand. But, 
suppose someone takes advantage of the fact that he has 
heard that no one can live without sin by his own effort, gives 
himself over to his passions and involves himself in unspeak- 
able crimes, persisting in this wicked and accursed conduct 
until his last day, even though in the meantime he gives some 

2 Matt. 6.12, 

3 Dan. 9.20. 

4 Cf. Ezech. 28.3. 



LETTERS 



321 



alms, he leads an unhappy life and meets an even more un- 
happy end. 

We can, after a fashion, bear with those who say that 
there either is or has been in this life some just man, in addi- 
tion to the one Saint of saints, who was entirely sinless. But 
that other saying of theirs is to be utterly rejected and detested 
with the utmost execration, when they claim that man's free 
will is enough to enable him to carry out the commandments 
of the Lord, even if he is not helped in his good works by 
the grace of God and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Those who 
assert this are altogether alien to the grace of God, because, 
'not knowing the justice of God/ as the Apostle says of the 
Jews, c and seeking to establish their own, they have not 
submitted themselves to the justice of God.' 5 For, the ful- 
filling of the Law is nothing if not love 6 and certainly 'the 
charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, 5 not by our- 
selves or by the strength of our own will, but 'by the Holy Ghost 
who is given to us.' 7 

Therefore, our free will is able to perform good works if 
it is helped from above, which happens as a result of humble 
petition and confession; whereas, if it is deprived of divine 
help, it may excel in knowledge of the Law, but it will have 
no solid foundation of justice, and will be puffed up with 
impious pride and deadly vanity. Again, the Lord's Prayer 
teaches us this, for it would be useless for us to say in our 
petition to God, 'Lead us not into temptation,' if this was 
in our own power and we were able to carry it out without 
any help from Him. By the saying, 'Lead us not into temp- 
tation,' we are to understand: 'Do not abandon us and 
allow us to be led.' For, 'God is faithful, who will not suffer 

5 Rom. 10.3. 

6 Cf. Rom. 13.10. 

7 Rom. 5.5. 

8 Matt. 6.13. 



322 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

you to be tempted above that which you are able, but will 
make also with temptation issue that you may be able to bear 
it.' 9 Why does he say that God does this, if it is solely in our 
power to do it without His help? 

The very Law itself was given as a help in this to those who 
used it lawfully, 10 that they might know through it either 
how much justice they had received, for which they were 
to give thanks, or what was still lacking to them which they 
were to ask for with perseverance. There are some who hear 
the words of the Law, Thou shalt not covet/ 11 in such wise 
as to imagine that their knowledge suffices for them without 
believing they should ask that strength be given them, by the 
help of God's grace, to enable them to do what is commanded; 
and what was said to the Jews applies to them: 'The law 
entered in that sin might abound.' 12 It is bad enough for them 
not to do what the Law commands: 'Thou shalt not covet,' 
but over and above they are so proud that e not knowing the 
justice of God,' that is, what God gives in order to justify the 
wicked, 'and seeking to establish their own,' as if it rested on 
the strength of their own will, 'have not submitted them- 
selves to the justice of God,' 'for the end of the law is Christ 
unto justice to everyone that believeth.' 13 But He certainly 
carne "that where sin abounded, grace might more abound.' 14 
If the Jews were enemies to this grace, c not knowing the 
justice of God, and seeking to establish their own/ why are 
these friends of yours hostile to it if they have believed in 
Him whom the Jews put to death? Could it be that the Jews 
who confessed their sin in killing Christ and submitted to His 
grace when it was made known to them receive their reward, 

9 1 Cor. 10.13. 

10 Cf. Isa. 8.20 (Septuagint) ; 1 Tim. 1.8. 

11 Exod. 20.17; Deut. 5.21; 7.25; Rom. 7.7; 13.9. 

12 Rom. 5.20. 

13 Rom. 10.3,4. 

14 Cf. Rom. 5.20. 



LETTERS 323 

while these of whom you speak will suffer judgment because 
they are willing to believe in Christ, but are trying to destroy 
His grace? 

Those who believe in Him as they should believe for 
this purpose, that they may hunger and thirst after justice and 
be fully sated with His grace. For it is written: 'Everyone 
that shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.* 15 
Obviously, this does not mean physical safety, which many 
enjoy without calling on the name of the Lord; it means that 
safety of which He Himself says: "They that are in health 
need not a physician but they that are ill,' and He follows 
with a subsequent explanation of what He had said, by 
saying : *I am not come to call the just, but sinners.' 16 There- 
fore, by those in health He means the just, and those that are 
ill are the sinners. Let the sick man, then, not presume on his 
own strength, because 'he shall not be saved by his great 
strength.' 17 If he does presume on it, let him discover that his 
strength is not such as well people usually have, but such as 
men have in delirium, who, although out of their minds, 
imagine themselves in such good health that they do not 
consult a physician, and even fall upon him with blows as an 
intruder. In the same way, these erroneous thinkers, with their 
mad pride, fall upon Christ with blows, so to speak, because 
they have no need of the kindly help of His grace to do justice 
according to the prescriptions of the Law. Let them, then, 
leave off this madness and understand, as far as they are 
able, that they have free will, not to despise the Lord's help 
with proud heart, but to call upon Him with a loving heart. 

This free will will be free in proportion as it is sound, and 
sound in proportion as it is submissive to divine mercy and 
grace. Therefore, it prays with faith and says: 'Direct my 

15 Joel 2.32; Acts 2.21; Rom. 10.13. 

16 Matt. 9.12,13; Mark 2.17; Luke 5.31,32. 

17 Ps. 32.16. 



324 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

paths according to thy word, and let no iniquity have do- 
minion over me.' 18 It prays, it does not promise; it confesses, 
it does not declare itself; it begs for the fullest liberty, it does 
not boast of its own power. It is not everyone who trusts in 
his own strength, but everyone who calls upon the name of 
the Lord who will be saved. 'How then shall they call on him 
in whom they have not believed?' 19 Therefore, those who 
believe rightly, believe that they may call on Him in whom 
they have believed, and may be strong to do what they have 
learned in the precepts of the Law, since faith obtains what 
the Law commands. 

To pass over for the present many of the precepts of the 
Law, and refer to the one which the Apostle chose to recall, 
when the Law says: 'Thou shalt not covet,* what else does it 
seem to command but restraint from unlawful passions? The 
mind, indeed, is carried along by love as by a weight, but 
wherever it is carried we are ordered to withdraw from the 
weight of passion what is to be added to the weight of love, 
until the one has disappeared and the other is completed, for 
'love is the fulfilling of the law.' 20 Yet see, now, what is written 
of that restraint: 'And as I knew,' he says, 'that no one can 
be continent except God give it, and this also was a point 
of wisdom to know whose gift it was, I went to the Lord 
and besought him.' 21 Did he then say: 'And as I knew that 
no one can be continent except by his own free will, and this 
was a point of wisdom to know that I could be good of my- 
self? Most certainly he did not say that, as some say it in 
their vanity, but he said what was to be said in the truth of 
holy Scripture: *As I knew that no one can be continent 
except God give it.' Therefore, God commands continence 

18 Ps. 118.133. 

19 Rom. 10.14. 

20 Rom. 13.10. 

21 Cf. Wisd. 8.21. 



LETTERS 325 

and He gives continence; He commands by the Law, He gives 
by His grace; He commands by the letter, He gives by the 
spirit; for the Law without grace makes sin abound, 22 and 
the letter without the spirit killeth. 23 He commands so as to 
make us learn how to ask the help of grace when we try to 
obey His commandments, and in our weakness fall wearied 
under the Law, and also to make us grateful to Him who 
helps us if we have been able to perform any good work. This 
is what the sacred writer did, this is what wisdom taught him: 
whose gift it was. 

The freedom of the will is not destroyed by being helped, 
it is rather helped because it is not destroyed. He who says to 
God: 'Be thou my helper,' 24 confesses that he wishes to carry 
out what is commanded, but asks help of Him who gave 
the command so that he may be able to do it. Thus, also, 
when the sacred writer knew that no one can be continent 
except God gives it, he went to the Lord and besought Him. 
Obviously, he went freely and besought Hun freely; he 
would not have made his prayer if he had not had the will 
to do so. But, if he had not prayed, how much would his 
will have been able to do? And if he is able before he asks, 
what good it is to him if he does not give thanks that he is 
able to Him from whom He must ask help for what he is 
not able to do? Thus, he who is now continent certainly does 
not possess continency unless his will assents to it, but, unless 
he had received it, what opportunity would there be for his 
will to act? 'What hast thou/ says the Apostle, 'that thou 
hast not received? And if thou hast received it, why dost 
thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?' 25 that is, 'Why do 
you glory as if you have by yourself what you could not 

22 Rom. 5.20. 

23 2 Cor. 3.6. 

24 Ps. 26.9. 

25 1 Cor. 4.7. 



326 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

have by yourself if you had not received it?' But this was 
written that 'he that glorieth may glory in the Lord, 26 not in 
himself, and that he that has nothing yet of which he may 
glory may pray to the Lord, not hope in himself. It is better 
for a man to have a lesser good which he asks of the Lord 
than to have a greater one which he attributes to himself, 
since it is more advantageous to rise from the depths than 
to fall from the heights; for it is written: 'God resisteth the 
proud, and giveth grace to the humble/ 27 Therefore, in view 
of the frequency of sin, the Law teaches us what we ought to 
wish if grace were not available to help us, that we may 
be able to carry out what we wish and to bring to a conclusion 
what we are able to do. Grace will help us if we do not rely 
on our own strength, 'not minding high things, but consenting 
to the humble/ 28 if we give thanks for what we are now able 
to do, and if, with eager will, we humbly beg God for help in 
what we are not able to do, supporting our prayer by the 
fruitful works of mercy, giving that it may be given to us, and 
forgiving that we may be forgiven. 29 

Regarding the objection that an unbaptized infant, cut off 
by death, cannot be lost because it is born without sin, 30 the 
Apostle does not say this, and I think it is better to believe 
an Apostle than to believe those objectors. For the teacher 
of the Gentiles, in whom Christ speaks, 31 says this: 'By one 
man, sin entered into the world and by sin death, and so, 
death passed upon all men in whom all have sinned/ and a 
little further he says: Tor judgment, indeed, was by one 
unto condemnation, but grace is of many offenses unto justi- 
fication. 332 Therefore, if these men have found an infant not 

26 1 Cor. 1.31; 2 Cor. 10.17. 

27 James 4.6.; 1 Peter 5.5. 

28 Rom. 12.16, 

29 Cf. Luke 6.37,38; 11.4. 

30 Letter 146. 

31 2 Cor. 13.3. 

32 Rom. 5.12,16.' 



LETTERS 327 

begotten of the concupiscence of that first man, let them say 
that it is not subject to damnation and has no need of being 
delivered from that damnation by the grace of Christ. But, 
what does he mean by 'one sin unto condemnation' if not the 
sin by which Adam fell? And what does he mean by 'of many 
offenses unto justification' except that the grace of Christ sets 
us free not only from that one sin under which infants, 
descended from the first man, are bound, but also from the 
many sins which men, grown up, add to that one by reason 
of their perverted character? Yet he also says that the one sin 
by which the children of his flesh are bound, which owes its 
origin to the first man, suffices for condemnation. Therefore, 
the baptism of infants is not useless, but its purpose is that 
those who are bound over to condemnation by their human 
birth may be set free from the same condemnation by their 
spiritual rebirth. Thus, as it is impossible to find a man 
carnally born outside Adam's line, so no man is found 
spiritually reborn outside the grace of Christ. Carnal birth 
is subject to that first sin and its damnation, spiritual rebirth 
destroys not only that first sin and that is why infants are 
baptized but also the many other offenses which men, by 
their evil lives, have added to that one in which they were 
born. Therefore, the Apostle continues and says: Tor if by 
one man's offense death hath reigned through one, much 
more they who receive abundance of grace and of justice shall 
reign in life through one Jesus Christ. Therefore, as by the 
offense of one unto all men to condemnation, so also by the 
justice of one unto all men to justification of life. For as by the 
disobedience of one man many were made sinners, so also by 
the obedience of one many shall be made just/ 33 

What will those objectors have to say to that? Or what 
is left them to do but claim that the Apostle was in error? 
The vessel of election, the teacher of the Gentiles, the trumpet 

33 Rom. 5.17-19. 



328 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

of Christ cries out: 'Judgment by one unto condemnation, 5 
and they cry back, insisting that children who derive their 
origin as they admit from that first man of whom he 
speaks do not go into condemnation, even if they have not 
been baptized in Christ. 'Judgment/ he says, 'by one unto 
condemnation.' What does he mean by 'one' but 'offense'? 
For he continues: 'Grace is of many offenses, unto justi- 
fication.' Therefore, on the one hand, judgment leads from 
one offense to condemnation, but, on the other, grace leads 
from many offenses unto justification. Consequently, if they 
do not dare to resist the Apostle, let them expound for us 
why judgment leads from one offense unto condemnation, al- 
though men come to the judgment of condemnation from 
many sins. But, if they think this was said because the be- 
ginning of such sin occurred in Adam, and other men imitated 
it, so that those who committed many sins by imitating him 
were thus drawn into judgment and condemnation, why was 
the same thing not said of grace and justification? For, as 
many sins of men are found to have intervened between that 
one which they imitated and the judgment by which they 
are punished obviously, they came from the one to the many 
that they might be led from the many to judgment so, in 
like manner, there are many sins intervening between that 
same in imitation of which they were committed and the 
grace by which they are forgiven, since from that one they 
came to many, that from many they might come to the grace 
of justification. Therefore, as one and the same argument is 
used for both cases that of judgment and that of grace 
and as it applies both to one and to many offenses, let them 
tell us why he said that judgment leads from one offense unto 
condemnation, but grace from many offenses unto justi- 
fication, or let them agree that this form of speech was used 
because in this case there is question of two men : Adam, the 
source of our carnal birth, and Christ, the source of our 



LETTERS 329 

spiritual rebirth. Now, because the former was only man, but 
the latter both God and Man, the spiritual rebirth does not 
release us from the one sin only which is of Adam, in the 
same way as our natural birth binds us under that one sin 
which is of Adam; it is enough for our condemnation that 
our natural birth have a connection with that one offense 
for, whatever addition men make afterward by their evil deeds 
is not a consequence of their birth but of their human 
conduct whereas this rebirth is not satisfied with releasing 
us from that one sin only, which is derived from Adam; it 
applies also to whatever evil deeds are added in consequence 
of human conduct. Therefore, 'judgment was by one unto 
condemnation, but grace is of many offenses unto justi- 
fication. 5 

If, then, 'by one man's offense death reigned through 
one' the sin from which children are released by baptism 
'much more they who receive abundance of grace and of 
justice shall reign in life through one Jesus Christ,' much 
more indeed shall they reign in life because it will be the 
reign of eternal life; while death passes over them in time, it 
will not reign forever. Therefore, 'as by the offense of one 
unto all men to condemnation,' from which condemnation 
children are to be set free by the sacrament of baptism, 'so 
also by the justice of one unto all men to justification of life/ 
In both places he says 'all,' not because all men actually 
come to the grace of justification in Christ, since so many 
turn away from Him and meet eternal death, but because 
all who are reborn to justification are reborn only in Christ, 
just as all who are born to condemnation are born only in 
Adam. On the side of birth there is no one but Adam, on the 
side of rebirth there is no one but Christ, and that is why he 
says 'all' both times; afterwards, he calls the same c alF 'many' 
when he adds: 'As by the disobedience of one man, many 
were made sinners, so also by the obedience of one man many 



330 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

are made just.' Who are these 'many' except those whom a 
little before he called 'all'? 

Notice how he emphasizes 'one' and 'one,' that is, Adam 
and Christ, the former for condemnation, the latter for 
justification, since Christ came so long after Adam to make 
us know that even those good men of old, whoever they 
might have been, could be ransomed only by the same faith 
by which we also are ransomed, namely, faith in the Incar- 
nation of Christ, which was foretold to them as it is proclaimed 
to us. Therefore, in this place he calls Christ man, although 
He is also God, to prevent anyone from thinking that those 
good men of old could have been ransomed by Christ as God 
only, that is, by the Word, which was in the beginning, 34 and 
not also by faith in His Incarnation, by which Christ is also 
called Man. Naturally, that statement cannot be erased 
which he makes in another place : 'By one man came death 
and by one man the resurrection from the dead; for as in 
Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.' 35 
Obviously, he is speaking of the resurrection of the just where 
there is life eternal, not of the resurrection of the wicked 
where there will be eternal death, and that is why he says 
'shall be made alive,' because the others will be damned. For 
this reason, too, among ancient rites the circumcision of 
children was prescribed to be performed on the eighth day, 36 
because Christ, by whom carnal sin was despoiled of its 
empire, which circumcision signified, rose again on Sunday, 
which is the eighth day following the seventh or sabbath. 
This, then, was the faith of the good men of old. Hence, the 
Apostle also says: 'Having the same spirit of faith, as it is 
written: I believed, for which cause I have spoken: we also 

34 John 1.1. 

35 1 Cor. 15.2U2. 

36 Gen. 17.12; Lev. 12.3. 



LETTERS 



331 



believe for which cause we speak also.' 37 He would not have 
said 'the same spirit of faith' if he did not wish to warn us 
that those good men of old had that same spirit of faith, that 
is, in the Incarnation of Christ. To them, however, this was 
foretold as something about to come, while to us it is pro- 
claimed as something accomplished; in the time of the Old 
Testament it was veiled, in the time of the New it is revealed; 
consequently, the rites in both were different, so that the 
Old Testament had one kind, the New another, yet faith 
itself, which is true, does not vary because, 'as in Adam all 
die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. 3 

After those words on which we have been commenting, he 
continues and says: 'Now the law entered in that sin might 
abound,' 38 but this does not apply to the sin which is derived 
from Adam, of which he said above: 'Death reigned through 
one.' Clearly, we must understand by it either the natural law 
which was known in those ages among all who had the use of 
reason, or the written Law which was given by Moses, but 
which could not give life nor set man free 'from the law of 
sin and death' 39 which came down from Adam; rather, it 
added an increase of transgression: 'For where there is no 
law, 3 says the same Apostle, 'neither is there transgression/ 4 * 
Since there is a law in man's reason, written by nature in the 
heart of everyone who enjoys the use of free will, and this law 
suggests that a man do no evil to another which he would 
not wish to suffer himself, therefore, according to this law all 
are transgressors, even those who have not received the Law 
given by Moses, of whom the Psalmist says: 'I have accounted 
all the sinners of the earth prevaricators.' 41 Not all the sin- 

37 2 Cor. 4.13; Ps. 115.10. 

38 Rom. 5.20. 

39 Rom. 8.2. 

40 Rom. 4.15. 

41 Ps. 118.119. 



332 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

ners of the earth have transgressed against the Law given^by 
Moses, but unless they had committed some transgression 
they would not be called prevaricators, 'f or where there is no 
law, neither is there transgression.' Therefore, since the trans- 
gression against the law given in Paradise, man is born of 
Adam with the law of sin and death, of which it is said: fi l 
see another law in my members fighting against the law of my 
mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my 
members. 542 This latter law is easily kept in bonds unless it is 
strengthened by evil habit, yet not without the grace of God. 
But, all the sinners of the earth become prevaricators by 
transgressing against the other law which is found in the 
faculty of reason of the rational soul in all who have attained 
the age of reason. However, when there is transgression 
against the Law which was given by Moses, sin abounds 
much more: Tor if there had been a law given which could 
give life, verily justice should have been by the law. But the 
Scripture hath concluded all under sin that the promise by 
the faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.' 43 
These are the words, if you recognize them, of an Apostle. Of 
the same law he says again: The law was set because of 
transgression, until the seed should come to whom he made 
the promise being ordained by angels in the hand of a 
mediator. 344 He thus gave praise to Christ by whose grace all 
are saved, whether they be children saved from the law of 
sin and death under which we are born, or adults who, by 
making a bad use of their freedom of will, have transgressed 
against the natural law of their own reason, or those who have 
received the Law given by Moses, have transgressed against 
it, and have been killed by the letter.' 45 But when a man 



42 Rom. 7.23. 

43 Gal. 3.21,22. 

44 Gal. 3.19. 

45 2 Cor. 3.6. 



LETTERS 333 

transgresses against the commandments of the Gospel, he 
stinks like a man four days dead. 46 Yet we are not to despair 
even of him, because of the grace of Him who said, not in 
a low voice but with a loud cry: 'Lazarus, come forth. 547 

Therefore, 'the law entered in that sin might abound/ either 
when men leave undone what God commands or when they 
rely on their own strength and do hot ask the help of grace, 
thereby adding pride to their weakness. But when, by divine 
inspiration, they understand to whom they must cry for help, 
they call upon Him in whom they truly believe, saying: 'Have 
mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy, 348 and: 
*I said, O Lord, be thou merciful to me, heal my soul for I 
have sinned against thee,' 49 and: 'Quicken me in thy justice, 350 
and: 'Remove from me the way of iniquity and out of thy 
law have mercy on me/ 51 and: 'Let not the foot of pride 
come to me and let not the hand of the sinner move me,' 53 
and: 'Direct my steps according to thy word and let no 
iniquity have dominion over me/ 53 for 'With the Lord shall 
the steps of a man be directed and he shall like well his way/ 54 
and many other passages which were written to encourage us 
to accomplish what is commanded us and to ask help of Him 
by whom they are commanded. So, then, when man reaches 
out to Him and entreats Him thus, there will be a fulfillment 
of what follows: 'Where sin abounded grace did more 
abound/ 55 and: 'Many sins are forgiven her because she hath 
loved much/ 56 and: 'the charity of God is poured forth in our 

46 John 11.39. 

47 John 11.43. 

48 Ps. 50.3. 

49 Ps. 40.5. 

50 Ps. 118.40, 

51 Ps. 118.29. 

52 Ps. 35.12. 

53 Ps. 118.133. 

54 Ps. 36.23; Prov. 20.24. 

55 Rom. 5.20. 

56 Luke 7.47. 



334 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

hearts,' that love may be the 'fulfilling of the law, 5 not by 
the strength of will which is in us, 'but by the Holy Ghost 
who is given to us.' 57 The one who said: 'I am delighted with 
the law of God according to the inward man' certainly knew 
that law, yet he added : 'But I see another law in my mem- 
bers fighting against the law of my mind and making me 
captive in the law of sin; that is in my members. Unhappy 
man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this 
death? The grace of God by Jesus Christ our Lord/ 58 Why 
did he not say, instead, 'my free will,' except that liberty 
without the grace of God is not liberty but inflexible ar- 
rogance? 

Thus, when the Apostle had said : 'The law entered in that 
sin might abound, but where sin abounded grace did more 
abound,' he said afterward: 'That as sin hath reigned in 
death, so grace might reign through justice unto life ever- 
lasting through Jesus Christ our Lord.' 59 However, when he 
said: 'As sin hath reigned in death,' he did not say 'through 
one man 3 or 'through the first man' or 'through Adam,' because 
this abundance of sin is not the consequence of our descent 
from the first man, but of the perversity of our human 
conduct. In our mature years it is added out of the abundance 
of iniquity to that first sin by which alone infants are bound. 
But the grace of the Saviour is adequate to release us from 
all sin, even that which cannot be referred to the one, original 
sin; consequently, when he had said: 'so grace might reign 
through justice unto life everlasting/ he added: 'through 
Jesus Christ our Lord.' 

Therefore, let no arguments pronounced against the words 
of the Apostle keep children from the salvation which is In 
Christ Jesus our Lord; rather, the less they are able to speak 

57 Rom. 13.10; 5.5. 

58 Rom. 732-25. 

59 Rom. 5.20,21. 



LETTERS 335 

for themselves, the more ought we to speak for them. 'By 
one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death, and 
thus it passed upon all men in whom all have sinned. 560 As 
infants cannot help being descended from Adam, so they 
cannot help being touched by the same sin, unless they are 
set free from its guilt by the baptism of Christ. Tor until the 
law sin was in the world.' This was not intended to mean that 
thereafter there was not any sin in anyone; it means that it 
could not be taken away by the letter of the Law but only by 
the spirit of grace. That no one may trust in the strength I 
do not say of his own will, but, rather, of his own vanity 
and that no one may think the Law is enough for his free will 
and thus make light of the grace of Christ, the Apostle said: 
'Until the law sin was in the world, but sin was not imputed 
when the law was not.' 61 He did not say 'sin was not,' but 
'sin was not imputed,' because the law was not, and by this 
statement he shows either the law of reason in the child or 
the law of the letter among men. 

'But/ he says, 'death reigned from Adam unto Moses,' be- 
cause the Law given by Moses could not do away with the 
reign of death: only the grace of Christ has done away with 
that. And note those over whom it will reign : c Even over 
them also, 5 he says, 'who have not sinned after the simEitude 
of the transgression of Adam. 362 Therefore, it has reigned even 
over those who have not sinned. But he shows why it reigned 
when he says: 'After the similitude of the transgression of 
Adam. 5 That is the better interpretation of these words, 
which makes him add to the statement: 'Death hath reigned 
even over them that have not sinned 3 as if to make us 
know why it has reigned over those who have not sinned 
'after the similitude of the transgression of Adam,' that is, 

60 Rom. 5.12. 

61 Rom. 5.13. 

62 Rom. 5.14. 



336 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

because there was in their members a similitude of the 
transgression of Adam. It can also be understood thus : 'Death 
reigned from Adam unto Moses, even over them also who 
have not sinned, after the similitude of the transgression of 
Adam/ because when they were born they did not have in 
themselves the use of reason, which he had when he sinned. 
They would not have received the commandment which he 
transgressed, but would be bound only by the original guilt, 
through which the kingdom of death would drag them to 
condemnation. But the kingdom of death is not in those 
who are reborn by the grace of Christ and who belong to 
His kingdom, since their temporal death, although it is in- 
herited as a consequence of original sin, kills the body in them 
but does not bring punishment upon their soul, which is what 
he wishes us to understand by the kingdom of death. The 
soul, renewed by grace, does not suffer death in hell, that is, 
it is not estranged, not separated from the life of God, while 
the temporal death of the body which occurs even in those 
who are redeemed by the death of Christ is left in force for 
a while as a test of faith and as a contest in our present 
struggle. Even the martyrs have taken part in this combat, but 
it wears away by the very renewal of the body which is 
promised at the resurrection. There, death will be completely 
swallowed up in victory, 63 when the grace of Christ takes 
away its kingdom, lest it draw down the souls of His redeemed 
into the pains of hell. It is true, some versions of the Scrip- 
ture do not have: 'over them who have not sinned,' but: 
'over them that have sinned after the similitude of the 
transgression of Adam'; but the sense is not destroyed by 
those words. According to this version, it is understood that 
they have sinned 'after the similitude of the transgression of 
Adam,* in the sense of what was said above: 'in whom all 
have sinned.' However, the Greek versions, from which the 

63 1 Cor. 15.54. 



LETTERS 337 

Scripture was translated into Latin those that have what we 
quoted above are more numerous. 

He added to his words about Adam: 'who is a figure of 
him who was to come/ 64 and this is not to be understood in 
only one way, either. For, either he is a figure of Christ in 
reverse, that is, as in him all die, so also in Christ all shall 
be made alive, and 'as by his disobedience many were made 
sinners, so also by the obedience of Christ many shall be made 
just'; 65 or the Apostle said that Adam was the figure of what 
was to come because he inflicted the form of death on his 
posterity. The former is the better interpretation, that he 
should be regarded as a figure in reverse, and this the Apostle 
highly commends. Finally, lest opposites should be weighed 
in exactly the same balance in this figure, he continues and 
says: 'But not as the offense so also the gift, for if by the 
offense of one many died, much more the grace of God and 
the gift by the grace of one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded 
unto many/ 66 We are to understand by this not 'unto many 
more,' since the wicked who will be damned are many more, 
but 'hath abounded much more,' because over those who are 
redeemed by Christ the form of death derived from Adam 
has a temporary dominion, but the form of life bestowed by 
Christ will have dominion over them forever. Therefore, he 
says, although Adam is the figure in reverse of Him that is to 
come, the good done by Christ to the regenerated is greater 
than the harm done by Adam to his descendants. 'And not as 
it was by one sin, so also is the gift, for judgment indeed was 
by one unto condemnation, but grace is of many offenses unto 
justification. 567 Not only in this, he says, is the figure inexact, 
that Adam inflicted a temporal injury on those whom Christ 

64 Rom. 5.14. 

65 Rom. 5.19. 

66 Rom. 5.5. 

67 Rom. 5.16. 



338 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

redeemed for eternity, but also in that Ms posterity, as a 
result of that one sin, are involved in his condemnation unless 
they are redeemed by Christ; but the redemption of Christ 
has also forgiven the many offenses which man has added to 
that one because of the abundance of sinful iniquity. But we 
have treated of this above. 

If you wish to live for Christ and in Christ, you must not 
agree with anyone who contradicts these words of the Apostle 
and this same interpretation. If, as they say, the Apostle had 
made this statement to have us understand that sinners are 
the progeny of the first man because we sin by imitating him, 
not because we inherit sin by being born of him, he should 
rather have adduced the Devil, who was the first sinner, from 
whom the human race derives no inheritance of substance, 
but whom it has followed solely by imitation. This is why 
he is called the father of sinners, as Abraham is called 'our 
father 368 because we imitate him in his faith, not because he 
is our progenitor in the flesh. Therefore it is said of the Devil : 
'They follow him that are of his side.' 69 In the next place, 
if the Apostle mentioned the first man in this passage because 
he was the first sinner among men, and if he meant thereby 
that all men who are sinners belong to him, why did he not 
bring in holy Abel, who was the first just man among man- 
kind, and claim that all just men belong to him through 
imitation of his justice? But he did bring in Adam, against 
whom he could set no one but Christ, because, as the first 
man attainted his posterity by his sin, so the God-Man saved 
His inheritance by His own justice; the one brought on cor- 
ruption of the flesh, which the Devil for all his wickedness 
could not do; the other gave the grace of the Spirit, which 
Abel, the just, could not do. 

We have spoken extensively of these questions in other 

68 John 8.44. 

69 Wisd. 2.25. 



LETTERS 339 

works of ours 70 and in sermons in church, because there have 
been some among us who were trying to sow the seeds of 
their new error wherever they could, but the mercy of the 
Lord, through our ministry and that of our brothers, has 
cured some of them of that disease. In spite of that, I think 
there are some here, and especially at Carthage, who still 
mutter about it, but not openly, because they fear the solid 
foundation of the Church's faith. One of them, named 
Caelestius, 71 had begun a stealthy approach to the dignity of 
priesthood in a church of that same city, but the free and 
faithful action of the brothers brought him before the bishop's 
tribunal because of his arguments against the grace of 
Christ. 72 However, he was obliged to admit that baptism is 
necessary for inf lints because they stand in need of redemption, 
arid, although reluctant to make any definite statement about 
original sin, he made considerable exceptions from the term 
'redemption.' But, what were they to be redeemed from if 
not the power of the Devil, and how could they have been 
subject to it except through original sin? And at what price 
are they redeemed but by the Blood of Christ, of which it is 
most clearly written that it was shed for the remission of 
sins? 73 As he went away convicted and reprobated by the 
Church, rather than corrected and reconciled, I fear that he 
may be among you and may attempt to undermine your faith. 
That is why I thought well to mention him by name. But 
whether he or some partners of his error are with you for 
they are too numerous to make it possible for us to hope they 
are not, and when they are not refuted they mislead others 
into their sect and increase so much that I do not know where 



70 Letter 140; De gratia; De peccatorum mentis et remissione; De 
baptismo parvulorum. 

71 His followers, called Celestines, were condemned at the Synod o 
Ephesus in 431. 

72 In 411 or 412; cf. Orosius, Liber apologeticus 3.4 (CSEL 5.606-609) , 

73 Matt. 26.28. 



340 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

they will break out next we would rather see them cured In 
the body of the Church than cut off from that body as rotten 
members, if necessity allows even that. We have to fear that 
others will be infected, if we spare their infection. But, the 
mercy of our Lord is able rather to free them from this 
disease, and no doubt He will do it if they note and hold 
faithfully to what is written: 'Whoever shall call upon the 
name of the Lord shall be saved.' 74 

Listen, now, to something about riches in answer to the 
next inquiry in your letter. In it you wrote that some are 
saying that a rich man who continues to live rich cannot 
enter the kingdom of heaven unless he sells all he has, and 
that it cannot do him any good to keep the commandments 
while he keeps his riches. Their arguments have overlooked 
our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who departed long 
ago from this life. It is a fact that all these had extensive 
riches, as the Scripture faithfully bears witness, yet He who be- 
came poor for our sakes, although He was truly rich, 75 foretold 
in a truthful promise that many would come from the east 
and the west and would sit down not above them, nor with- 
out them, but with them in the kingdom of heaven. 76 Al- 
though the haughty rich man, who was clothed in purple and 
fine linen and feasted sumptuously every day, died and was 
tormented in hell, nevertheless, if he had shown mercy to the 
poor man covered with sores who lay at his door and was 
treated with scorn, he himself would have deserved mercy. 
And if the poor man's merit had been his poverty, not his 
goodness, he surely would not have been carried by angels 
into the bosom of Abraham who had been rich in this life. 
This is intended to show us that on the one hand it was not 
poverty in itself that was divinely honored, nor, on the other, 

74 Joel 2.32. 

75 2 Cor. 8.9. 

76 Matt. 8.11. 



LETTERS 341 

riches that were condemned, but that the godliness of the one 
and the ungodliness of the other had their own consequences, 
and, as the torment of fire was the lot of the ungodly rich 
man, so the bosom of the rich Abraham received the godly 
poor man. Although Abraham lived as a rich man, he held 
his riches so lightly and thought them of so little worth in 
comparison with the commandments of God that he would 
not offend God by refusing to sacrifice, at His bidding, the 
very individual whom he had hoped and prayed for as the heir 
of his riches. 77 

At this point they probably say that the patriarchs of old 
did not sell all they had and give it to the poor, because the 
Lord had not commanded it. The New Testament had not yet 
been revealed, as it was fitting it should not be until the 
fullness of time had come, 78 so neither was it fitting that their 
virtue should be revealed, yet God knew that they could easily 
exercise this virtue interiorly, and He bore such striking 
witness to them that, although He is the God of all the saints 
and of all just men, He deigned to speak of them as His par- 
ticular friends: e l am the God of Abraham, and the God 
of Isaac and the God of Jacob: this is my name forever.' 79 
But, after 'the great mystery of godliness was manifested in the 
flesh/ 80 and the coming of Christ was made visible by the 
calling of all nations and the patriarchs, too, had believed in 
Him but had preserved the faith, so to speak, in the root of the 
olive tree, of which the fruit was to be manifested in its own 
time, as the Apostle says 81 then, the rich man was told: 
'Sell all whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou 
shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.' 82 

77 Gen. 22.MO. 

78 Gal. 4.4; Eph. 1.10. 

79 Exod. 3.15. 

80 1 Tim. 3.16. 

81 Rom. 11.17. 

82 Matt. 1951; Mark 10.21; Luke 1852. 



342 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

If they say this, they seem to speak with reason. But they 
should hear and take account of the whole, not open their 
ears to half of it and close them to the other half. To whom 
did the Lord give this commandment? Why, to the rich man 
who was asking His advice on how to receive eternal life, for 
he had said to the Lord: 'What shall I do that I may receive 
life everlasting?' 83 He did not answer him: 'If thou wilt enter 
into life, sell all that thou hast,' but: 'If thou wilt enter into 
life, keep the commandments.' And when the young man said 
that he had kept the commandments which the Lord had 
quoted to him from the Law, and asked what was still lacking 
to him, he received this answer: 'If thou wilt be perfect, go, 
sell all that thou hast and give to the poor.' And, lest he might 
think he was losing what he so dearly loved, He said: 'And 
thou shalt have treasure in heaven.' Then He added: 'And 
come, follow me,' that no one who might do this should 
think it would bring him any reward unless he followed Christ. 
But the young man went away sad, so anyone can see how he 
kept those commandments of the Law, for I think he spoke 
with more pride than truth when he answered that he had 
kept them. However, it is a fact that the good Master 
distinguished between the commandments of the Law and 
that higher perfection; for in the one place He said: 'If thou 
wilt enter into life, keep the commandments,' but in the 
other: 'If wilt be perfect, sell all thou hast,' and the rest. Why, 
then, do we refuse to admit that the rich, although far from 
that perfection, nevertheless enter into life if they keep the 
commandments, and give that it may be given to them, for- 
give that they may be forgiven? 84 

We believe that the Apostle Paul was the minister of the 
New Testament when he wrote to Timothy, saying: 'Charge 
the rich of this world not to be high-minded, nor to trust in 

83 Matt. 19.16-22; Mark 10.17-22; Luke 18.18-23. 

84 Luke 6.38,37. 



LETTERS 343 

the uncertainty of riches: but in the living God who giveth us 
abundantly all things to enjoy. To do good, to be rich in 
good works, to give easily, to communicate to others. To lay up 
in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to 
come, that they may lay hold on the true life,' 85 in the same 
way as it was said to the young man: 'If thou wilt enter 
into life. 5 I think that, when he gave those instructions to the 
rich, the Apostle was not wrong in not saying: 'Charge the 
rich of this world .to sell all they have, give to the poor and 
follow the Lord/ instead of: 'Not to be high-minded, nor to 
trust in the uncertainty of riches.' It was his pride, not his 
riches, that brought the rich man to the torments of hell, 
because he despised the good poor man who lay at his gate, 
because he put his hope in the uncertainty of riches, and 
thought himself happy in his purple and fine linen and 
sumptuous banquets. 

But, perhaps, because the Lord continued and said : 'Amen, 
I say to you that a rich man shall hardly enter into the 
kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you : it is easier for a 
camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich 
man to enter into the kingdom of heaven,' 86 they think that, 
even if a rich man does the things which the Apostle pre- 
scribed for the rich, he cannot enter into the kingdom of 
heaven? What is the answer? Does the Apostle contradict the 
Lord, or do they not know what they say? Let the Christian 
choose which he will believe; I think it is better for us to be- 
lieve that they do not know what they say than that Paul 
contradicts the Lord. Again, why do they not listen to the 
subsequent words of the Lord Himself to His disciples, who 
were cast down at the wretched state of the rich: 'What is 
impossible for men is easy for God'? 87 

85 1 Tim. 6.17-19. 

86 Matt. 19.23,24; Mark 10.24,25; Luke 18.24,25. 

87 Matt. 19.25,26; Mark 10.26,27; Luke 19.26,27. 



344 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

But, they say, this was said because it was going to happen 
that, hearing the Gospel, the rich would sell their inheritance, 
distribute it to the poor, follow the Lord, and so enter into the 
kingdom of heaven ; what seemed difficult would thus come to 
pass. It did not mean, according to them, that those who 
retained their riches, even though they kept the Apostle's 
precepts of not being high-minded, not trusting in the un- 
certainty of riches, but in the living God, of doing good, 
giving easily, and communicating to the needy, would thus 
lay hold on the true life, unless they carried out these apostolic 
directions by selling all their goods. 

If they say this and I know they do say it they do not 
notice, in the first place, how the Lord preached His grace, in 
contradiction to their teaching. He did not say: 'What seems 
impossible for men is easy for men if they will it,' but He 
said: 'What is impossible for men is easy for God,' showing 
that when those actions are rightly performed they are not 
done by the power of man, but by the grace of God. Let 
them, then, take note of this, and, if they find fault with those 
who glory in their riches let them take care themselves not to 
trust in their own strength, for both are rebuked in the 
psalm : 'They that trust in their own strength and glory in the 
multitude of their riches.' 88 Let the rich hearken to this: 
*What is impossible for men is easy for God,' and whether 
they retain riches and do their good works by means of them, 
or enter into the kingdom of heaven by selling them and dis- 
tributing them to provide for the needs of the poor, let them 
attribute their good works to the grace of God, not to their 
own strength. What is impossible for men is easy, not for men, 
but for God. Let your friends hear that, and, if they have al- 
ready sold all their goods and distributed them to the poor, or 
are still making plans and arrangements to do so, and in this 
way are preparing to enter into the kingdom of heaven, let 

88 Ps. 48.7. 



LETTERS 345 

them not attribute this to their own strength, but to the same 
divine grace. For, what is impossible for men is easy, not for 
them, because they are men, but for God. The Apostle also 
says this to them: 'With fear and trembling, work out your 
salvation. For it is God who worketh in you both to will and 
to accomplish, according to His good will.' 89 True, they say 
that by selling their goods they have followed the Lord's 
counsel of perfection, since it is there added: 'And come, 
follow me.' Why, then, in the good works which they do, do 
they rely entirely on their own will, and fail to hear the re- 
proach and testimony of the Lord, whom they say they are 
following: 'Without me, you can do nothing'? 90 

If, when the Apostle said: 'Charge the rich of this world 
not to be high-minded, nor to trust in the uncertainty of 
riches,' he meant that they should sell all they had and gain 
their reward by distributing it to the needy, then, in what 
follows : 'to give easily, to communicate to others, to lay up in 
store for themselves a good foundation against the time to 
come,' if he believed that otherwise they could not enter into 
the kingdom of heaven, he was deceiving those whose homes 
he so carefully set in order, warning and instructing how 
wives should behave to husbands and husbands to wives, sons 
to parents, parents to sons, servants to their masters, masters to 
servants; 91 for how could any of this be done without a home 
and family possessions? 

Were they influenced in this by the Lord's words: 'Every- 
one that hath left all things for my sake, shall receive an hun- 
dredfold in this time and in the world to come life ever- 
lasting'? 92 There is a difference between 'hath left' and 'hath 
sold,' for, among those things which He commanded them to 

89 Phil. 2.12,13. 

90 John 15.5. 

91 Eph. 5.22; 6.1-9; Col. 3.18; 4.1; 1 Peter 3.1-7; 2.18; 1 Cor. 7.3; Titus 2.9. 

92 Matt. 19.29; Mark 1039,30; Luke 18.2930. 



346 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

leave, even a wife is mentioned, yet human law does not allow 
a wife to be sold, nor does the law of Christ allow her to be 
put away except for fornication. 93 What, then, is the meaning 
of those precepts for they cannot be contradictory except 
that sometimes an extreme emergency might arise when either 
wife or Christ has to be put away, as, to pass over other in- 
stances, when a Christian husband has become unacceptable 
to a wife and she has offered him the choice of a separation 
from her or from Christ? What choice has he except to keep 
Christ and put away his wife, quite laudably, for the sake of 
Christ? But, when both are Christians, the Lord has com- 
manded that no one shall put away his wife except for cause 
of fornication. On the other hand, when either one of the pair 
is an unbeliever, the advice of the Apostle is a guide: If an 
unbelieving wife consent to dwell with a believing husband, 
he should not put her away, and this same holds for a be- 
lieving wife with her husband, if he consents to dwell with 
her. 'But,' he says, 'if the unbeliever depart, let him depart, 
for a brother or sister is not under servitude in such cases,' 94 
that is, if the unbeliever refuses to stay with a believing 
spouse, let the believer recognize his own liberty, let him not 
consider himself under servitude, so as to give up the faith 
itself rather than lose an unbelieving spouse. 

This is also to be understood of children and parents, as of 
brothers and sisters, that all are to be given up for Christ's 
sake, when the alternative is offered them of giving up Christ 
if they wish to have their kindred with them. Therefore, the 
same is to be applied in this passage to house and lands, as 
well as to those possessions which have a money value. At the 
same time, he did not say of these things, 'whoever shall 
sell for my sake' what it is plainly legitimate to sell, but 'every- 
one that hath left' them. It could happen that some public 

93 Matt. 5.32. 

94 I Cor. 7.12,13,15. 



LETTERS 347 

official would say to a Christian: 'Either you will stop being a 
Christian, or, if you persist in being one, you shall have no 
house or property.' That will be the time when those rich 
men, who had decided to keep their riches in order to win 
merit with God by using them for good works, will choose to 
give them up for Christ's sake rather than Christ for their 
sake, so as to receive the hundredfold in this world a perfect 
number which signifies all things, 'for the faithful man the 
whole world is made up of riches,' 95 and thus they become 
as men 'having nothing, yet possessing all things' 96 and 
everlasting life in the world to come, lest by giving up Christ 
for the sake of riches they be cast into everlasting death. 

It is clear that this obligation and state of life include not 
only those who have received the counsel of perfection with 
such excellent dispositions that they have sold their goods and 
distributed them to the poor, and, with their shoulders freed 
of every worldly burden, bear the light yoke of Christ, 97 but 
also the weaker soul, less capable of the glorious perfection, 
who nevertheless remembers that he is a Christian when he 
hears that he must give up Christ or lose all his possessions. He 
will rather lay hold on the 'tower of strength against the face 
of the enemy' 98 because, when he was building it by his faith, 
he reckoned the charges with which it could be completed," 
that is, he embraced the faith with the intention of renouncing 
this world, not in word only, because, if he bought something 
he was as one not possessing it, and if he used this world he 
was as one not using it, 100 not placing his hope in the un- 
certainty of riches, but in the living God. 101 

Since everyone who renounces this world renounces without 

95 Prov. 17.6 (Septuagint) . 

96 2 Cor. 6.10. 

97 Matt. 11.30. 

98 Ps. 60.4. 

99 Luke 14,28. 

100 1 Cor. 730,31. 

101 1 Tim. 6.17. 



348 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

question everything that is in it, that he may be the disciple 
of Christ for, when He had pronounced the parable of the 
charges necessary for building a tower, and of the preparation 
for war of one king against another, He added: 'Whoever 
does not renounce all that he possesses cannot be my dis- 
ciple' 102 naturally he renounces his riches, also, if he has 
any, either by not loving them and distributing them to the 
needy, thereby to be lightened of useless burdens, or by loving 
Christ more and transferring his hope from them to Him, 
so using them as to give easily, to communicate, to lay up a 
good store in heaven, and to be ready to give them up as he 
would his parents and children and wife if he were faced with 
the alternative of not having them unless he gave up Christ. 
For, if he renounces the world on any other terms when he 
draws near to the sacrament of faith, 103 he does what blessed 
Cyprian mourned over in the case of the lapsed, saying: 
'They renounce the world in word only, not in deed.' 104 
Surely it is to such a one, who at the approach of temptation 
is more afraid of losing his wealth than of denying Christ, 
that these words apply : 'Here is a man who began to build 
and was not able to finish.' 105 He is also the one who, while 
his adversary is yet afar off, sends an embassy desiring 
peace,' 106 that is, at the approach and threat of temptation, 
before it hurts him, he agrees to give up Christ and deny Him 
rather than be deprived of what is dearer to him. And there 
are many such who even think that the Christian religion 
ought to help them to increase their riches and multiply 
earthly delights. 

But this class does not include the rich Christians who, al- 
though they possess riches, are not possessed by them, because 

102 Luke 14.33, 

103 I.e., baptism. 

104 Cyprian, Ep. 11.1 (ed. Hartel, p. 496) . 

105 Cf. Luke 14.30. 

106 Luke 14.32. 



LETTERS 349 

they have renounced the world in truth and from their heart, 
and who put no hope in such possessions. These use a sound 
discipline in training their wives, their children, and their 
whole household to cling to the Christian religion; their 
homes, overflowing with hospitality, 'receive the just man in 
the name of a just man that they may receive the reward of 
a just man 1 ; 107 they deal their bread to the hungry, they clothe 
the naked, 108 they ransom the captive, 'to lay up in store for 
themselves a good foundation for the time to come that they 
may lay hold on the true life.' 109 If it happens that they have 
to suffer the loss of their money for the faith of Christ, they 
hate their riches; if this world threatens them with bereave- 
ment or with separation from their families, they hate their 
parents, brothers, children, wives; finally, if there is question 
of an agreement with their adversary about the very life of 
their body, they go so far as to hate their own life, rather than 
risk being forsaken by a forsaken Christ. The reason? Because 
on all these points they have received a commandment that 
they cannot otherwise be the disciples of Christ. 

But this commandment that they must hate even their 
own life for the sake of Christ does not mean that they own 
it as something that can be sold, or that they can lay hands 
on themselves and destroy it, but that they are ready to lose 
it by dying for the name of Christ rather than live a dying 
life by denying Christ. In the same way, the riches which they 
were not ready to sell at the summons of Christ they must be 
ready to lose for Christ, lest by losing Christ they lose them- 
selves with their riches. We have striking examples of this in 
the wealthy of both sexes raised on high by the glory of 
martyrdom. Thus, many who had previously shrunk from 
the perfection to be attained by selling their goods were sud- 

107 Matt. 10.41. 

108 Cf. Isa. 58.7; Matt. 25.35,36. 

109 1 Tim. 6.19. 



350 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

denly made perfect by imitating the Passion of Christ, and 
those who clung to their riches through the frailty of flesh and 
blood, when suddenly faced with sin, have resisted for the 
faith even unto blood. There are others who have not won 
the crown of martyrdom, who have not taken to heart the 
high and noble counsel of perfection by selling their goods, 
yet they are free of deeds deserving damnation; they have fed 
Christ hungry, given drink to Him thirsty, clothed Him naked, 
received Him a wanderer, and, although they will not sit with 
Christ on a throne when He comes to judge, they will stand 
at His right to receive the judgment of mercy: 110 'Blessed are 
the merciful for they shall obtain mercy,' 111 and 'Judgment 
without mercy to him that hath not done mercy, but mercy 
exalteth itself above judgment.' 112 

Hencefoth, let those objectors cease to speak against the 
Scriptures; let them, in their sermons, encourage men to 
higher things without condemning lower ones. For, they are 
unable to preach holy virginity in their exhortations without 
condemning the marriage bond, although the Apostle teaches 
that 'everyone hath his proper gift from God, one after this 
manner, another after that.' 113 Let them, then, walk in the 
path of perfection by selling all their goods and spending 
them on works of mercy, but, if they are truly the poor of 
Christ, and if they store up, not for themselves but for Christ, 
why should they pronounce punishment on His weaker mem- 
bers before they have attained to the seats of judgment? If 
they are the kind of men to whom the Lord says : 'You shall 
sit on twelve seats, judging the twelve tribes of Israel,' 114 and 
of whom the Apostle says : 'Know you not that we shall judge 
angels?' 115 let them rather make ready to receive into ever- 

110 Matt. 25.34-46. 

111 Matt. 5.7. 

112 James 2.13. 

113 1 Cor. 7.7. 

114 Matt. 19.28; Luke 22.30. 

115 1 Cor. 6.3. 



LETTERS 351 

lasting mansions, not the accursed, but the charitable rich 
who have made friends of them through the mammon of 
iniquity. 116 I think that some of those who babble these ideas 
without restraint or reason are supported in their needs by 
rich and religious Christians. We may say that the Church has 
its own soldiers and its own provincial officers, of whom the 
Apostle says: 'Who serveth as a soldier at any time at his own 
charges?' It has its vineyard and its planters, its flock and its 
shepherds, of whom the Apostle goes on to say : 'Who planteth 
a vineyard and eateth not the fruit thereof? Who feedeth a 
flock and eateth not of the milk of the flock?' 117 Yet, to offer 
such arguments as they offer would not be to serve as a soldier, 
but to revolt; it would not be to plant a vineyard, but to up- 
root it; it would not be to gather the flock for the pasture, 
but to drive the sheep from the flock to destruction. 

As those who are fed and clothed at the expense of the 
charitable rich for they accept nothing for their own neces- 
sities except from those who sell their goods are not judged 
and condemned by the more perfect members of Christ who 
furnish their own needs with their own hands a higher 
virtue which the Apostle strongly commends 118 so they in 
turn ought not to condemn as Christians of lower grade 
those from whose resources they are supplied; but by right 
living and right teaching they rather should say to them: 'If 
we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if 
we reap your carnal things?' 119 The servants of God who 
live by selling the honest works of their own hands could, 
with much less impropriety, condemn those from whom they 
receive nothing than could those others who are unable to 
work with their hands because of some bodily weakness, yet 
who condemn the very ones at whose expense they live. 

116 Luke 16.9. 

117 1 Cor. 9.7. 

118 Acts 20.34; 1 Thess. 4.11. 

119 1 Cor. 9.11. 



352 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

I who write this have greatly loved the perfection of which 
the Lord spoke when He said to the rich young man: 'Go, sell 
what thou hast and give to the poor, and come, follow me, mo 
and I have acted upon it, not by my strength but by His 
helping grace, and I do not think that I shall have less merit 
because I was not rich, for the Apostles were not rich, either, 
and they were the first to practise it. But he who gives up both 
what he has and what he desires to have gives up the whole 
world. Better than any other man, I know how far^ I have 
progressed in this way of perfection, but God knows it better 
than I do. With all the influence I have I urge others to follow 
this counsel, and in the name of the Lord I have brothers 
who have been attracted to this life by my ministry. Yet, we 
follow it while holding to sound doctrine; we are not so pre- 
sumptuous as to judge those who do not follow us, by saying 
that they gain no merit by living in the married state, however 
chastely, or by governing their homes and families in 
Christian fashion, or by laying up treasure for themselves 
against the time to come by works of mercy, lest by such state- 
ments we be found accusers of the holy Scriptures instead of 
expounders of them. My reason for mentioning this is that 
those objectors, when prevented from saying such things by 
men who have not followed this counsel of the Lord, answer 
that the latter do not want such arguments brought forward 
because they are indulging their own vices and withdrawing 
men from following the Lord's commands. I say nothing 
about those who make good use of their riches, though not 
too strong in their religion, but they would imply that even 
the very covetous and grasping who make a bad use of their 
wealth, setting their heart of clay on earthly treasure whom, 
nevertheless, the Church is obliged to carry along to the end, 
as the net carries the bad fish as far as the shore 121 that they 

120 Matt. 19.21; Mark 10.21; Luke 18.22. 

121 Matt. 13.47,48. 



LETTERS 353 

are not easier to endure than those wrong-headed men who 
preach and pxate such doctrine, trying to make themselves 
seem great because they have sold their rich possessions or 
their insignificant little patrimony, according to the Lord's 
command, yet who are really working, by this unsound 
doctrine, to trouble and undermine His inheritance which is 
spread abroad and extended to the ends of the earth. 

I have taken this occasion to express, however briefly, what 
I think about the Church of Christ in this world, namely, that 
the Church must necessarily carry along both good and bad to 
the end of this world because you included this among your 
questions but it is now high time for me to bring this long 
letter to a close. 

Avoid swearing as far as possible. It is certainly better not 
even to swear to the truth than to form the habit of swearing, 
thereby often falling into perjury or being on the verge of 
falling into it. As for your objectors, such of them as I have 
heard, they do not know precisely what swearing is. They 
think they are not swearing when they use the words: 'God 
knows' 122 and 'God is my witness' 123 and C I call God to 
witness upon my soul,' 124 because they do not say 'By God* 
and because such expressions are found in the Apostle Paul. 
There is an expression to be found which refutes them and 
which they admit is an oath, where the Apostle says: 'I die 
daily, I protest by your glory, brethren, which I have in 
Christ Jesus, our Lord.' 125 In the Greek versions this is de- 
finitely understood as an oath and no one is to understand in 
Latin that these words, 'by your glory/ are said with the same 
meaning as 'by my coming to you again,' 126 and many such 
expressions where we say 'by something' without meaning to 

122 2 Cor. 11.31; 12.2. 

123 Rom. 1.9; Phil. 1.8. 

124 2 Cor. 1.23. 

125 1 Cor. 15.31. 

126 Phil. 156. 



354 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

swear. The fact that the Apostle, a man thoroughly steeped 
in the truth, used oaths in his letters is no reason why we 
should treat oaths lightly. It is much safer for us, as I said, 
never to swear at all, as far as it lies in us, and to have in our 
mouths the words, 'yea, yea, no, no,' 127 as the Lord advises; 
not that it is a sin to swear truthfully, but that It is a grievous 
sin to swear falsely, and the habit of swearing makes one fall 
quickly. 

This is a statement for you of my views. Better men may 
give you a better explanation; not those whose opinion I now 
know is to be condemned, but others who can argue truth- 
fully; for I am more eager to learn than to teach, and you will 
do me a great kindness if you will let me know what re- 
futations are being made there by the holy brethren against 
this idle talk. May you live uprightly and happily in the Lord, 
my dearly loved son. 



158. Evodius 1 and the brothers who are with me give greeting 

in the Lord to their venerated lord, beloved 

brother and fellow priest, Augustine, and the 

brothers who are with you (c. 415) 

I insist on the letter you owe me in answer to the one I sent, 
and, first of all, I want to be instructed about the matter I 
submitted to you, and, next, to ask you about this one. I am 
in a hurry to know about this if it is possible to know it in this 
life. I had a certain youth as secretary, a son of the priest 2 
Armenius of Melonita. As he was just beginning to mingle 
with the world he was taking notes for a lecturer of the 

127 Matt. 5.37; James 5.12. 

1 Bishop of Uzala; cf. Letter 24 n. 16. 

2 It was not unusual at that time for a married man to be ordained 
priest. 



LETTERS 355 

governor God rescued him through my lowly agency. In his 
boyhood he was quick and somewhat restless, but as he 
advanced in age he had completed his twenty-second 
year his virtuous life was adorned with such a dignified 
and reserved demeanor that it is a joy just to call it to mind. 
He was skillful in note-taking, and very exact in writing; he 
had also begun to be devoted to reading and used to rouse 
my slothfulness to read during the hours of the night* Some- 
times he read to me at night when everything was quiet, and 
he would never pass over a reading which he did not under- 
stand, going over it three or four times, and not letting it go 
until his questions were clearly answered. I had begun to 
treat him not merely as a young secretary, but as an intimate 
and dear friend. His stories delighted me. 

He also desired 'to be dissolved and to be with Christ,' 3 
and this was granted to him. He was sick for sixteen days at 
his parents' home, and, being fully conscious, spoke of the 
Scriptures throughout almost his whole illness. When he was 
nearing the end of his life he sang, in the hearing of all: 'My 
soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of God,' 4 and after 
that he again sang: 'Thou hast anointed my head with oil, 
and thy chalice that inebriateth how goodly it is!' 5 That was 
his occupation, that was his consolation and delight. Then, 
when he began to fail, he tried to make the Sign of the Cross 
on his forehead and brought his hand down to his mouth on 
which he also wanted to make the sign, because now the in- 
ward man, being fully renewed day by day, 6 had quit its 
house of clay. 7 I was filled with such joy that I thought he 
had entered into my mind after leaving his own body, and was 
there spreading a brightness as a sign of his presence. I can- 

3 Phil. 1.23. 

4 Ps. 83.3. 

5 Ps. 22.5. 

6 2 Cor. 4.16. 

7 Job 4.19. 



356 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

not express my intense joy at his being free and safe, for I 
had experienced no slight anxiety on his account, fearing for 
his youth. I had taken care to inquire of him whether he had 
ever been defiled with a woman, and he bore witness that he 
was free of that taint, thereby augmenting my joy. So he was 
set free. We celebrated his obsequies solemnly, as became 
such a soul, for we praised the Lord with hymns for three 
days around his tomb, and on the third day we offered the 
sacrifice of redemption. 

But lo and behold, two days later, a certain widow named 
Urbica, an honorable lady of Figes, who said she had been a 
widow for twelve years, had a dream like this: She saw a 
deacon, departed from the body four years ago, who, in 
company with servants and handmaids of God, virgins and 
widows, was preparing a palace. It was so beautifully adorned 
and the brightness of the place was such that you would 
think the whole place was of silver. When she asked very 
earnestly for whom the preparations were being made, the 
deacon answered that it was for the son of a priest, a young 
man who had been taken from the world yesterday. In the 
same palace there appeared an old man clothed in white 
who gave orders to two other white-clad ones to go, take the 
body from the tomb, and carry it up to heaven. And, she said, 
when the body had been taken from the tomb and raised up 
to heaven, branches of virgin roses that is what unopened 
flowers are usually called grew up from the same tomb. 

I have told you what was related. Now, please listen to my 
question and explain what I ask. The flight of that soul makes 
me inquire into such things. When we are in the body, there 
is in us an interior consciousness, responsive to the quick 
changes of our desire; it is watchful and eager in proportion to 
our activity, yet it seems likely that we are held back by the 
obstacle of the body. Who could describe all that the mind 
suffers from the body? In the midst of these troubles and 



LETTERS 



357 



annoyances., arising from suggestions, from temptations, from 
necessities and various afflictions, the mind does not forsake 
its own strength; it resists, it overcomes, sometimes it is over- 
come. Nevertheless, when it reflects on itself, it is roused by 
such efforts, it becomes more active and attentive, it breaks 
the knots of wickedness and wins through to better things. 
Your Holiness is kind enough to understand what I mean. 
Therefore, while we are in this life we are both weighed 
down by such needs, yet, as it is written : c We overcome be- 
cause of Him that hath loved us,' 8 but, going out of the 
body and escaping from every burden and every actual sin, 
what are we? 

In the first place, I ask whether there is any kind of body 
which does not leave behind an incorporeal something, such 
as the substance of the soul itself, when it leaves the earthly 
body, yet which is not either the airy or etherial one of the 
four elements. Since the soul is incorporeal, if it is entirely 
lacking in body, it is the same for all. And where will that 
rich man clothed in purple be, and where Lazarus covered 
with sores? 9 How will they be distinguished according to their 
merits^ so that one has pain, the other joy, if the soul has the 
same appearance among all incorporeal beings, and if 
those differences are not distinguished by any mark? It is 
certain that if they are contained in any places they are 
contained corporeally: the rich man in the flame and the 
poor one in Abraham's bosom. If there are places, there are 
bodies, and the incorporeal souls are in bodies; or, if the 
punishments and rewards are in the conscience, then that soul 
which is the same in each is made up of many souls and would 
experience both pain and joy in the one substance, which is 
apparently gathered from many souls. Or, if- it is said that 
just as the incorporeal mind is one, and in it there is memory 

8 Rom. 8.37. 

9 Luke 16.19-22. 



358 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

and will and understanding, and all these are incorporeal 
causes, and have their proper share of duties, yet they do not 
get in each other's way, I think it could certainly be answered 
that in like manner pains are the share of some souls and re- 
wards of others, in the one substance gathered from many 
souls. But, if that is not it, I see no objection to saying that 
each mind has another body when it leaves this solid one, and 
so the mind always has a body to animate, and in it crosses 
over, if there is any place to which necessity compels it to go, 
since, indeed, the angels themselves cannot be enumerated if 
they are not counted by bodies, as Truth itself says in the 
Gospel: fi l could ask my Father to send me twelve legions 
of angels'; 10 and also since it is evident that Samuel was seen 
in the body when he was raised by the incantation of Saul, 11 
and since it is clear, according to the Gospel, that Moses, 
whose body was buried, came to the Lord on the Mount when 
they stood together. 12 However, in the apocryphal and secret 
writings about this same Moses, which lack authority, it says 
that, when he went up the mountain to die, a physical effect 
was produced by which the body entrusted to the earth was 
not the same as the one which joined its angel companion. 
But I am not much inclined to offer the opinion of the 
apocrypha against those clearly defined truths given above. 
Let us see, then, whether this inquiry is to be pursued by 
authority or by reason. 

It is said that the future resurrection proves that the soul 
has been entirely without a body. It is not a real objection 
that those angels who appeared to Abraham and Tobias 13 
were invisible corporeally, yet willed to appear and to be 
visible, and, whatever the external circumstance of their 
bodies, they were such as befit their spirits, though they were 

10 Matt. 26.53. 

11 1 Kings 28.14. 
1* Matt. 17.3. 

13 Gen. 18,2; Tob. 12.15. 



LETTERS 359 

human. So it might be that the resurrection of the body, in 
which we rightly believe, will take place in such wise that 
the soul will be restored so as to show that it has never been 
entirely deprived of some kind of body. Since the body 
itself is composed of four elements, it seems to lose one, namely 
heat, when that seems to depart from the body. The earthly 
element remains, and moisture is not lacking; no other 
element is missing to that cold matter; heat alone has been 
withdrawn, which perhaps the soul takes with it if it moves 
from place to place. This will be enough to say at present 
about the body. 

It also seems to me that if the soul is lodged in a body, as I 
said, it grows strong, it makes use of the untiring activity of the 
mind, and the lighter, quicker, stronger, more active, eager 
and intent it is, the more capable and the better it becomes; 
thus being joined to a body, it enjoys its own strength. But, 
when this body is laid aside, very much as a cloud is brushed 
away, it becomes wholly bright, established in peace, without 
temptation; it sees what it longs for, embraces what it loves 
and remembers its friends, both those who have gone before 
it and those it has left behind. Perhaps it is thus; I do not 
know, I seek to learn. But I find it a disturbing thought that 
the soul should be wrapped in a kind of sleep, that it becomes 
like one who sleeps while still in the body, as if buried, living 
only in hope, but doing nothing, knowing nothing, especially 
if it is untouched by any dream. This thought is frightening 
and shows the soul almost as if it were extinguished. 

I also ask, if it is shown that the soul has a body, whether 
it lacks any of the senses. Certainly, if it has no need of 
smelling, as I think, it can be inferred that it has none of 
tasting or touching, and I doubt whether it retains any need 
of seeing and hearing. Why are the demons said to hear, not 
through the men whom they torment, but even when they ap- 
pear in their own bodies? In regard to sight, if they have a 



360 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

body, how do they pass from place to place without the 
guidance of the sense of sight? Do you think human souls are 
not like that when they go out of the body, that they have 
some kind of body but do not lack any of the senses? How does 
it happen that many persons, awake and walking about, have 
seen the dead entering their homes either by day or by night, 
as they had been accustomed to do? I have heard of this more 
than once, and it is also frequently related that at a certain 
period of the night, in places where bodies have been buried, 
especially in churches, noises are heard and prayers? I re- 
member having heard this from more than one, for a certain 
holy priest is witness that he saw a crowd of spirits going out 
of a baptistery in luminous bodies, and afterward he heard 
prayers in the middle of the church. All these instances either 
support my inquiry, or, if they are idle tales, it is strange 
and I should like to know something about it that they 
come and appear and are seen outside of dreams. 

There is another question on these matters. I am not 
dealing with the sort of fancy which the undisciplined heart 
fashions for itself; I am speaking of real apparitions. The way 
in which the angel appeared to Joseph in sleep, 14 the way in 
which many persons have had apparitions, in the same way 
our dear ones who have gone before us sometimes come, ap- 
pear in sleep, and speak. I recall that I saw Profuturus 15 as 
well as Privatus and Servilius, whom I remember as holy 
men of our monastery, who have gone before us, and what 
they said to me came to pass as they said. But, if it is some 
higher spirit who takes their form and becomes visible to the 
mind, He to whom all things are naked 16 from the top of the 



14 Matt. 1.20. 

15 Bishop of Cirta; cf. Letters 38, 71. 

16 Rom. 4.13. 



LETTERS 361 

head will see to it. Therefore, if the Lord will deign to en- 
lighten the reason of your Holiness regarding any of all these 
matters, I ask you to be so kind as to share this knowledge with 
me. I do not want to pass this over; perhaps it has some 
bearing on my inquiry. 

The young man in question had a vision at the time when 
he was dying, and, in a sense, he followed it out. It seemed 
that in his sleep a fellow student and fellow reader, with whom 
he used to take notes for me, who had departed from the 
body eight months before, came to him. When he was asked 
by the young man to whom he appeared why he had come, 
he said: 'I have come to take my friend away from here.' 
And so it happened. For in that same house an old man who 
was half-awake caught sight of a man carrying in his hand a 
laurel branch and a writing. After this vision, it is added that 
the father of the boy, a priest, began to stay at the monastery 
with the old man, Theasius, 17 for consolation, but the third 
day after the boy's death the same boy was seen entering the 
monastery and was asked by a certain man in a dream 
whether he knew that he was dead; he said that he knew it 
and, asked whether he had been received by God, he admitted 
it with great thankfulness. When he was asked the reason 
why he had come, he then said: 'I have been sent to summon 
my father.' The one to whom these revelations were made 
awoke and told of it. This came to the ears of Bishop Theasius. 
He was troubled and rebuked the speaker lest it come too 
easily to the hearing of the priest, who might be alarmed at 
such a message. Why prolong the story? Four days after 
the apparition, while he was speaking he had felt a mild 
fever, but there was no danger; the doctor was not there and 

17 Legate from the Council of Carthage (401) to Emperor Honorius; 
cf. Letter 80. 



362 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

he would have testified that there was absolutely no cause for 
anxiety this same priest lay down on his bed and died. I do 
not pass over the fact that, on the very day on which the boy 
died, he asked his father for the kiss of peace, and he asked it 
on the third day, and at each kiss he said to his father: 'Let us 
together give thanks to God,' and he forced his father to say 
it with him, as if urging him to depart from this life as his 
companion. Thus, there was an interval of seven days between 
the two deaths. What are we to make of such happenings? 
Who will be a trustworthy master to teach such hidden 
causes? The emotion of my heart flows out to you in time 
of distress. There is a manifest providence in the deaths of the 
boy and his father, because two sparrows shall not fall to 
earth without the Father's will. 18 

That happening, I think, shows that the soul cannot entirely 
lack a body, because God is the only Being who is always 
completely without a body. The release from such a corporeal 
mass shows, I think, how much more alert the soul will be 
after its passing, for then, lightened of such a fetter, it ap- 
pears, I think, much superior in action and thought, and all 
that spiritual tranquility shows that it is free from all troubles 
and errors; it is released from that sticky, slothful, and sluggish 
state. Now it is satisfied to enjoy that liberty which it has at- 
tained after it loses the world and its body, for you have 
wisely said 19 that it feeds upon understanding and applies its 
spiritual mouth to the fountain of life where it is happy with 
the blessed estate of its own mind. Some time ago, in a dream, 
I saw brother Servilius after his death, while he was still laid 
out in the monastery, and he said that we struggle by means of 
our reason to attain knowledge, but he and those like him 
were established in the delight of contemplation. 



18 Matt. 10.29. 

19 Confessions 9.3. 



LETTERS 363 

I ask you also to tell me how many meanings can be given 
to wisdom, as: God is wisdom, the wise mind is wisdom; and 
how it is spoken of as light, as the wisdom of Beseleel who 
made the tabernacle and the oil of unction; 20 as the wisdom of 
Solomon or any other, and how they differ from each other; 
and whether that one eternal wisdom with the Father is to 
be understood in these gradations; and how the gifts of the 
Holy Spirit are said to be distributed : 'Who divideth to every 
one his own according as he will'; 21 or whether with the ex- 
ception of that wisdom which alone is not created, these are 
created, and have their proper substance; or whether they 
are produced and take their name from the kind of effect they 
bring about. I want to know many things. May the Lord give 
you grace and wisdom to dictate and write to us quickly. I 
have written without skill or polish, but because you so 
kindly know what I ask, I beg by Christ our Lord that you 
correct me in this and teach me what you understand that 
I wish to know. 



159. Augustine and the brothers who are with me give 

greeting in the Lord to the blessed lord, my 

revered and cherished brother and fellow priest, 

Evodius y and the brothers who are with you 

(c. 414) 

The bearer of this is a brother named Barbarus, a servant 
of God, who has been settled at Hippo for some time, an 
ardent and diligent hearer of the word of God. He asked for 
this letter to your Holiness in which we commend him to you 
in the Lord, and send you through him the greetings due to 
you. But, to answer the letter of your Holiness in which you 

20 Exod. 312-11. 

21 Cf. 1 Cor. 12.11. 



364 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

have worked out some weighty questions would be a laborious 
task even for persons of leisure and endowed with a greater 
gift of argument and a keener understanding than I have. 
There were two letters of yours in which you asked many 
deep questions, but one of them has gone astray somehow or 
other, and has not turned up though I have spent a long 
time looking for it. The other one, 1 which I have found, 
contains a very sweet eulogy of a young man, a good and 
chaste servant of God; it tells how he departed from this life, 
and how he gave proof of his meritorious state by well-attested 
apparitions to the brethren. Then you take advantage of 
this to set forth and develop a most obscure question about 
the soul; whether it leaves the body with some other kind 
of body, which enables it to go from place to place or to be 
confined in material places. The treatment of a matter of this 
kind if, indeed, it can be analyzed and made clear by such 
as we are calls for care and the closest kind of application, 
and that means a mind entirely free from preoccupations 
like mine. However, if you want to know my views in brief, 
J emphatically do not think that the soul leaves the body with a 
material body. 

It is for him to try to explain how those apparitions and 
predictions of future events take place who knows what force 
produces such images in anyone's mind when he thinks. We 
see and clearly perceive that numberless images occur in it, 
or many objects seen or experienced by the other bodily 
senses and it is no matter at present whether they occur in 
sequence or at random, but only that they do occur, which 
is evident but whoever can explain how or by what force 
they occur, all of them being of daily and constant experience, 
may venture to make some conjecture and offer a formula 
for those much more exceptional visions. For my part, I am 
less inclined to venture on this, because I feel myself inad- 

1 Letter 158. 



LETTERS 365 

equate to explain the occurrence of what we constantly ex- 
perience in ourselves throughout life, awake and asleep. While 

1 have been dictating this letter to you, I have had a mental 
picture of you, though you are far away and unaware of it, 
and, according to my interior knowledge of you, I have 
imagined how you would be affected by these words. I am not 
able to comprehend and discover how this takes place in my 
mind, but I am certain it is not done by material masses or 
material qualities, although the image is very like your body. 
This will do for the time being as an answer dictated by a 
busy man in a hurry. In Book 12 of the work I wrote on 
Genesis, 2 this question is treated exhaustively, and the argu- 
ment is enriched with many examples drawn from personal 
experiences and from those reported on reliable evidence. 
When you read it you will judge what I have been able to 
accomplish, if the Lord deigns to grant me to publish that 
work, properly corrected, thus ending my discussion and 
meeting the expectation of many brethren. 

However, I shall relate one incident briefly, to give you 
food for thought. Our brother, Gennadius, 3 a physician 
known to almost everybody and very dear to us, who is at 
present living in Carthage, after having gained fame at 
Rome by the exercise of his skill, is, as you know, a man of 
devout mind, kind and generous heart, and untiring compas- 
sion, as shown by his care of the poor. He told us that he 
doubted once, while still young and zealous in those acts of 
kindness, whether there was any life after death. As God 
would not abandon a man of his disposition and works of 
mercy, there appeared to him in sleep a handsome youth 
of dignified mien, who said to him: 'Follow me.' He followed 
and came to a certain city, where he began to hear, on his 

2 The treatise De Genesi ad litteram, begun in 401, published about 415. 
Book 12 is a study of St. Paul's vision (2 Cor. 12.2-4) and of visions in 
general. 

3 Nothing further is known of this Gennadius. 



366 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

right, singing of such exquisite sweetness that it surpassed all 
known and ordinary sweetness. Then, as he listened, he asked 
what it was and his guide said it was the hymns of the blessed 
and the saints. I do not clearly remember what he said he 
saw on his left. When he awoke, the dream vanished and he 
thought of it only as one does of a dream. 

But, on another night, behold, the same youth appeared to 
him again and asked whether he recognized him; he answered 
that he did so fully and perfectly. Then the youth asked where 
he had known him. He remembered what to reply to that, too, 
and described the whole vision and the hymns of the saints 
which the other had led him there to hear, recalling them 
with ease as a recent experience. Thereupon, the youth asked 
whether he had been asleep or awake when he saw what he 
had described. He answered: 'It was in a dream.' The other 
said: 'You remember well, it is true, that you saw all that 
in a dream, but you must know that even now you see, al- 
though you are asleep.' When he heard that, he believed it 
was so and expressed it by his answer. Then the one who was 
teaching him continued and said: 'Where is your body now?' 
He answered : fi ln my bedroom.' 'And do you know,' said the 
other, 'that in that same helpless body, your eyes are fast shut 
and useless, and that you see nothing with those eyes?' Gen- 
nadius answered : C I know it.' His guide went on : 'Then, with 
what kind of eyes do you see me?' He fell silent at this, finding 
no reply, and, as he remained in doubt, the youth made 
known what he was trying to teach by these questions. He 
went on : 'As those eyes of flesh are now inactive and perform 
no function while your body lies asleep in bed, yet you have 
eyes with which you behold me and a sight of which you make 
use, so, when you die and the eyes of your flesh see nothing, 
there will be in you another life by which you will live and 
sense by which you will perceive. See to it that henceforth you 
do not doubt of the life which remains after death.' Thus this 



LETTERS 367 

faithful man says that his doubt on this matter was removed, 
and what was his teacher but the providence and mercy of 
God? 

Someone may say that we have not solved, but increased, 
the difficulty by relating this incident. Well, each one is free 
to believe these words or not to believe them, and each one 
has himself as a very intricate problem to occupy him. Every 
day man wakes and sleeps and thinks. Let him say whence 
come those thoughts resembling the shapes, the qualities and 
the motions of bodies yet not composed of corporeal matter. 
Let him say it, if he can, but, if he cannot, why does he 
rashly try to form some kind of definitive opinion about these 
very rare and unusual experiences when he cannot explain the 
constant and daily ones? As for me, words fail me to explain 
how those seemingly material bodies, without a real body, are 
produced; yet, as I know that they are not produced by the 
body, so I wish I could know how we perceive those things 
which are seen sometimes by the spirit and are thought to be 
seen by the body, or how we are to distinguish the visions of 
those who are deluded by error or impiety, when they are 
generally described in the same terms as the visions of the 
good and holy. Time would fail me rather than material, if 
I were to list further examples. Remember me, most blessed 
lord, revered and cherished brother, and may you be strong 
in the mercy of the Lord. 

160. Evodius gives greeting to Bishop Augustine 1 - (c. 414) 

Perfect reason is that which exhibits the knowledge of all 
things and especially of the things of eternity, which are 
comprehended by the intellect. This reason is eternal, it must 

1 The salutation is not found in the Mss. which give as title: 'Letter of 
Evodius to blessed Augustine concerning reason and God.' 



368 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

be eternal, and reason itself teaches that the eternal Is that 
which has neither beginning nor end nor change nor variation. 
Reason must be eternal, then, not only because it teaches and 
demonstrates what is eternal, but much more because eternity 
itself could not exist without reason; it would not be eternity, 
I think, if reason itself were not eternal. Secondly, reason itself 
demonstrates that God exists, or must necessarily exist, and 
that it must be that He cannot be other than God. Evidently, 
then, whether there are persons who know this or not, since 
God is eternal, it cannot be doubted that reason is eternal, 
since it observes that God must necessarily exist, and thus it 
proves that it is co-eternal with Him. 

There are, however, some truths which reason must take 
for granted, so that reason precedes and the effect follows of a 
happening which reason shows in the future, as for example, 
when the world was made, reason held that there might be a 
world. Therefore, reason existed before the world. Therefore, 
too, the things which reason knew were to happen were sub- 
sequent to reason, so that reason was first, and afterward came 
the making of the world. Now, then, since reason shows that 
God exists or must necessarily exist, what are we to suppose 
before Him so that God could exist? Do we suppose reason 
before God as reason before the world, or God before reason, 
since it is absolutely improbable that God should exist without 
reason? For, if God is eternal, it is through reason that He is 
and is eternal, and reason is, then, God or of God, as reason 
itself teaches. But, if reason is God, it demonstrates that God 
is reason, and these can be coeval and co-eternal. Reason 
itself shows that for God to be such is not possible if He is not 
God. But, if reason is removed a forbidden thing to say 
there will be no God if there is no reason to prove that God 
must necessarily exist. God therefore is, since the reason of 
Him is that He should be. Since there is a God, without 
doubt there is reason which teaches that He is. 



LETTERS 369 

What, then, if it can be said, is first in God: reason or 
God? But, God will not exist unless reason exists to teach that 
God must necessarily exist; there will be no reason if there is 
no God. Therefore, there is neither first nor last. This divine 
nature possesses somehow and at the same time both reason 
and God. One begets one: either reason begets God or God 
begets reason. But, perhaps reason and God might be said 
to be subordinate or in a subordinate state? God and reason 
are one in one. It is well said that God begets reason because 
reason shows that God exists. God is known by reason as the 
Son by the Father, and reason is known by God as the Father 
by the Son. For reason itself with God is God. God was never 
at any time without reason, or reason without God. God 
exists, then, if reason exists, and the Son exists if the Father 
exists. Consequently, if reason is removed to say what it is 
forbidden to say then not even God exists, for through rea- 
son His act and operation by which He is God also exist. Let 
us repeat the same arguments. If there was no reason, there 
was no God ; if there is no God, there was no reason. Reason, 
then, and God are an eternal fact; God and reason are likewise 
an everlasting fact. But the joining and uniting of reason to 
God and of God to reason, of the Father to the Son and of 
the Son to the Father, show forth their beginnings, so to speak, 
and the causes of their existence, because one cannot exist 
without the other. Words fail, and what is said is only said to 
ward off silence. But are we to say that God is the source of 
reason or reason the source of God, since there can be no 
fruit without root, nor is the root anything without fruit? Let 
us draw a comparison, so as to form some idea of God: in the 
grain of wheat there exists a principle of fertility which keeps 
it from being unproductive; but, if there were no grain of 
wheat, the principle would have nothing from which to 
produce its effect. 

Therefore, since reason which is God either manifests that 



370 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

God is reason or reason is God, the one, so to speak, mani- 
festing the other; and the Father is not manifested except by 
the Son, and the Son is not manifested except by the Father, 
so that the Father is seemingly in silence when we come to the 
Father by the Son, and the Son is seemingly in silence when 
we come to the Son by the Father; and if one is in some way 
hidden, the other is manifest in such wise that the one mani- 
festing Himself manifests the other, also, and that one can- 
not be known while the other remains unknown, because 'He 
that seeth me/ He says, 'seeth the Father also/ 2 and 'No man 
cometh to the Father but by me/ 3 and 'No man cometh to me 
except the Father draw him/ 4 we have undertaken an ex- 
ceedingly toilsome and difficult task in trying to comprehend 
something about God in spite of our lack of comprehension. 
Nevertheless, as none of the things which exist are intelligible 
or knowable without some external appearance, so it is much 
more true that nothing is known without the Son, that is, 
without reason. What more? Was the Father irrational at any 
time, being bereft of reason? Who would dare say it? There- 
fore, it must be known by reason that God is One of one, or 
One in one and at the same time One, because God is One 
and love must necessarily reside in Him, because reason itself 
teaches that it must always possess love, or God commands 
that love is always to be made manifest. 

2 John 14.9. 

3 John 14.6. 

4 John 6.44. 



LETTERS 371 

161. Evodius and the brothers who are with me give greeting 

in the Lord to the holy lord, his revered and 

cherished brother and fellow priest, Augustine, 

and the brothers who are with you (c. 414) 

Some time ago I asked you a question about reason and 
God, and I sent it in a letter by Joblnus who was on an errand 
to the Marcian estate, but I have not yet deserved a reply. 
However,, I have had in my possession two letters of your 
Holiness, one addressed to the noble Volusian, 1 the other to 
Italica, 2 a noble lady in Christ, and on reading them I hap- 
pened on what you wrote in the letter about the virginal 
conception of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh, and of His 
birth: 'If a reason for this is sought, it will not be a miracle; 
if an example is required, it will not be unique/ 3 It seemed 
to me that it was possible to say something similar about the 
birth of every man or of every living creature or seed. If a 
reason is sought for this, it will not be found by investigation, 
and it will be unique, if an example is required, because no 
such example is found. For, what mating of man and woman 
or what secret result of any conception at any time can be 
explained by reason, or what explanation can be found of 
seeds springing from the earth and first rotting away and 
then bearing fruit? It is no less wonderful if an example of 
the exceptional is sought that a single worm should be found 
perfectly formed by parthenogenesis, without parentage/ 
inside an apple, and that is why I think it is used as an 
example in: C I am a worm and no man.' 5 Therefore, I do not 

1 Letter 137. 

2 Letter 92. 

3 Letter 137. 

4 Spontaneous generation Is a discredited theory today. For the worm 
to be in the apple it is necessary that a female in the moth stage lay 
an egg in the blossom. When the blossom turns to fruit, the egg becomes 
a worm without need of the male principle. 

5 Ps. 21.7. 



372 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

know how any explanation can be given of conceptions joint 
or single, and I think the Virgin's conception is not the only 
one of which no explanation can be given, since there is none 
to be offered of any conception. 

But, c an example is required.' Here are some: mares are 
said to conceive of the wind, hens of dust, ducks of water, 
and several other animals produce offspring without male 
seed. Certainly, if they do not produce offspring as virgins, 
at least it is possible for them to conceive without being 
violated- Why, then, say: 'If an example is demanded, it will 
not be remarkable,' when so many examples are forthcoming? 
Everyone knows that some living creatures are produced not 
only in the bodies of women but even in those of men. Was 
there any seed there to bring about conception? These are 
examples, these are wonders for which no reason can be given, 
or, if it comes to this, that no such thing has ever occurred in 
a virginal man, there are examples in creatures of other 
natures, which are conceived and born without seed, for 
which no really adequate explanation can be given. More- 
over, it is possible to find some such instance of generation in 
which the birth takes place without violation of natural 
integrity. I hear frequently that the spider produces all those 
threads of which it spins its web without any male conception 
or any demeaning birth pangs, and it brings them forth rnar- 
velously according to the manner of its own nature, showing 
that this exception is granted to itself only. But, if it is inquired 
into, is this the only wonder, and is it entirely impossible to 
find other such examples? I fear that these instances may be- 
come so important that those who did not believe that a. 
virgin could conceive may be convinced by them that it is 
indeed wonderful but will not be unique, for all the works 
of God are wonderful because they are performed in wisdom. 
If this objection should be made to us, what are we to answer? 

Here, again, is a point that troubles me exceedingly: that 



LETTERS 373 

someone could say of the substance of the glorified body of the 
Lord that it will be able to see the substance of God you 
said in your letter to Italica 6 that it could not and that is 
certain so, when we begin to reason that it cannot, this ob- 
jection may be made to us, that in His conception and 
nativity what happened was miraculous and unique, and 
they will not ask an explanation and example because this 
was granted to Him alone, and, as no explanation is given 
of His conception and birth, but this unique privilege is 
found in Him alone, so, no explanation is given nor any 
example required of His seeing God, because to Him alone 
is it uniquely granted to see with bodily eyes the substance of 
the divinity. But it will be answered that an explanation can 
be given and that it is not granted to any corporeal substance 
to behold incorporeal substance, and I fear they will answer 
that then His conception can be explained by reason and 
can be supported by examples. For, either reason will fail 
among men, and they will give up examples and will assert 
that the only-begotten Son can see God with bodily eyes, or, if 
an explanation is drawn from this, it will follow that an ex- 
planation can be given by certain too wise men of His con- 
ception and subsequent birth. I ask what answer can be made 
to such men. I am not sowing seeds of strife but I am asking 
how to answer their artful questions. For myself, I believe that 
the Virgin's conception and her giving birth to her Child were 
such as I have always believed them, and I have concluded 
from reason that God cannot be seen by any body however 
glorified. However, I think that one should go out to meet men 
who either try to stir up trouble by their questions, or who are 
aroused by a fervent zeal for learning. Pray for us. May the 
peace and charity of Christ make your Holiness mindful of us, 
holy and revered lord, most blessed brother. 

6 Letter 92. 



374 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

162. Augustine and the brothers who are with me give 

greeting in the Lord to the blessed lord, his 

revered brother and holy fellow bishop, Evodius, 

and the brothers who are with you (c. 414) 

You ask many questions of a very busy man, and what is 
worse,, you think I ought to rush right into dictation of 
matters so difficult that only with the greatest care in dictating 
or writing could they be treated so as to adapt them to such 
an intellect as yours. Besides, what we write is not going 
to be read by you only and by those who might be considered 
your equals, but also by others, endowed with less keen and 
less trained minds, whose great eagerness, whether friendly 
or hostile, leads them to study my writings, and then it is 
impossible for me to get them back. In view of that, you see 
what care is needed in writing, especially on subjects so im- 
portant that great scholars toil over them. If whenever I 
have something in hand it has to be laid aside and put off, so 
that some other question which comes up may have a prior 
answer, what will happen if something comes up while I am 
answering your questions? Would you like it if I laid aside 
yours and took up others, and if those that come last should 
always be dealt with first, and only those would have the 
good fortune to be completed which would not be interrupted 
by other questions arising while the former are being written? 
That would be a very difficult position for me and I do not 
think it would please you. Therefore, as I ought not to break 
off other work when your questions interrupt, so I ought 
not to leave off yours if others again break in on me. Yet I 
am not suffered to preserve this fairness, for look now, in 
order to answer your letter and warn you of this, I have in- 
terrupted what I was doing, and I have wrenched my mind 
from another important task to your letter. 

It is easy for me to send you this letter of excuse not an 



LETTERS 375 

ungracious one, I think but It is not so easy to answer your 
queries, and I imagine that in the works which now keep 
me closely occupied there will be passages in which I shall 
explain what you ask, if the Lord is favorable to me. As a mat- 
ter of fact, many of those difficulties which you have just 
sent have been solved in the books which I have not yet 
published on the Trinity and on Genesis. 1 If you will recall 
points which you know well, or, if I mistake not, you once 
did know well, although you may have forgotten them, which 
I wrote after conferring and discussing with you in my treatises 
either on the greatness of the soul or on free will, 2 you will 
find therein the answers to your problems, without help from 
me; that is, of course, if you apply the labor of your mind to 
draw the conclusions from the points which are there made 
clear and definite. You also have some help in the book on 
religion; 3 if you would review it and look into it, you would 
never think that reason can prove the necessity of God's 
existence, or that by reasoning it can ever be established that 
God must necessarily exist. In the science of numbers, which 
we certainly make use of in everyday life, if we say seven plus 
three ought to be ten, we do not speak exactly. It is not: 
they ought to be ten they are ten. In the books which I have 
mentioned I have proved adequately, according to my way of 
thinking, the cases in which we may properly say that things 
ought to be, whether they now are, or that they may be so. A 
man ought to be wise; if he is wise that he may remain so, if 
he is not yet wise that he may become so. But God ought not 
to be wise, He is wise. 

Reflect also and think deeply and at length over those 
questions about apparitions on which I wrote to you lately,* 

1 De Trinitate (416) ; De Genesi ad litteram (415) . 

2 De quantitate animae is in dialogue form with Evodius as one of the 
speakers (c. 388) ; De libero arbitrio (c. 396) , 

3 De vera religions (c. 396) . 

4 Letter 159. 



376 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

and those subtle points which you raised but which only in- 
volved you in greater difficulties. Do not skim over them, but 
let your thought dwell upon them, and then perhaps you 
will surmise how the soul is present or absent. Doubtless, in 
those apparitions it lingers in sleep, while it is absent from the 
sense faculties and from that consciousness of perception 
which it lends to the eyes when awake. When this absence 
of the soul from the eyes, that is, in a manner of speaking, 
from the windows of the body, which occurs when we sleep, is 
increased so as to cause a total withdrawal, we have death. 
Therefore, as the soul withdraws from the faculty of sight to 
the visions seen in dreams, but does not retain anything of 
the body, unless, perhaps, the objects seen in dreams are 
corporeal and we imagine ourselves in the body tossed back 
and forth somehow among them which I think is not your 
kind of vision so, if the soul is completely withdrawn and 
departs, as happens in death, we are not to think that it has 
taken any kind of body with it out of the body. For, 
if it did take anything with it, then, obviously, when we sleep 
and it withdraws from the eyes, it would take with it as it 
leaves them other eyes, corporeal but more penetrating, which 
it does not do. However, it does take with it some kind of 
sight, very like the other but not corporeal, and with it sees 
similar images in sleep, but not corporeal ones. 

Moreover, if anyone should grant that even the visions of 
dreams, which look like bodies, are nothing if not corporeal, 
he would imagine that he was making a considerable state- 
ment. That slowness of understanding is hard to win over; 
it is found in many minds, even those of more than average 
keenness, and it occurs because they fail to notice how much 
reality there is in images of bodies which are produced in the 
spiritual part of us, but are definitely not corporeal. However, 
when they are forced to examine these images, if they have 
observed correctly and have discovered that they are not 



LETTERS 377 

corporeal but are resemblances of bodies, they are still not 
able to give an immediate explanation of why and how they 
are formed; whether they have an existence of their own or 
exist only in their subject; whether they are formed in the 
mind as letters with ink on parchment, where the ink and the 
parchment are separate substances; or whether they are 
formed like a seal or some other figure on wax, where the 
wax is the subject and the impression is in the subject; or 
whether these images are formed in our mind in both ways, 
sometimes one and sometimes another. 

But the objects which are remote from our bodily senses and 
are found in our memory, or which we ourselves, in thought 
and according to our pleasure, create, arrange, increase, 
diminish, change in location, appearance, movement and 
innumerable other circumstances are not the only ones which 
affect us. Perhaps in the same class, also, are those with which 
we are bewildered in sleep, when we are not receiving a 
heavenly message, except that the latter we act on willingly, 
the former we endure against our will. And these images are 
not the only ones that affect us, which, as one may reasonably 
infer, are made up by the mind from the mind, although this 
is brought about by more hidden causes which make one 
thing rather than another appear in consciousness; but there 
is also that kind spoken of by the Prophet: 'And the angel that 
spoke in me said to me,' 5 for we are not to believe that 
words from outside came to the corporeal ears of the Prophet 
when he said 'that spoke in me, 9 not to me. Were those words 
formed by the mind like spoken words such as we use when we 
run over or even sing something silently in memory, but were 
they still uttered by the angel, and did the Prophet in a 
miraculous way perceive that they were suggested to him by 
another than himself? And in this other passage of the Gospel: 
'Behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in sleep, 

5 Zach. 1.9. 



378 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

saying , . .' 6 : how did even an angelic form appear to closed 
eyes, since, when angels appeared to Abraham, he was awake 
and felt them when he washed their feet? 7 Even a spirit ap- 
pearing to the spirit of one sleeping has some kind of corporeal 
aspect, as we also seem to ourselves in dreams to move along 
under a certain form, but very different from the movement 
of limbs prone in slumber. 

These matters impress us and they are out of the ordinary 
because they have a cause too hidden for one man to be able 
to see or explain to another. When the reason of a thing is 
hidden or it is a thing of unusual occurrence because it is 
either unique or rare, it is a cause of wonder to us. It was 
because of that hidden reason that I said in my letter what 
you recalled having read, when I was answering those who 
refuse to believe that a virgin brought forth Christ while re- 
maining a virgin: 'If a reason is sought, it will not be a 
miracle.' 8 And I said that, not because it was something with- 
out a reason, but because it was hidden from those for whom 
God willed it to be miraculous. Regarding that other source of 
wonder which comes from some unusual occurrence, it is 
written of the Lord that He marveled at the faith of the 
centurion; He could not be ignorant of the cause of anything, 
but here wonder is used as a term of praise for one whose like 
had not appeared among the Hebrew people. And that 
wonder is adequately expressed when the Lord said : e Amen I 
say to you I have not found so great faith in Israel.' 9 

As to my adding in that same letter: If an example is re- 
quired, it will not be unique,' 10 you are wrong in thinking you 
have found an example in the worm which is born in the 
apple and the spider which draws the thread of its web from 

6 Matt. 1.20. 

7 Gen. 18.4. 

8 Letter 137, 

9 Matt. 8.10; Luke 7.9. 
10 Letter 137. 



LETTERS 379 

an inviolate body. Such clever remarks are made for the sake 
of a seeming resemblance, sometimes far-fetched, sometimes 
apt, but Christ was the only man born of a virgin; hence you 
now understand, I think, why I said it was unique. All the 
things which God does, whether ordinary or extraordinary, 
have their own causes and their right and unimpeachable 
reasons. But when these causes and reasons are hidden, we 
wonder at what is done; when they are evident, we say that 
they are done logically or appropriately, and it is nothing to 
wonder at that they are done as reason requires them to be 
done; or, if we do wonder, it is not the wonder of stupefaction 
at something unheard of, but of praise for excellence, the kind 
of wonder by which the centurion was praised. Therefore, that 
statement of mine is not blameworthy when I said : 'If a rea- 
son is sought, it will not be a miracle,' since it is another kind 
of wonder when the reason is apparent to the one who won- 
ders. In the same way, that statement is not blameworthy 
which says: 'God tempteth no man,' 11 since there is another 
kind of temptation in accord with which it is rightly said 
elsewhere: 'The Lord your God tryeth you.' 12 

Let no one think that it can properly be said that the 
Father can be seen by the Son with bodily eyes and not rather 
as the Son is seen by the Father, because those who think this 
but are unable to give a reason for it can also say in their 
turn : 'If a reason is sought, it will not be a miracle,' for this 
was said, not because there is no reason, but because it is a 
hidden one. Whoever essays to refute this opinion ought to 
prove that there is no reason for this error, wrongly called a 
miracle. For, as there is no reason why the nature of God 
should die or disintegrate or sin and when we say that God 
cannot do that we do not detract from His power but praise 
His eternity and truth so, when we say that He cannot be 

11 James 1.13. 

12 Deut. 113. 



380 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

seen by bodily eyes, the reason is not an apparent one. How- 
ever, the reason is clear to those who understand rightly; 
thereby it is obvious that God cannot be a body; that nothing 
can be seen by bodily eyes except an object which is perceived 
in some spatial relationship; that this can only be a body 
and a substance which is less in its parts than in the whole; 
and even those who cannot yet grasp this ought to believe that 
it is monstrous to believe it of God. 

The reason for different degrees of speed and slowness in 
the movements of bodies, and for other bodily qualities, is not 
known, and this gives us a whole forest of visible wonders. But 
does that prevent us from knowing that there are bodies, that 
we have a body, and that there is no corporeal object, however 
small, which does not occupy its portion of space according to 
its kind and that it is not everywhere wholly present in that 
space, but is less in a part than in the whole? Since there are 
evident facts, there are conclusions to be drawn from them 
but it would take too long to do this now by which it can be 
proved, not that the reason is unknown, but that there is no 
reason at all which obliges us to believe or makes it possible to 
understand that God can be seen by bodily eyes, since He is 
everywhere wholly present, and is not distributed through space 
in a corporeal mass, which must of necessity consist of larger 
and smaller parts. I could say a good deal more on this subject, 
if I had undertaken to expound it in this letter, but I have al- 
ready unconsciously written at length, almost forgetting my 
duties. Perhaps this will satisfy your zeal though I doubt it 
for with a few hints you can draw further suitable conclusions, 
but it would not be so for those into whose hands it could 
more profitably fall if the questions were more carefully and 
more fully discussed. Men toil at learning, but they are at 
the same time not clever enough to understand short explan- 
ations and disinclined to read long ones. Likewise, men toil 
at teaching, vainly devising short lessons for the lazy and 



LETTERS 381 

long ones for the dull. Send me a copy of that letter of yours 
which has gone astray at this end and cannot be found. May 
you enjoy good health and vigor in the Lord, and do not for- 
get us. 



163. Evodius, Bishop, to Augustine, Bishop (c. 414) 

I sent to your Holiness: first, a question about reason and 
God I think it went by Jobinus who serves the handmaids of 
God; 1 second, a question about the Saviour's body, with an 
opinion that it sees the substance of God. I now add a third: 
whether the rational soul which the Saviour took with His 
body was the only one of its kind, according to the opinions 
which are set forth when the origin of the soul is in question 
if there is any support of truth for them or whether, al- 
though it is a rational soul, it will not be of the same species 
as the human soul is said to be? I now ask a fourth question: 
Who are those spirits to whom Peter refers when speaking of 
the Lord in his Epistle: 'Being put to death indeed in the 
flesh, but enlivened in the spirit. In which also coming he 
preached to those spirits,' 2 and the rest, adding that they 
were in hell 3 and that Christ, descending, preached to them all 
and set them all free by His grace from darkness and suffering, 
that from the time of the Lord's resurrection judgment might 
be awaited by an empty hell? I am anxious to know what your 
Holiness thinks of this. 

1 I.e., a community of nuns. Whether Jobinus was a chaplain or a 
convent courier is not dear. 

2 I Peter 3.18,19. 

3 Not the hell of the damned, but the limbo of the blessed where the 
souls of the saved were detained until the opening of heaven by 
Christ. 



382 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

164. Augustine gives greeting in the Lord to the blessed lord, 
his brother and fellow bishop, Evodius (c. 414) 

The question on the Epistle of the Apostle Peter which 
you propounded to me is one, as I think you know, which 
disturbs me profoundly. Therefore, I turn this same question 
back to you in the hope that you yourself or anyone else 
you might find who can do it may remove and put an end 
to my doubt. If I am able to solve it first, when the Lord 
grants me to do it, and I am able to impart it to you, I will 
not cheat your Charity of it, but for the present I will confide 
my distress to you, so that you may either think it out your- 
self in accord with the Apostle's words, or may consult about 
it if you find someone who is able to help you. 

When he said that Christ had been put to death in the 
flesh but enlivened in the spirit, he added immediately that 
He had come to preach to 'those spirits that were in prison, 
which had been sometime incredulous when they waited for 
the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was 
a-building; wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by 
water. 5 Then he went on and said: 'Whereunto baptism, being 
of the like form, now saveth you also.' 1 If the Lord, after 
His death, preached in hell to the spirits shut up in prison, 
what troubles me is why those alone who had been incredulous 
when the ark was building deserved this benefit. For, certainly, 
from the days of Noe to the Passion of Christ how many thou- 
sands of people died whom He could have found in hell ! I 
do not mean those who believed in God, as the prophets and 
the patriarchs of the stock of Abraham, as Noe himself before 
that time, and his whole household which was saved by 
water, except perhaps one son who was afterward repudiated; 2 
as there were also, in addition to the descendants of Jacob, 

1 1 Peter 3.81-21. 

2 Cham was cursed by Noe (Gen. 9.25). 



LETTERS 383 

others who believed in God, like Job, or the inhabitants of 
Ninive, or others again who either appear in Scripture or 
are lost in human history but I am speaking of all those 
many thousands of men who did not know God, and were 
given up to the worship of demons and idols from the days of 
Noe to the Passion of Christ, who departed from this life and 
whom Christ found in hell. Why did He not preach to them, 
but to those only who had been incredulous in the days of 
Noe when the ark was building? Or, if He did preach to all 
of them, why did Peter pass over the uncounted multitude 
of others and mention only those? 

It is clearly shown that the Lord died in the flesh and 
descended into hell, for it is not possible to controvert the 
prophecy which says : 'Because thou wilt not leave my soul in 
hell,' 3 and which Peter quotes in the Acts of the Apostles, so 
that no one may dare to give it another meaning; or those 
words of the same Peter in which he asserts that God had 
loosed the sorrows of hell, 'as it was impossible that he should 
be holden by it. 54 Who, then, but an unbeliever will deny 
that Christ was in hell? And if one is hard put to explain how 
the sorrows of hell were loosed by Him for He did not stay 
in them as in bondage, and hence did not loose them as if 
they were chains which bound Him it is easy to understand 
that they might have been loosed like the snares of hunters, 
not because they held Him, but so that they might not hold 
Him. That is how we can believe that He loosed the sorrows 
which did not bind Him, but did bind others whom He knew 
He was to set free. 

But it would be rash to say exactly who they are. For, if 
we say that all of those who were found there were set free 
without exception, it would be a cause of gratification if 
we could prove it especially in the case of some whom we 

3 Ps. 15.10; Acts 2.29. 

4 Acts 2.24. 



384 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

have known intimately through their written works, whose 
eloquence and genius we admire, not only the poets and 
orators who have shown in many passages of their works 
that those same false gods of the Gentiles were worthy of 
scorn and ridicule, and have even at times confessed the one 
true God, although they shared the ancient superstitions with 
their contemporaries; but also those who have made the same 
profession, not in verse or in oratory, but in philosophy; many, 
even, whose works we do not possess, but of whom we learn 
in others' works, that they led praiseworthy lives, according 
to their light, and, although they did not worship God, but 
erred in following a vain worship, which was the public cult 
of their time, serving the creature rather than the Creator, in 
their moral practice of frugality, continency, chastity, scorn 
of death for the welfare of their country, and fidelity to 
trust, they might well be offered as models to be imitated by 
citizens and foes alike. Yet, when all these good acts are not 
directed to the end of an upright and true devotion to God, 
but to the empty pride of human praise and glory, they fade 
away and are, so to speak, devoid of fruit. Even so, some of 
these authors rouse such an attraction in us that we could wish 
to have them freed from the sufferings of hell whether we 
are singular in that or like others but human feeling is not 
the same as the justice of the Creator. 

This being granted, if the Saviour released all the prisoners, 
and, as you wrote inquiringly, emptied hell so that the Last 
Judgment could thereafter be expected, there are some ob- 
jections such as can reasonably be made, which come to my 
mind whenever I think over this matter. First, what is the 
authority for that opinion? What is written as having hap- 
pened at the death of Christ, that the sorrows of hell were 
loosed, can be understood to apply to Himself : that He loosed 
them, that is, rendered them ineffective, only so far as to 
prevent Himself from being held by them, and this is especially 



LETTERS 385 

indicated by what follows: 'As it was impossible that he 
should be holden by it. 3 On the other hand, if we ask why 
He wished to descend into hell, where those sorrows were by 
which He could not be held, since, as it is written, He was 
'free among the dead,' 5 One in whom the prince and governor 
of death found nothing deserving of punishment, doubtless the 
words 'having loosed the sorrows of hell' can be applied, if 
not to all, at least to some whom He judged worthy of that 
liberation. Thus, His descent into hell would not be thought 
fruitless, because it would have brought no benefit to any of 
those there imprisoned, nor should it be concluded that what 
the divine mercy and justice granted to some had been 
granted to all. 

Almost the whole Church agrees that in the case of the 
first man, the father of the human race, the Lord did free him 
from there, and, wherever this tradition came from, we have 
to believe that the Church has grounds for accepting it, even 
though no express authority of the canonical Scriptures is 
quoted for it. However, that passage in the Book of Wisdom: 
'She preserved him that was first formed by God, the father of 
the world, when he was created alone. And she brought him 
out of his sin and gave him power to govern all things,' 6 
seems to lend itself more to this opinion than it does to any 
other interpretation. Some authorities add that this boon 
was granted to the saints of old: Abel, Seth, Noe and his 
household, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and other patriarchs and 
prophets, namely, that when the Lord descended into hell 
they were freed from those sorrows. 

I do not see any way of explaining how Abraham, into 
whose bosom the poor and godly Lazarus was carried, was in 
those sorrows. Those who are able may explain it. I do not 
know of anyone who would not find it unthinkable that only 

5 Ps. 87.6. 

6 Wisd. 10.1,2. 



386 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

those two, that is, Abraham and Lazarus, were in the bosom 
of that noteworthy peace before the Lord descended into hell, 
and that those two alone were meant when these words were 
addressed to the rich man : 'Between us and you there is fixed 
a great chaos, so that they who would pass from hence to you 
cannot, nor from thence come hither. 57 Moreover, if there 
were no more than two there, who would venture to say that 
the patriarchs and prophets were not there, men to whose 
goodness and devotion the Scripture of God bears such re- 
sounding witness? I do not see what the Lord did for these 
when He loosed the sorrows of hell which were not for them, 
especially as I can find no passage in Scripture in which hell 
itself is spoken of as good. But, if this is fou^d nowhere on 
divine authority, then that bosom of Abraham, that is, an 
abode of peace and quiet, assuredly cannot be taken as part 
of hell. Moreover, in those words of our great Master where 
He makes Abraham say : 'Between us and you there is fixed a 
great chaos,' I think it is quite clear that the bosom of that 
perfect happiness is not a part or a section of hell. And what 
is that great chaos but a great gap separating those two 
states between which it not only exists, but is fixed? Con- 
sequently, if the holy Scripture had said that Christ after 
death came into that bosom of Abraham, without naming 
hell and its sorrows, I wonder if anyone would dare to affirm 
that He descended into hell. 

But, because this clear testimony mentions both hell and 
its sorrows, I can think of no reason for believing that the 
Saviour went there except to save souls from its sorrows; I 
am still uncertain whether He saved all those whom He 
found there or certain ones whom He deemed worthy of that 
boon. I do not doubt, however, that He was in hell, and that 
He granted this favor to those entangled in its sorrows. I have 
not yet discovered what He brought to the just who were in 

7 Luke 16.26. 



LETTERS 387 

the bosom of Abraham, but I see that He had never with- 
drawn from them the blissful presence of His divinity, as He 
promised the thief, on the very day of His death, that he 
would be with Him in Paradise, 8 since He was about to 
descend in order to loose the sorrows of hell. Assuredly, there- 
fore, He was already present in Paradise and in the bosom 
of Abraham by His beatifying wisdom, and in hell by His 
judgment and power, for the divinity which is confined to 
no place is everywhere present. But in His created nature, 
which He took at a definite time, becoming man without 
ceasing to be God, that is, in His soul, He was in hell, as the 
Scripture clearly declares, both by the predictions of prophecy 
and by the apostolic meaning plainly attached to the prophecy 
in the words: "rtiou wilt not leave my soul in hell. 39 

I know it seems to some that the death of the Lord 
brought to certain just souls the same resurrection which is 
promised to us at the end of time, since it is written that by 
the earthquake which occurred at His Passion the rocks were 
rent and the graves opened and many bodies of the saints arose 
and were seen with Him in the holy city after His Resur- 
rection. 10 But, if these did not resume their sleep by the re- 
burial of their bodies, and if so many preceded Him in that 
resurrection, we must certainly examine and find out how 
Christ is the 'first-born from the dead.' 11 The answer to this 
might be that it was said by anticipation, but it meant that 
the tombs were opened by the earthquake, while Christ hung 
on the cross, while the bodies of the just did not rise then, 
but later, after He had first risen, although it was added to 
that sentence by anticipation, as I said, so that we should 
unhesitatingly believe that Christ was the first-born from the 
dead, and that it was then granted to the just to rise to eternal 



8 Luke 

9 Ps. 15.10. 

10 Matt. 27.51-53. 

11 Col. 1.18; Apoc. 



388 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

incorruption and immortality following His leadership. In 
that case, there still remains this difficulty, how Peter could 
say and he said it with absolute truth, since he asserted that 
Christ, not David, was foretold by that prophecy that His 
flesh did not see corruption, but he added that the tomb of 
David was still with them. 12 And this would certainly not be 
a convincing argument, if David's body were no longer there, 
because, if he had risen at the time of Christ's death, his flesh 
would not have seen corruption, but his tomb would still be 
there. It seems hard that David should not have been in that 
resurrection of the just, when Christ was of his seed, as is so 
often, so distinctly, and so honorably repeated to his praise. 
Those words also would be made ineffective which were said 
to the Hebrews concerning the just men of old : that they pro- 
vided better things for us 'that they should not be perfected 
without us, 513 which would happen if they were established in 
that incorrupt resurrection which is promised for our per- 
fection at the end of the world. 

Therefore, regarding Peter's reasons for mentioning only 
those who had been incredulous in the days of Noe when the 
ark was building, as the spirits in prison to whom the Gospel 
was preached, you see how obscure a matter it is, and what 
keeps me from venturing to make a pronouncement on it. 
Another reason is that when the Apostle had said : ' Whereunto 
baptism, being of the like form, now saveth you also, not the 
putting away of the filth of the flesh but the examination of 
a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus 
Christ, who is on the right hand of God, swallowing down 
death that we might be made heirs of life everlasting, being 
gone into heaven, the angels and powers and virtues being 
made subject to him;' he went on and added: 'Christ, there- 
fore, having suffered in the flesh, be you also armed with the 

12 Acts 2.27,29; 13.35. 

13 Hab. 11.40. 



LETTERS 389 

same knowledge, for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath 
ceased from sins that he may live the rest of his time in the 
flesh, not after the desires of men, but according to the will 
of God.' Then he added: Tor the time past is sufficient to 
have fulfilled the will of the gentiles, for them, who have 
walked in riotousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, ban- 
quetings, and unlawful worshiping of idols. Wherein they 
think it strange that you run not into the same confusion of 
riotousness, speaking evil of you. Who shall render account to 
him who is ready to judge the living and the dead'; and to 
these words he adds : Tor this cause was the Gospel preached 
also to the dead that they might be judged indeed according 
to men in the flesh, but may live according to God in the 
spirit.' 14 

Who would not be moved by the depth of that thought? He 
says the Gospel was preached to the dead. If by these we rightly 
understand those who have gone out of the body, I think they 
will be those of whom he said above that they were incredulous 
in the days of Noe, or, certainly, all whom Christ found in 
hell. What, then, does he mean by saying : 'That they might 
be judged indeed according to men in the flesh, but may live 
according to God in the spirit? 5 How are they judged in the 
flesh which they no longer have, if they are in hell, or which 
they have not yet received back, even if they are loosed from 
the sorrows of hell? If, as you suggest by your question, hell 
was emptied, not all of those who were there can be believed 
to have risen in the flesh, nor did those who rose again and ap- 
peared with the Lord receive their flesh in order to be judged 
in it according to man. And I do not see, either, how it can 
be applied to those who were incredulous in the days of Noe, 
for it is not written that they had lived in the flesh, and it is 
not credible that the sorrows of hell were loosed that those 
who were set free might receive flesh in order to discharge 

14 1 Peter 3,21,22; 4.1-6. 



390 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

their penalty. What, then, is the meaning of 'that they might 
be judged according to men in the flesh, but may live ac- 
cording to God in the spirit'? Was it perhaps granted to those 
whom Christ found in hell to be made alive in the spirit 
through the Gospel, although they are still subject to judg- 
ment in the flesh at the future resurrection, so as to pass to the 
kingdom of God through some penalty of the flesh? If that is 
so, why is it true only of those who were formerly unbelieving 
in the days of Noe, and not of the others whom the visit of 
Christ found there, that they lived again in the spirit through 
the preaching of the Gospel, though subject afterwards to 
judgment in the flesh by a temporary penalty? But, if we un- 
derstand it of all, the question remains why Peter mentioned 
only those who were incredulous when the ark was building. 

There is also this difficulty that those who try to give a 
reason for this say that, when Christ descended into hell to 
those who were found there, the places of punishment be- 
came like emptied prisons, because those spirits Had not heard 
the Gospel which in their lifetime had not been preached 
throughout the world, and they had valid reasons for not 
believing what had not been announced to them, but that 
afterwards those who despise the preaching of the Gospel, 
known to and spread among all peoples, will not have that 
excuse; therefore, after the prison is emptied for the former 
there still remains a just judgment by which the obstinate 
and unbelieving are punished with eternal fire. Those who 
think this do not notice that all who depart from this life 
before the Gospel reaches them, even after the Resurrection of 
Christ, can have this excuse. For, after the Lord had returned 
from hell, no one was suffered to go there without hearing the 
Gospel, when so many were dying all over the world before 
this preaching reached them. All will have that excuse, which 
according to them was taken away from those to whom the 



LETTERS 391 

Lord is said to have preached when He went there, because 
they had not heard the Gospel before. 

Perhaps someone will say that even those who died or who 
die after the Lord's Resurrection without having the Gospel 
preached to them could or can hear it there in hell, so as to 
believe what must be believed of the truth of Christ, and may 
also have the remission and salvation which those deserved to 
whom Christ preached there? After Christ ascended again 
from hell, there is no reason to believe that the report of Him 
died out, for He ascended from there to heaven, yet those 
who believe in Him will be saved by hearing of Him. There- 
fore, He was exalted and given a 'name which is above all 
names, that in his name every knee should bow,' not only 
c of those that are in heaven and on earth,' but also 'under the 
earth/ 15 But, if we agree with this opinion, which makes it 
possible to think that men who did not believe during their 
lifetime can believe in Christ in hell, who could accept con- 
clusions which are senseless and contrary to faith? In the first 
place, let us not seem to grieve in vain over those who have 
gone out of the body without that grace, nor think that we 
exercise a vain care in exhorting men insistently to receive it 
before they die, lest they be punished by everlasting death. 
Again, if only those who refused to believe when the Gospel 
was preached to them here fail to gain benefit or profit by 
believing in hell, while those who did not despise the Gospel 
here because they never had the opportunity of hearing it 
can gain by believing in hell, there is an even more nonsensical 
conclusion that the Gospel ought not to be preached here, 
since all will certainly die, and they ought to reach hell without 
the guilt of despising the Gospel, so that they may have the 
advantage of believing there and that is a vain and impious 
conclusion. 

15 Phil. 2,9,10. 



392 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

Therefore, let us hold most firmly what faith holds, on the 
most solid authority, 'that Christ died according to the Scrip- 
tures, and that he was buried and that he rose again the third 
day, according to the Scriptures, 316 and the rest which has 
been written about Him with most manifest truth. Among 
these details is this: that He was in hell, of which He loosed 
the sorrows whereby it was impossible that He should be 
held; from these it is rightly understood that He loosed and 
released the souls whom He chose; that He received back 
the Body which He had left on the cross, and which had been 
laid in the tomb. Thus, in that question which you proposed 
on the words of the Apostle Peter, you see what puzzles me. 
Other points, perhaps, could prove puzzling if they were 
discussed more in detail, so let us examine into them by 
thinking over them together or by consulting someone who is 
qualified, if we can find any such. 

However, we must take into consideration the possibility 
that the whole passage about the spirits shut up in prison, 
who had been incredulous in the days of Noe, as the Apostle 
Peter says, may not apply to hell at all, but to other times 
whose similarity he transferred to these times. Surely, that 
event was a likeness of the future, and by it we may under- 
stand that those who refuse now to believe in the Gospel, 
while the Church is being built up among all nations, are like 
the others who did not believe at the time when the ark was 
being built, and that those who have believed and have been 
saved by baptism are compared to the former who were thus 
saved by water in the same ark. That is why he said : 'Baptism, 
being of like form, saveth you also.' Therefore, let us adapt 
the rest of this passage about the incredulous to this likeness, 
and let us not imagine that the Gospel was preached in 
hell in order to win and release believers, or that it is still 
preached there as if the Church had been established there. 

16 1 Cor. 15,3,4. 



LETTERS 393 

It seems to me that the reason why men are inclined to 
this belief, which disturbs you, and why they think that 
Peter meant this, is because he speaks of preaching to spirits 
shut up in prison, as if spirits could not be interpreted as the 
souls which were then shut up in the flesh and in the darkness 
of ignorance as in a prison, of the same kind of prison from 
which the Psalmist longed to be set free when he says : 'Bring 
my soul out of prison, that it may praise thy name.' 17 Else- 
where it is called the shadow of death from which they were 
certainly set free, not in hell, but here, as it is written of 
them: The people that walked in darkness have seen the 
light.' 18 But this preaching was vainly made to them in the 
days of Noe, because they did not believe when the patience 
of God waited for them, through so many years in which the 
same ark was built for its building was in a sense a kind 
of preaching so now, in the same way, their imitators do 
not believe, and are shut up in the darkness of ignorance, as 
in a prison, looking in vain upon the Church being built up 
throughout the whole world, with judgment threatening them, 
as then the flood in which all the incredulous perished, for so 
the Lord says: 'As in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in 
the days of the Son of man. They were eating and drinking, 
marrying and giving in marriage until Noe entered into the 
ark and the flood came and destroyed them all.' 19 Because this 
happening signified a future event, the flood also signified 
baptism for believers and death for unbelievers, just as there 
is a figure in what was said, not done, where it is written of 
the stone by which Christ is signified, that two effects were 
foretold: it is a stumbling-block for unbelievers, a building 
for believers. 20 Sometimes, however, under one figure of either 



17 Ps. 141.8. 

18 Isa. 9.2. 

20 Ps at 117.22; Isa. 814; 28.16; Dan. 2.34; Matt. 21.42,44; Luke 20.17,18; 
Acts 4.1; Rom, 9.33. 



394 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

an act or an utterance, two terms have one meaning: thus, 
the boards which were fitted together into the construction of 
the ark 21 signify the faithful, and the eight souls who were 
saved in the same ark signify the same; similarly, in the 
Gospel, in the parable of the sheepfold, Christ Himself is 
both the shepherd and the door. 22 

The fact that Christ had not yet come at that time should 
not be an obstacle to prevent us from accepting this inter- 
pretation of the Apostle Peter's words about Christ preaching 
to those spirits in prison who had been incredulous in the 
days of Noe. It was only in the flesh that He had not yet come, 
since 'After this he was seen upon earth and conversed with 
men.' 23 But, in truth, from the beginning of the human race, 
He came Himself, if not in the flesh, at least in the spirit, 
speaking in suitable manifestations to whom He willed and 
as He willed, either to rebuke the wicked, as He did to Cain, 
and before him to Adam himself and his wife, or to console the 
good, or to instruct both, so that some believed to their 
salvation, some disbelieved to their damnation. When I said 
'He came in the spirit,' I meant the Son in the substance of 
the godhead, since He is not a body but a spirit. But what 
does the Son do without the Holy Spirit or without the 
Father, since all the operations of the Trinity are inseparable? 

The very words of Scripture with which we are dealing 
sufficiently indicate this, I think, if they are carefully noted: 
'Because Christ,' he says, 'died once for our sins, the just for 
the unjust, that he might offer us to God, being put to death, 
indeed, in the flesh but enlivened in the spirit, in which also 
coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison, which 
had been sometime incredulous in the days when the patience 
of God waited for them, in the days of Noe, when the ark 

21 Exod. 26.25; 30.30; 1 Peter 3.20. 

22 John 10.7; 11. 

23 Bar. 3.38. 



LETTERS 395 

was a-building.' 24 And now I think the order of the words is 
significant : 'Christ was put to death in the flesh but enlivened 
in the spirit, in which spirit coming he preached to those 
spirits that had been sometime incredulous in the days of 
Noe,' since before He came in the flesh to die for us, which 
He did only once. He had often previously come in the 
spirit, appearing to whom He willed, admonishing them as 
He willed of course, in the spirit in which spirit, also, He 
was enlivened after He had been put to death in the flesh by 
His Passion. And how else was He enlivened in the spirit 
than by rising again through the vivifying spirit in the same 
flesh in which He had been put to death? 

But when Jesus was put to death for us in the flesh, who 
would dare assert that His soul also was killed, that is, His 
life-giving principle as man, when there is no death for the 
soul except through sin, from which He was wholly exempt? 
If all the souls of men are derived from that one which was 
breathed into the first man 'by whom sin entered into the 
world and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men,' 25 
either the soul of Christ was not derived from that one, since 
He had no sin of any kind, either original or personal, to 
bring the due penalty of death upon Him a penalty which 
He did not owe, but which He paid for us, since the prince of 
this world and the lord of death found nothing in Him 26 
and it is not unreasonable to believe that He who created a 
soul for the first man should create one for Himself, or, if His 
soul was derived from that first one, He purified it in taking 
it for Himself so that He might be born of the Virgin and 
might come to us without any trace of sin either committed 
or transmitted. However, if subsequent souls are not derived 

24 1 Peter 3.18-20. The Vulgate has: 'When they waited for the patience 
of God/ 

25 Rom. 5.12. 

26 John 14.30; 12.31; Heb. 2.14. 



396 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

from that one, and the flesh alone inherits original sin from 
Adam, then the Son of God created a soul for Himself as He 
creates them for the rest of mankind, but His did not mingle 
with sinful flesh, but only 'in the likeness of sinful flesh. 527 For 
He took the true substance of flesh from the Virgin, but not 
the flesh of sin, since His flesh was not conceived or begotten 
of carnal concupiscence ; yet it was mortal and subject to the 
changes of age, like the flesh of sin, but without sin. 

Consequently, whatever may be the true opinion about 
the soul and I am not so rash as to venture to assert at 
present any of these opinions, except to reject the one which 
holds that individual souls, for some supposed merits of pre- 
vious acts, are imprisoned, so to speak, in individual bodies- 
it is certain that the soul of Christ is not only immortal 5 as 
others souls are by nature, but was also put to death by no 
sin and punished by no damnation, which may be considered 
as the two causes of death to the soul. Therefore, it is not in 
this sense that Christ could be said to be enlivened in the 
spirit. Doubtless, He was brought back to life in the same 
part in which He was put to death; therefore, this was said of 
the flesh : the flesh revived when the soul returned because the 
flesh died when the soul departed. Hence, He was said to be 
put to death in the flesh because He died according to the 
flesh, but He was enlivened in the spirit because it was by the 
action- of that spirit, in which He came and preached as He 
willed, that the flesh itself rose again to life, and in that flesh 
He now comes to men. 

Consequently, even from what was afterward said of the 
incredulous : * Who shall render account to him who is ready 
to judge the living and the dead,' 28 it does not necessarily 
follow that we should here understand those who have de- 
parted from the body. For it could be that by dead he means 

27 Rom. 8.3. 

28 1 Peter 4.5. 



LETTERS 397 

unbelievers, that is, those dead in soul, of such as it says: 
'Let the dead bury their dead,' 29 but by living those who 
believe in Him, who do not hear in vain the words: 'Rise, 
thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead and Christ shall en- 
lighten thee;' 30 of such the Lord Himself says: The hour 
cometh and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the 
Son of God and they that hear shall live/ 31 Consequently, also, 
when Peter continues and says: Tor this cause was the gospel 
preached also to the dead that they might be judged indeed 
according to men in the flesh, but may live according to God in 
the spirit, 532 he does not oblige us to think that this refers to 
hell. For this cause was the Gospel preached also to the dead 
in this life, that is, unbelievers and evil-doers, so that, when 
they believe, 'they may be judged indeed according to men 
in the flesh/ that is, in various tribulations and even in the 
death of the flesh, whence the same Apostle says in another 
place that it is c time that judgment should begin at the house 
of the Lord.' 33 'But that they may live according to God in the 
spirit,' because they had been put to death in the spirit when 
they were involved in the death of unbelief and evil-doing. 

If anyone objects to this commentary on the words of 
Peter, or even if he does not object to it but finds it inad- 
equate, let him seek another in terms of helL And if he is able 
to free me from these perplexities which I mentioned above, so 
as to remove all doubt about them, let him share his knowledge 
with me. But in this case those words will bear a double inter- 
pretation, for my opinion cannot be accused of any fallacy. 
The other questions which you sent before, except the one on 
the possibility of seeing God in the flesh, on which I must 
compose a longer work, I have answered as best I could and 

29 Matt. 8.22; Luke 9.60. 

30 Eph. 5.14. 
SI John 5.25. 

32 1 Peter 4.6. 

33 1 Peter 4.17. 



398 SAINT AUGUSTINE 

sent them by the deacon Asellus. I imagine you have received 
them by this time. In your latest note, which I have now an- 
swered, you asked two questions, both of which have been 
treated, one at length, the other more briefly, namely, about 
the words of the Apostle Peter and about the Lord's human 
soul. But the copy of your letter which contains the question 
about whether the substance of God can be seen corporeally, 
as if in spatial relations, has somehow or other gone astray at 
this end and cannot be found after long search. I ask you to 
send it again, if it is not too much trouble. 



34 609