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THE LETTERS OF 
ST. AUGUSTINE 



HANDBOOKS OF CHRISTIAN LITERATURE 

THE LETTERS OF 
ST. AUGUSTINE 



BY 



W. J. SPARROW-SIMPSON, D.D. 



LONDON : 

SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING 
CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE 

NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 
1919 



CONTENTS 

CHAP. 1'AGB 

INTRODUCTION . . . . . . 7 

I. LETTERS PRIOR TO HIS CONSECRATION . . 24 

II. LETTERS ON PAGANISM . . ' . . 45 

III. LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GOO . . . 63 

IV. LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS . . 77 
V. LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE . .126 

VI. LETTERS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION -. . .185 

VII. LETTERS TO S. JEROME 2l6 

VIII. LETTERS TO WOMEN . ..... 255 

IX. LETTERS ON THE EUCHARIST .... 276 

X. LETTERS' ON DIOCESAN AFFAIRS . . . 301 

XI. LETTERS OF THE CLOSING YEARS . . . 319 

INDEX . 333 



THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 



INTRODUCTION 

AUGUSTINE'S letters have never been translated into 
English as a whole. Large selections have been trans- 
lated containing what appeared to the translators the 
most important. But all such selections are liable to 
omit passages of very great importance. And this is 
certainly what has happened in the present case. Cun- 
ningham's version in the Edinburgh translation of 
Augustine's writings is an admirable rendering of the 
letters which it gives. But the omissions are many 
and serious. 

The purpose of the present work is not to translate 
but to give such an account of Augustine's life and 
thought as may be derived from his letters. A lengthy 
correspondence in any controversy is sure to contain a 
great deal of repetition. The same illustrations, the 
same expositions, the same ideas are certain to be in- 
cluded over and over again. Such repetitions are for 
the most part avoided in the present work, which 
condenses the contents of the letters and presents 
their principal features. 

But since Augustine often refers his correspondents 
for further information to what he has written en a 
particular subject in one of his larger treatises, it seemed 
necessary for completeness' sake to reproduce in such 
cases the main ideas of the teaching to which the Bishop 
refers. On no single subject is the whole of Augustine's 
teaching necessarily to be found in his letters. But if 

7 

13 & 



8 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

the letters are thus supplemented by what he has taught 
elsewhere a fairly full presentation of the great writer's 
mind may be obtained. 

The letters range over a period of forty-three years. 
The earliest was written in A.D. 386, the year before his 
conversion ; the latest in A.D. 429, the year before 
his death. There are 270 letters in the Benedictine 
edition. But of these, fifty are addressed to Augustine ; 
so that we have only 220 from the Bishop's own pen. 
And these 220 include one or two official letters of 
Councils whose authorship is undoubted. 

After all, 220 letters in forty-three years does not 
seem an unwieldy correspondence. If we omit the 
letters written before his consecration this leaves 213 
during his episcopate. 

But then in Augustine's case a letter was often an 
elaborate treatise. So great was his wealth of thought 
that frequently his spring became a river and his river 
became a sea. These letters occupy a folio volume 
consisting, in Gaume's edition, of 1370 columns. 

Moreover, Augustine informs us that he estimated his 
writings to extend to 232 treatises, not including letters 
or sermons (Letter 224, 2). 

Augustine's letters were arranged by the Benedictine 
editors as far as possible in the order in which they 
were written. But there is a large section of which the 
dates are unknown. It has been thought best in the 
present summary of the contents to arrange the letters 
in groups according to subjects, preserving the chrono- 
logical order, as far as possible, within each group. 
This arrangement has the advantage that Augustine's 
teaching and development of mind on various doctrines 
can be easily followed. It also enables the reader to 
see the proportion of his correspondence on the prin- 
cipal subjects which absorbed his attention. 

At the same time, it is difficult to carry out rigorously 
this method of grouping according to subjects. For 
Augustine's correspondents had a way of launching on 



INTRODUCTION 9 

the Bishop a host of miscellaneous inquiries. This 
prevents anything approaching to systematic arrange- 
ment, if the contents of each letter are to be given, as 
they must be, in one place. Biblical expositions again 
form a convenient group by themselves ; while of course 
many an exposition will be found in other divisions. 
It has further seemed best to group together by itself 
Augustine's correspondence with S. Jerome, although 
the letters contained in it belong in part to the section on 
the doctrine of grace and in part to Biblical exposition. 

It is certainly important to retain the chronological 
order of Augustine's letters within each group, as far as 
this might be ; because this arrangement enables us to 
see the development of his mind and his changes of 
opinion. For this great writer changed his opinion on 
more subjects than one, and on matters of very great 
importance. 

Three instances of this change have been noted. 1 

He changed his opinion about coercion in religion. 
In a letter written during his priesthood making over- 
tures to the Donatists (Letter 23, 7, A.D. 392) he 
distinctly says that on the Catholic side there shall be 
no appeal to men's fear of the civil power. There is 
to be nothing but dispassionate appeal to reason and 
Scripture authority. But sixteen years later (Letter 93, 
17, A.D. 408) he owns that his original opinion is now 
abandoned. The expediency of coercion has been 
proved by its results. 

He changed his opinion also about predestination. 
In his earlier period he understood the text, " Who will 
have all men to be saved," as meaning a universal offer 
of salvation. But in his later period, that is, from 
A.D. 417, he was led, by inferences on the doctrine of 
grace and Divine Will, to reject what is the obvious and 
natural meaning of the passage quoted, and to deny, in 
the interests of a theory of predestination, the existence 

1 See Rottmanner in Revue Benedictine, pp. 257-261. 1901. 



io THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

of any sincere will on the part of God that all men 
shall be saved. 

He changed his opinion also on the authorship of the 
Epistle to the Hebrews. Whereas in the early part of 
his career he always ascribes it to S. Paul (cf. De 
Div. Q. Ixxxiii., Ixxv. I ; written in A.D. 389), after the 
year 409 he ceases to make that ascription. Thus he 
says in one place simply "scriptum est ad Hebraeos." 
(Letter 187, 34, A.D. 417.) 

The letters fall quite easily into certain main divisions: 

1. It is natural to group together the letters of the 
early period written while he was a layman, and as a 
priest : all in fact written before the date of his conse- 
cration to the episcopate. 

2. Next to this may be placed the letters on Pagan- 
ism. These form a suitable introduction to his great 
reply to Paganism, The City of God, 

It would be very natural to suggest that the next 
group should be those concerned with Manichaeism ; 
that form of Oriental Dualism to which Augustine was 
au adherent for some nine years, and from which he 
escaped with so much difficulty. But it is a singular 
fact that nothing survives of Augustine's correspond- 
ence with Manichaeans. There are of course allusions 
to the controversy, and cases noted of its intrusion 
into the Church, even among the Church's teachers 
(cf. Letter 236 and Letter 64, 3). But there is no direct 
correspondence with the sect or with its leaders. This 
is all the more remarkable because controversy with 
the Manichaeans occupied a very important place in 
Augustine's early literary labours. There are his five 
works against them which a correspondent called the 
Pentateuch against the Manichaeans. There is, above 
all, the great treatise in reply to Faustus. But there 
is no separate letter to Faustus, nor indeed to any 
Manichaean leader. It may be that in the later period 
of Augustine's episcopate Manichaeisrn had lost its 



INTRODUCTION n 

strength, or that more urgent controversies absorbed his 
attention. 

3. Accordingly, passing over the Manichaean discus- 
sions, the next group of Augustine's letters is that which 
is connected with the Christian doctrine of God. These 
are his replies to Arianism and his exposition of the 
doctrine of the Trinity. 

4. Next to these may be grouped the very important 
series of letters dealing with African Church divisions : 
the Donatist controversy with all its discussions on 
validity of Sacraments, on schism, and on the conditions 
of ministry. Much in these letters will be found to be 
of living interest, involving principles of ecclesiastical 
unity important for all time. 

5. Following on these are grouped the letters on the 
doctrine of grace : that subject with which, more than 
all others, Augustine was identified. 

6. Then there are a number of letters which may 
fairly be grouped together as Biblical expositions. It 
is admitted, of course, that this arrangement is not 
strictly systematic. Letters on interpretation of Scripture 
will be found in most other groups. Nevertheless, it is 
suitable that examples of Augustine's letters as a Biblical 
student should be given by themselves. 

7. To this is naturally appended the celebrated corre- 
spondence between Augustine and Jerome. It is, of 
course, very largely concerned with Biblical interpreta- 
tion and study. But it forms also a group by itself, very 
characteristic of both these great writers. Also it gains 
a great deal by being allowed to tell consecutively its 
own story. 

8. Another series of Augustine's letters which deserve 
to be grouped together, especially in view of modern 
discussions, is his letters to Women. They will help 
to illustrate the position then occupied by educated 
women in the Church. 

9. Much of Augustine's Sacramental teaching is 
scattered over his letters on Donatism. But they are 



12 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

chiefly concerned with Baptism and Ordination. It 
seems well to gather in a special group Augustine's 
letters on the Eucharist. 

10. From the central act of Christian worship we 
turn to the field of administration. We come to get 
an idea of a bishop's occupations, his activities, his 
practical duties in the fifth century. An attempt is, 
therefore, made to collect the letters on Diocesan affairs.- 

n. Lastly comes the natural and inevitable section, 
letters concerned with Augustine's closing years. 

Instruction on almost all the theological problems 
then agitating the human mind may be found in the 
pages of these letters : Paganism, Arianism, Sabellian- 
ism, Novatianism, are all represented, as well as Donatism 
and Pelagianism. It is impossible not to be filled with 
profound admiration for the wonderful intellectual activity 
and comprehensiveness of this great genius. Never was 
there a mind more alert, more sensitive to contemporary 
movements, more implicated in the life and thought of 
his own time. 

Most instructive it is to note the variety of persons 
who corresponded with him. Large numbers of questions 
and difficulties were sent him by all sorts of people. 
They certainly never spared him. They pelted him 
with whole strings of inquiries. And the patient Bishop 
seldom spared himself in answering them. Sometimes 
he took the initiative and wrote to separatists asking 
what their objections were against unity with the Church ; 
or he propounded some dilemmas which he requested 
them to decide ; or he invited them to conference and 
discussion. He always seemed alert in cases of con- 
version to the Church, strengthening the newcomer by 
some exposition of Catholic principles. 

Quite a number of his letters are directed to high 
officials of the State. This department of his corre- 
spondence naturally belongs to the last twenty-five 
years of his episcopate. There is Donatus, Proconsul 



INTRODUCTION 13 

of Africa (Letter 100) ; Generosus occupying a consular 
rank in Numidia (Letter 116) ; Marcellinus the Tribune 
(Letters 128, 133, 138, 139, 141), whose tragic fate was 
one of Augustine's greatest sorrows; Apringius the 
Proconsul (Letter 134); Macedonius Africse Vicarius 
(Letter 154, cf. Life by Possidius, 20) ; Caecilian, sus- 
pected of being implicated in the judicial murder of 
Marcellinus the Tribune (Letter 151) ; Boniface, Count 
of Africa, whom Augustine instructed in African Church 
troubles, and who admitted the Vandals into that un- 
happy country, and afterwards vainly tried to drive 
them out (Letters 185 and 220); Count Valerius, to 
whom Augustine sends a copy of one of his writings 
(Letters 200 and 206) ; the Tribune Dulcitius (Letter 
204) ; Count Darius (Letter 229), who was sent to Africa 
to secure peace, and who asks for a copy of Augustine's 
Confessions (Letter 230), which was sent to him (Letter 
231); and Count Pascentius, an Arian, with whom 
Augustine conferred at Carthage, and who went about 
boasting that he had refuted the Bishop, and to whom 
the Bishop wrote a long and important exposition of 
the Catholic Faith (Letter 238). 

Readers of the letters cannot fail to be impressed with 
Augustine's ascendancy among the bishops of his time. 
He was the moving spirit in Councils, whether concern- 
ing the Donatists or the Pelagians. Official documents 
issued by African Councils were composed by him. 
Even when (as several times occurs) his name is not 
mentioned, the Augustinian authorship is obvious both 
in the arguments and in the style. His familiar anti- 
thesis, his plays on words, his dogmatic outlook, all are 
there. Very significantly we find at the end of one 
such document the endorsement of the Primate : " I, 
Aurelius, Bishop of the Catholic Church of Carthage, 
have signed this letter" (Letter 128). 

It was the Pelagian controversy which drew Augustine 
into most intimate relations with Rome and its Bishops. 
We find him giving expositions of the doctrine of grace, 



14 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

in deferential terms indeed, to Pope Innocent. We find 
him delivering Pope Zosimus from a total misappre- 
hension of the real opinions of Pelagius. We find him 
instructing and, after some misgivings, congratulating 
the future Pope Sixtus on his energetic defence of the 
traditional faith. 

Particularly informing is the recognition at Rome of 
Augustine's pre-eminence as a theologian. He receives 
Innocent's letters as a member of the Councils of Car- 
thage and of Milevis. He receives another letter from 
Innocent as one of the five chief African defenders of 
the doctrine of Grace. But Innocent went further still. 
When he wrote to the Primate of Carthage there was 
only one other person to whom a letter was directed, 
and that other person was the Bishop of Hippo. 

So far as ecclesiastical status is concerned Augustine 
was only Bishop of a very third-rate seaport in an 
inferior province. He was not the Primate of one of the 
African provinces, still less did he occupy the chief place 
in the African hierarchy. Nevertheless it is he who is 
the mind of the African clergy. He is in correspond- 
ence with all parts of the Church : with John, Bishop 
of Jerusalem, with Simplician of Milan, with Paulinus 
in Spain, with Jerome at Bethlehem, with Gaul and 
Marseilles, and with Rome. 

The literature mentioned or quoted in Augustine's 
letters is considerable. 

Among Pagan writers the favourites are Cicero, Virgil 
and Terence. Like many another reader since his time, 
Augustine was deeply impressed by the famous line : 

" Homo sum, humani nil a me alienum puto." 1 

(Letter 155.) 

Horace is also quoted (Letter 143). 

Reference is made to letters written by Seneca to the 
Apostle S.Paul (Letter 153, 14). Among philosophers 
Democritus, Plato and Plotinus are mentioned : the last 

1 Terence Heaut, 77. 



INTRODUCTION 15 

repeatedly (Letter 118, 33), as was to be expected, 
seeing that Augustine's obligations to the Neoplatonists 
are obvious everywhere. Porphyry and his impressions 
on Christianity (Letter 102, 8) ; Apollonius of Tyana, 
and Apuleius of Madaura are often named (Letter 102, 
8), the two latter frequently together. Apuleius being 
an African would be familiar to the Pagans with whom 
Augustine corresponded (Letter 102, 32; Letter 138, 

18). 

In Christian literature frequent reference is made 
naturally to S. Cyprian. Tertullian is also mentioned. 

Seven Scripture expositors are enumerated by Jerome 
in a letter to Augustine. They are Origen, Didymus, 
Apollinaris of Laodicea, Alexander, Eusebius of Emesa, 
Theodore of Heraclium, and John Chrysostom (Letter 75) . 
Augustine makes remarks on these, but without showing 
any particular knowledge of them (Letter 82). We 
know from other parts of his writings that he was 
acquainted with works of S. John Chrysostom. Else- 
where four authors are quoted : Ambrose, Jerome, 
Athanasius and Gregory. It appears, however, that the 
last is not, as Augustine supposed, Gregory Nazianzen, 
nor indeed a Greek writer at all, but a Latin : perhaps, 
as the Benedictines suggest, Gregory of Elvira in Spain. 1 
There is also a reference to Philastrius (Letter 222). 

But Augustine's favourite author is certainly S. 
Ambrose. To appreciate the deep veneration for the 
Bishop of Milan which appears repeatedly in Augustine's 
letters we must bear in mind the pages of the Confessions. 
Ambrose was the living embodiment of priestly ideals ; 
at once attracting and repelling by his entire unworldli- 
ness and self-denying life. It was Ambrose's character 
even more than his exposition of the Faith which con- 
tributed so largely to Augustine's conversion. No 

1 See note by Benedictines to Letter 148, 10. Gaume's edit. 
II. 746. A treatise, possibly by Gregory of Elvira, on the Orthodox 
Faith against the Divine is printed in Appendix to S. Ambrose, ed. 
Migne, ii. 549-568. 



16 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

wonder we find eager inquiries after some of Ambrose's 
writings which Augustine does not yet possess (Letter 
31). No wonder he is quoted as a guide and appealed 
to as an example in matters of practical religion. 
" Ambrosius noster " is one whose insight is decisive 
(Letter 82, 21). Beatus Ambrosius, expounding the 
Gospel of S. Luke, lives in Augustine's glowing memories 
(Letter 147, 17). "Ambrose that saintly man" is 
quoted again, half apologetically, with an assurance that 
his opinion is not valued only because through his 
ministrations the saving Baptism was bestowed upon 
Augustine, but for the intrinsic excellence of his exposi- 
tions (ib. 52). Again " the aforesaid Bishop of Milan " 
is quoted (Letter 148, 12); and the practical question 
how to conduct oneself with regard to unfamiliar practices 
when worshipping in a church away from home, is settled 
at once by appeal to Ambrose's example. 

A quantity of religious literature of an unorthodox 
and debased description found its way to the Bishop's 
house at Hippo. Many a copy of heretical writings was 
sent for Augustine's opinion, or to induce him to make 
reply. Many of the documents of the Donatist con- 
troversy were in his possession ; so were the writings of 
the Pelagians. Reference to these and many a quotation 
are to be found in the course of the letters. Augustine 
has immortalised them by his quotations. There are 
also references, although not very numerous, to Apocry- 
phal writings. One of the strangest of these is a hymn 
which was being circulated by a Spanish sect, the 
Priscillianists, who asserted that it had been composed 
by the Lord Jesus Christ and given to His Apostles on 
the night of the Betrayal ; being in fact the hymn 
referred to in the Gospel as sung before they went out 
to the Mount of Olives. A copy of this document was 
sent by a Spanish Bishop to Augustine for his criticism. 
The hymn is as follows : 

" I desire to set free and I desire to be set free. 
I desire to save and I desire to be saved. 



INTRODUCTION 17 

desire to be born. Dance all of you. 
desire to lament. Mourn ye all of you. 
desire to adorn and I desire to be adorned, 
am the lamp to thee who seest me. 
am the door to thee whosoever knocks at me ; 
Thou who seest what I do, be silent concerning my works." 

(Letter 237.) 

Augustine was familiar with these words and says 
that they were common among apocryphal writings. 
They were accepted by certain sects which accepted 
the canonical writings also. The Priscillianists who 
accepted them accounted for their omission from the 
Canon on the ground that they were kept secret from 
the natural man and reserved for the spiritually minded. 
They justified this exclusion by an appeal to the Book 
of Tobit, where it is written (xii. 7) : " It is good to keep 
close the secret of a king ; but it is honourable to reveal 
the works of God." Accordingly this secret of the king, 
this "sacramentum regis," was concealed from those 
who walked after the flesh, and not after the Spirit. 

Augustine points out that this statement implies that 
the canonical scriptures are not according to the Spirit. 
Further he calls attention to the inextricable confusion 
in which this theory involved the Priscillianists. For 
when they proceeded to explain what these mystic 
sentences mean they quoted texts from the New 
Testament to throw light upon them. For example 
the line : 

" I desire to set free and I desire to be set free" 

was explained by a reference to Galatians v. I, "Stand 
fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made 
us free." If thus the obscurities of this hymn are to be 
explained by the clearer utterances of the New Testa- 
ment, what becomes of the Priscillianist theory that the 
hymn was excluded from the Canon in order that 
spiritual truths should be concealed from the carnally 
minded? (Letter 237). 



i8 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Many details concerning the Councils of the Church 
are given in Augustine's letters. The famous African 
Code of Canons is in process of formation. Councils 
held in the time of Cyprian are appealed to as pre- 
cedents, and evaded. Much stress is laid on " instituta 
majorum" (Letter 36, 2). The different kinds of 
Councils are carefully discriminated, and the authority of 
each is discussed. An accusation against a presbyter must 
be finally settled by a Council of six Bishops. This was 
a Canon of the Council of Carthage in 348 (Letter 65). 
There were in Africa Provincial Councils. For instance 
the Council of Milevis, which was the Council of the 
Province of Numidia (Letter 176). There were Councils 
of the entire " Africana Ecclesia " (Letter 22, 2). These 
were held under the presidency of the Bishop of Car- 
thage as Primate. The Councils of Carthage were very 
independent and influential in their dealings with the 
Popes, especially with Pope Zosimus. The right of 
appeals to Rome was a burning question in the fifth 
century, a subject of expostulation, and of careful 
restriction. Caecilian Archbishop of Carthage possessed 
the right of appeal from the African Council to the 
Bishops beyond the seas ; because the Church is not 
confined to Africa (Letter 43, n). The ultimate 
decision belonged, in the Donatist case, after it had been 
tried before the Pope and his assessors, to a plenary 
Council of the Universal Church (Letter 43, 19) ; that 
is to say, to the collective episcopate. 

The African Church divisions and the action of the 
imperial authorities naturally compelled discussion on 
the relations between Church and State. We find the 
maxim formulated that a Bishop ought not to be 
tried before a proconsular tribunal (Letter 43, 13). 
Augustine reminds the Donatists that by this maxim 
they are self-condemned ; for it was they who made the 
appeal to the authority of the State (Letter 43, 13). 
Doubtless the distinction between the secular and the 
spiritual powers was clear enough to a disciple of 



INTRODUCTION 19 

S. Ambrose. Augustine could certainly never forget 
the principle formulated by the Bishop of Milan that 
the Emperor is within the Church but not above it. 
Certainly also the author of the treatise on The City 
of God was not likely to confuse the State with the 
Church. But yet it must be acknowledged that the 
appeals of the African Church to the State in the matter 
of the Church divisions, and the fact of a conference of 
bishops, over which an imperial lay official presided 
as Moderator, must have done much to confuse the 
distinction in the popular mind. 

Moreover we find Augustine asking for copies of 
imperial decisions against the Donatists in order to have 
them read in all the churches of his diocese (Letter 139). 

The rights of a bishop within his diocese were some- 
times ill-defined and constantly subject to irregularities. 
The right of a bishop to choose his own successor was 
prohibited and exercised. Augustine was actually con- 
secrated to a see not vacant, in ignorance of Canons 
forbidding this. Augustine complains that a man has 
been ordained sub-deacon in the diocese of Hippo with- 
out the Bishop's consent (Letter 63). On the other 
hand there was no difficulty in sub-dividing a diocese. 
Augustine decreed the consecration of a Bishop to a 
portion of the diocese of Hippo. The consecration was 
the Primate's act. The new bishop's misconduct made 
his deprivation necessary, and that part of the diocese 
apparently reverted to Augustine's control. 

Augustine's way of addressing his ecclesiastical 
inferiors is to identify himself with their level. Thus 
a deacon is the bishop's fellow-deacon (Letter 149, i), 
and a presbyter is his fellow-presbyter (ib. 34 : con- 
diaconus, conpresbyter). 

Much is incidentally revealed concerning African 
Church life and its customs. The Church had deve- 
loped a considerable amount of external dignity since 
the days of Constantine. We read of the episcopal 
thrones ascended by flights of steps, the canopied seats, 



20 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

the pulpits (Letter 23, "absidae gradatae . . . Cathedrae 
velatae " ; Letter 29, " exhedram ascenderemus "J. 1 We 
read of several churches in the town of Hippo belong- 
ing to the Catholics ; also of ecclesiastical houses and 
buildings. There was also a church of the Donatists 
to which, at the beginning of Augustine's ministry, the 
majority of the population belonged. Evening service 
was daily said in the church of Hippo (Letter 29). 
But the moral level was deplorably low. Augustine's 
energies as preacher were first directed against the 
drunkenness which prevailed in his own congregation 
at the festival of the Martyrs (Letter 22). We find that 
it had not been usual before Augustine's time for a 
priest to preach when the Bishop was present. This 
innovation was introduced by Bishop Valerius at Hippo, 
who was thankful to avail himself of Augustine's ability. 
And the example was followed by the Primate Aurelius 
at Carthage (Letter 41). Extraordinary local incidents 
of church life are found in these letters. There is a 
weird account of the outrageous attempt of the con- 
gregation at Hippo to compel a wealthy laymen who 
was there on a visit to take an oath that he would be 
ordained among them. It has been cynically observed 
that when the layman had impoverished himself by his 
charity the people's interest in him ceased. The con- 
gregation at Hippo do not shine in this incident. With 
this should be compared the curious scene in church at 
the selection of a coadjutor to Augustine with the right 
of succession (Letter 213). 

North Africa in Augustine's time was a strange 
mixture of languages and nationalities, as appears in 
the proper names. Valerius, Bishop of Hippo before 
Augustine, was a Greek who preached with difficulty in 
Latin. Whether a priest was able to preach in Latin or 
in Punic was of great importance. The question is 
several times mentioned in the Letters. It has been 

1 Letter 29. 



INTRODUCTION 21 

thought that the difficulties between Catholic and 
Donatist were partly created by racial differences, the 
Latin colonists on the one side, the early inhabitants on 
the other. We find uncouth Punic names among the 
Church's martyrs, provoking the ridicule of the cultivated 
Roman Pagan, who could not stand such proper names 
as Mygdon, Sanais, and, worst of all, Namphanio 
(Letter 16). Then again we find apparently a Jewish 
element among the Clergy. Lazarus is a Bishop of the 
African Church (Letter 175). 

Among the Bishops a different origin is suggested by 
the names Chrisimus (Letter 244), Pancarius (Letter 
251), Eufrates (Letter 142), Gignantius (Letter 176). 

Then again there is Bishop Pontican (Letter 247) 
and Classician (Letter 250). 

What strikes all students of the Letters is the curious 
anticipation in North Africa of the Puritan form of 
Christian names. Thus we find Bishop Benenatus 
(Letter 253), and Bishop Adeodatus. Three Bishops in 
one Council share the name of Quodvultdeus. Among 
Augustine's correspondents is a priest named Deogratias 
(Letter 102). Bishop Habetdeus figures in the Confer- 
ence of 410. 

The work of the Church in North Africa was hindered 
by lack of clergy acquainted with the language of the 
people. Augustine's predecessor in the Bishopric of 
Hippo was imperfectly acquainted with the Latin 
language. Hippo was a Roman colony, but contained 
also a Punic population. Augustine's sermons give at 
times Punic words. In a letter still extant (Letter 84) 
Augustine refuses to give up his deacon, Lucillus, for 
work in another diocese on the ground that the deacon 
was able to talk Latin. This is the reading in the text 
of the letter. But it has been thought much more 
probable that the deacon's usefulness consisted in his 
ability to talk Punic. 

Another feature of Church life which Augustine's 
letters display is the constant intercommunication 



22 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

between different portions of the Church. Correspond- 
ence is, indeed, often difficult. One letter-carrier is 
delayed, consecrated to the episcopate, and dies with- 
out delivering his letters. Letters sometimes miscarried 
(Letter 149), and were circulated among people for 
whom they were not meant, while failing to reach the 
persons for whom they were intended. This happened 
with letters sent by Augustine to Jerome. Correspond- 
ence was also at times fearfully belated. Augustine 
complains that he wrote a letter while still juvenis, and 
has not yet received an answer though he has become 
senex. But if years at times elapsed between a letter 
and its reply the fault was not always with the bearer 
of the letter. By way of precaution Augustine mentions 
that he has sealed his letter with a seal representing the 
profile of a man's face (Letter 59). 

In spite of all these drawbacks and difficulties the 
reader of Augustine's letters is constantly reminded how 
closely the various portions of Christendom are linked 
together. Travellers are continually moving from one 
country to another. A Spanish priest, Orosius, visits 
Augustine at Hippo and is sent on to Bethlehem, almost 
certainly commissioned to find out what the Pelagians 
are about, and to neutralise the leader's influence with 
such bishops as John of Jerusalem, who may not be 
equal to his subtlety. No part of Christendom seems 
isolated from the rest. Pope Zosimus sends the Bishop 
of Hippo on a mission to another part of Africa, on 
some business connected with the Holy See. Bishop 
Augustine informs and instructs the successive occupants 
of the Roman See on the nature of the Pelagian dis- 
putes. The Roman bishop misunderstands, through 
inadequate knowledge, an appeal made to him by an 
African priest, and requires to be better informed. 
But there is no isolation ; no mere insularity. The 
Church is one vast organism. 

A study of Augustine's letters is also a study in 
character. His extraordinary ascendancy over his 



INTRODUCTION 23 

contemporaries ; the uniqueness of his genius ; his 
intellectual power, of which he could not possibly be 
unconscious ; the deference with which the leaders of 
the Church regarded his utterances might easily have 
had disastrous effect upon the individual himself. 
What strikes the student of these letters is the writer's 
profound consciousness of the limitations of human 
knowledge ; his readiness to confess his ignorance ; his 
emphatic refusal to be regarded as an oracle ; his in- 
sistence that all theologians are liable to error and 
require correction ; his willingness to be instructed ; 
his submission to the authority of the world-wide 
Church. 

From the use sometimes made of Augustine's theo- 
logical opinions it seems necessary to make what is 
nevertheless an exceedingly obvious remark that the 
opinions of a theologian are by no means necessarily 
accepted by the Church. Augustine's predestination 
theories, which are in these letters carried to rigorous 
extremes, have never been endorsed by the Catholic 
Church. 

No introduction to Augustine's correspondence would 
be complete without drawing attention to his constant 
references to the Scriptures. Considerable portions of 
the Bible could be reproduced from his letters. His 
teaching is continually founded upon prophetic and 
apostolic utterances. The quotations are profuse. The 
use made of them is most penetrating ; so obviously 
the result of deep and continued study. 1 This appears 
chiefly in the teaching on Sacrament and Schism. But 
above all is the wonderful exposition of the Christian 
doctrine of Grace. 

1 Cf. Bossuet, Defense de la Tradition, Pt. I. iv. cap. xvi. 

[The Letters have been studied in the Benedictine text, and in 
Gaume's edition, Paris 1836. But reference has been made to the 
Vienna edition by Goldbacher, 4 vols., 1895-1911. The references 
to S. Jerome are to Vallarsi's edition, Verona 1735.] 



CHAPTER I 

LETTERS PRIOR TO HIS CONSECRATION 

THE first series of letters belong to the period before 
Augustine's consecration. They are dated between the 
years 386 and 395. They include the letters to his friend 
Nebridius ; to Valerius, Bishop of Hippo; to Aurelius, 
Bishop of Carthage, and to Paulinus of Nola. They 
were all written after the return to Africa. No letters 
of the earlier period in Italy exist. Information about 
that time is obtained from the Confessions, from the 
discussions embodied in the early treatises, and from 
scattered allusions in the later letters. 

Among the early letters of Augustine there is a series 
of twelve, 1 written before his ordination, that is before 
the year 391, to his friend Nebridius. Nebridius owned 
an estate near Carthage. His acute criticism caused 
much* perplexity to Augustine during his Manichaean 
phase. 2 Nebridius followed Augustine to Milan ex- 
pressly in order to pursue together the search for 
truth. He was one of the circle of Augustine's most 
intimate associates sharing his retreat in the Villa at 
Cassiacum not far from Milan during the months which 
followed immediately after the great writer's conversion. 
Nebridius himself was still outside the Christian Faith. 
He was unable to believe in the Incarnation. He held 
the theory that the Body of Christ was not constituted 
of flesh and bones, but was only an appearance and a 
phantasm. But he was an eager inquirer after truth. 
Augustine's conversation led the way which his friend 

1 Letters 3-14. 2 Confessions, vi. 17; vii. 3. 

24 



LETTERS PRIOR TO HIS CONSECRATION 25 

was to follow. 1 They earnestly discussed together in 
Italy the problem of immortality and the nature of evil 
and good. When Augustine returned to Africa, 
Nebridius settled in his country house near Carthage, 
where he lived with his mother. Meantime Augustine 
founded his community at Thagaste. And Nebridius's 
heart uas there. Weak health, however, prevented his 
joining it. Letters were frequent between them. 

Augustine had sent Nebridius some copies of his 
writings, no doubt the Dialogues composed in the 
country house near Milan, and had received a grateful 
reply congratulating him as happy. Augustine's answer 
breathes the calm reflective spirit of the period of 
retreat in which, without knowing it, he was preparing 
for his priestly labours. 

" I read your letter beside the lamp after supper. 
The time of rest was near but not of sleep. On my 
bed I fell into a long meditation, and talked to myself, 
Augustine conversing with Augustine : Is it not true, 
as Nebridius says, that I am happy ? Not altogether ; 
for that I am still far from wise he himself would not 
venture to deny. May not, however, a happy life be 
the portion of those who are not wise? That is not 
probable. For were it so, lack of wisdom would be 
but a small defect, whereas it is the source of all un- 
happiness. How then did Nebridius come to such a 
view ? Was it because he had read my tracts and 
ventured to think me wise? Surely his pleasure could 
not make the man so rash : more especially since he is 
a person whose judgment, as I well know, is of weight. 
Here is the explanation : he wrote what he thought 
would please me, because he was pleased with my 
writings; and he wrote in a joyful mood, careless what 
he entrusted to his joyous pen. What would he have 
written if he had read my Soliloquies ? He would have 
rejoiced still more. But he would not have found a 

1 Confessions, vi. 26. 



26 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

higher term to call me than happy. So then he has 
ascribed to me the highest of all names, and has kept 
nothing in reserve whereof to call me if he became more 
joyous over me than he is at present. See what joy 
can do ! " 

This interesting passage shows already the writer's 
accurate and reasoned use of words, and also that he 
judged his Soliloquies to be a more important work than 
his other early writings. There is no question that in 
this his insight was true, and that his opinion has been 
endorsed in the judgment of posterity. 

Augustine throws this letter into the form of a 
Catechism. 1 

Of what parts do we consist ? Of soul and body. 

Which of these is the nobler ? Doubtless the soul. 

What do men praise in the body? Nothing that I 
see but comeliness. 

And what is comeliness of body? Harmony of parts in 
the form, together with a certain agreeableness of colour. 

Is this comeliness better when it is true, or when it is 
illusive ? Unquestionably it is better when it is true. 

And when is it found true? In the soul. The soul, 
therefore, is to be loved more than the body. 

But in what part of the soul does this truth reside ? 
In the mind and understanding. 

With what has the understanding to contend ? With 
the senses. 

Must we then resist the senses with all our might? 
Certainly. 

What then if the things with which the senses 
acquaint us gives us pleasure ? We must prevent them 
from doing so. 

How ? By acquiring the habit of doing without them, 
and desiring better things. 

But if the soul die, what then ? Why then truth 

1 Letter 3. 



LETTERS PRIOR TO HIS CONSECRATION 27 

dies, or intelligence is not truth, or intelligence is not 
a part of the soul, or that which has some part immortal 
is liable to die ; conclusions all of which I demonstrated 
long ago in my Soliloquies to be absurd because im- 
possible ; and I am firmly persuaded that this is the 
case, but somehow through the influence of custom in 
the experience of evils we are terrified and hesitate. 
But even granting, finally, that the soul dies, which I 
do not see to be in any way possible, it remains never- 
theless true that a happy life does not consist in the 
evanescent joy which sensible objects can yield ; this I 
have pondered deliberately and proved. 1 

Nebridius desired to be more fully acquainted with 
his friend's religious development. 2 Augustine replies 
that he has not yet arrived at the beginning of the soul's 
manhood. His soul is in its boyhood still. He hopes 
it may be called a promising boyhood rather than a 
a good for nothing. He is, at any rate, well assured 
that the intellect is superior to the senses ; which 
implies the superiority of things perceived by the 
intellect over those perceived by the material organs 
of sensation. If Nebridius can discover any flaw in 
this argument let him say so. 

But, after all, these activities of the intellect, although 
valuable in their place and degree, are completely 
subordinated to the religious experiences of the spirit : 
" and when after calling upon you for help I begin to 
rise to Him and to those things which are in the highest 
sense real, I am at times satisfied with such a grasp and 
enjoyment of the things which eternally abide that I 
sometimes wonder at my requiring any such reasoning 
as I have given above to persuade me of the reality of 
those things which in my soul are as truly present to 
me as I am to myself." 3 

It seems that Augustine's fellow-citizens at Thagaste 

1 Letter 3. 2 Letter 4. s Letter 4, 2. 



28 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

invaded his hours of study, and made serious inroads 
on his time and thought. Nebridius was highly in- 
dignant with this frustration 1 of the very purpose of 
Augustine's retirement from the world. " Is it true, 
my beloved Augustine," he wrote, " that you are spend- 
ing your strength and patience on the affairs of your 
fellow-citizens, and that the leisure from distractions so 
earnestly desired is still withheld ? Who, I would like 
to know, arc the men who thus take advantage of your 
good nature, and trespass on your time ? . . . Have you 
no friend at hand to tell them what your heart is set 
upon? Will neither Romanian nor Lucinian do this? 
Let them hear me at all events." Nebridius proposes 
that Augustine should remove to the writer's home. 

In a remarkable passage in answer to Nebridius's 
inquiry by what means certain thoughts and dreams 
are put into our minds by higher powers or by super- 
human agents, Augustine says, 2 " It is my opinion that 
every movement of the mind affects in some degree the 
body." Although no physical effect of mental activity 
be discernible to other human beings, yet it may be 
discerned by beings of acuter faculties than those of 
men. " It is by no means unreasonable to suppose 
that beings which act with the powers of an aerial or 
ethereal body upon our bodies, and are by the consti- 
tution of their natures able to pass unhindered through 
these bodies, should be capable of much greater quick- 
ness in moving whatever they wish, while we, though 
not perceiving what they do, are nevertheless affected 
by the results of their activity." This is certainly a 
remarkable essay in fourth-century psychology. 

Nebridius greatly valued Augustine's letters. They 
" bring to his ear the voice of Christ and the teaching 
of Plato and of Plotinus." 3 But, greatly as he valued 
the written message, he longed far more with the irrita- 
bility of weak health for actual conversation. He grew 

1 Letter 5. 2 Letter 9. 3 Letter 6. 



LETTERS PRIOR TO HIS CONSECRATION 29 

importunate in proposals that they should live together. 
He even reproached Augustine with indifference to his 
plans for common life. 1 Augustine was much distressed 
at his friend's reproach, but explained that he cannot 
transfer the Community to Carthage or the neighbour- 
hood. Their mutual friend Lucinian suggested that 
Nebridius could bear the journey in a litter ; but his 
mother would never consent to his removal in his inva- 
lidish state. Augustine cannot leave the Community 
and come to Nebridius. For Nebridius has mental 
resources when left to himself, but in the Community 
are some who require constant attention. Neither can 
Augustine divide his time between the Community and 
Nebridius. Constantly journeying to and fro would be 
beyond his strength. 

" I cannot accomplish what I wish unless I cease 
wholly to wish what is beyond my strength." Moreover 
continual travelling would be destructive to tranquillity 
and collectedness. Doubtless incessant movement is, 
in certain rulers of the Churches, blended with the grace 
of recollection; but it is neither Augustine's mission, 
nor within reach of his capabilities ; still less is it con- 
genial to his tastes. There is much need for withdrawal 
from the tumult of things transitory, in order to acquire 
the calmness of spirit which can say I have no fear. 

Nebridius's desire was not to be achieved. During 
the brief remainder of his days he was the favoured 
recipient of Augustine's letters. But apparently they 
never met again on earth. He became "a faithful 
member of the Catholic Church." 2 And when " his 
whole household were brought to Christianity through 
him," he was "released from the flesh." Augustine 
afterwards dedicated to his memory a touching page 
of his Confessions. 

No sooner was Augustine ordained to the priesthood 
than he wrote to his bishop, Valerius, the well-known 

1 Letter 10. 2 Confessions, ix. 6. 



30 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

letter 1 asking for some months quiet before his priestly 
labours should begin. When the circumstances of his 
ordination are remembered this request was only right 
and natural. Augustine's ordination was no calm, de- 
liberate reception of the ministerial commission after a 
lengthy period of conscious preparation. He not only 
did not seek the priesthood, he had deliberately avoided 
it. His ideal, as his letters have already shown, was 
a life of study and devotion ; not at all a life of active 
ministry and administration. He was living in Com- 
munity as a recluse. He avoided 'cities where ordination 
might be imposed upon him by the congregation or 
by the clergy in spite of his reluctance. When he visited 
Hippo he thought himself safe because there was no 
vacancy in the See. Nevertheless, ordained he was, in 
spite of his reluctance and in spite of his tears. 

His letter to Bishop Valerius still remains to testify 
to his feelings on being suddenly set in the respon- 
sibilities of the Apostolic ministry. His words are 
memorable. 2 "If," he wrote, "the duties of the office 
of a bishop or presbyter or deacon be discharged in 
a perfunctory and time-serving manner, no work can 
be in this life more easy, agreeable, and likely to secure 
the favour of men, especially in our day ; but none at 
the same time more miserable, deplorable, and worthy 
of condemnation in the sight of God " ; and on the 
other hand, "if in the office of bishop or presbyter or 
deacon the orders of the Captain of our Salvation be 
observed, there is no work in this life more difficult, 
toilsome, and hazardous, especially in our day, but none 
at the same time more blessed in the sight of God." 

Augustine complains that he has never been taught, 
either in youth or in early manhood, what the method 
of that ministry is. He thought that his ordination in 
such a state of ignorance must have been a punishment 
for his sins. He tells the old Bishop with delightful 

1 Letter 21. 2 Ibid. 






LETTERS PRIOR TO HIS CONSECRATION 31 

frankness that he was accustomed formerly, with an 
air of superiority, to criticise the defects of the clergy. 
He has now begun to realise the rashness of his judg- 
ment. It was this which caused his tears when he was 
being ordained : tears which were completely misunder- 
stood by some who wished him well. 

He was ordained just at the very time when he was 
beginning to devote himself to the study of the Scrip- 
tures. He was just advanced far enough to realise his 
deficiencies. What can be more essential for a man 
who undertakes the ministry of the Sacrament and of 
the Word of God ? Note this familiar twofold division 
of ministerial functions already in use. He appeals to 
Father Valerius to give him time to study the Scriptures 
before he begins to teach. At least let him have till 
Easter. He asks Valerius to aid him with prayers that 
his absence from the people may not prove fruitless to 
the Church of Christ and the benefit of his brethren. 

Augustine's peculiar power was recognised by his 
ecclesiastical superiors very soon after his ordination. 
Already he is in correspondence with the Primate, 1 
Aurelius, Bishop of Carthage, on the defects of African 
Church life (" Ecclesia Africana "). It appears that the 
festival commemorations of the Martyrs at Hippo were 
scandalous scenes of drunkenness. Quoting S. Paul's 
exhortation to the Romans, " Not in rioting and drunken- 
ness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife 
and envying," Augustine says that while the second of 
these three classes of sin is punished severely by the 
Church, by exclusion from the Sacraments, neither the 
first nor the third were treated as seriously. Unless 
the laws of the Church are as strict in these cases as 
in the other, these sins will be less seriously regarded 
in popular esteem. S. Paul forbade participation in 
a common meal with Christians who were drunkards. 
If we are to receive the Body of Christ together with 

1 Letter 22. 



32 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

persons with whom S. Paul prohibits the sharing of a 
common meal, at least, says Augustine, let us keep 
these scandals away from the graves of the saintly dead. 
He feels that the moral level of the African Church in 
these matters is inferior to that of many other places. 
The evil is long-standing and deeply rooted. Augus- 
tine thinks that the authority of a Council of the Church 
will be necessary if this evil is to be removed. At 
the same time tact and sympathetic treatment will 
be essential (" Magis docendo quam jubendo, magis 
monendo quam minando"). 

"Thus, at least, we must deal with the multitude; 
severity is to be employed toward the sins of the few. 
And if we threaten, let it be done with sorrow, threat- 
ening from Scripture a judgment to come, so that 
deference be not paid to our authority but to God 
Himself in our words. In this way an impression will 
be made first upon the spiritually minded or upon those 
who are inclined that way ; and then by their influence 
and through the gentlest but most urgent exhortations 
the rest of the multitude will be overcome." l 

A later letter will show how admirably Augustine 
practised his own precepts when he came to deal with 
difficulties and disorders of this kind in the Church at 
Hippo. 

Augustine observes further that festival commemora- 
tions in the cemeteries were regarded by popular opinion 
not only as honouring the Martyrs but as some advan- 
tage to the dead ("solatia mortuorum"). Consequently 
it is necessary to disentangle the true element in these 
observances from the false. Sanction should be given 
to the belief that offerings for the spirits of those who 
are asleep do really confer some benefit on the dead. 2 
But the practice must be regulated ; and extravagance 
forbidden. No offerings are to be put up for sale, and 

1 Letter 22, p. 41, 5. 

2 Oblationes pro spiritibus dormientium, quas vere aliquid 
adjuvare credendum est. Ibid. 6. 



LETTERS PRIOR TO HIS CONSECRATION 33 

offerings of money must be given immediately to the 
poor. Regulations of this kind will justify no com- 
plaint on the ground that the dead are neglected or 
the bereaved ill-considered. 

As for strife and deception, the third class of the list 
of defects, Augustine fears that these exist more seri- 
ously among 1 the clergy than among the people. He 
speaks of the subtle dangers of human praise, and the 
temptations to self-esteem whose force no man realises 
until he has made war against it. On this subject he 
speaks feelingly, for he has felt its danger. 

He closes by asking the Bishop to pray for him, 
adding : " There are many things concerning my life and 
conversation of which I will not write, which I would 
confess with weeping if between my heart and your 
heart there were no other medium than my mouth and 
your ears." 2 

Another of Augustine's correspondents was Paulinus 
of Nola. 

Augustine kept up his correspondence with Paulinus 
of Nola throughout his life. He wrote to Paulinus at 
a later date (417) instructing him in the Pelagian dis- 
putes (Letter 186) ; and yet later still (about 421) he 
composed, in reply to Paulinus's inquiries, the treatise 
on care for the dead. 

Paulinus had formerly held the office of Consul, and 
had travelled much about the world. He knew Am- 
brose at Milan, and looked on him as his spiritual 
father. He had retired from secular functions and was 
now residing in Spain, and had married a lady named 
Therasia. He records in a letter to Augustine's friend 
Alypins that he had been baptised by Delphinus, 
Bishop of Bordeaux, 3 and consecrated Bishop by Lam- 
pius of Barcelona. He knew a number of clergy in. 
high places, including Bishop Aurelius of Carthage. 
His veneration for Augustine was unbounded. Five of 

1 Letter 21, 7. 2 Letter 21, 9. 3 Letter 24, 2. 

c 



34 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Augustine's writings are known to him ; l and he does 
not hesitate to consider them divinely inspired, and to 
call them the Pentateuch against the Manichaeans. He 
writes as one familiar with the Churches and the 
Monasteries of Africa, whether at Carthage, Thagaste, 
or Hippo Regius. He sends Alypius a copy of the 
Chronicon of Eusebius ; asks to know which of his own 
hymns Alypius is acquainted with ; and sends him, 
in the usual way of salutation, a loaf which he calls 
eulogia? 1 

It is noteworthy that both this letter and another 3 to 
Augustine are sent not only by Paulinus but also by 
Therasia his wife. In this letter Augustine is addressed 
in glowing language as a light worthy of its place on the 
candlestick of the Church, diffusing widely in the 
Catholic towns the brightness of a flame fed by the oil 
of the seven-branched lamp of the Upper Sanctuary. 

With characteristic humility he says that if the office 
which they hold is considered, Augustine is his brother ; 
if maturity of intelligence, Augustine, although his 
junior in years, is his father. And he asks to be in- 
structed in the Sacred Scriptures and in spiritual studies. 

A letter to Licentius, son of Romanian, recalls an 
earlier chapter of Augustine's career. 4 Readers of the 
Confessions will remember that far back in the critical 
period of Augustine's youth, when the slender resources 
of his family were exhausted and he was withdrawn 
from higher education, Romanian, a wealthy African 
citizen, came to his support and generously provided 
the necessary funds (Confessions, II. 5). From that 
time Romanian followed with interest Augustine's 
progress. They were together at Milan in that discus- 
sion, over which many a reader must have smiled, 
when oblivious to the fact that some of the party had 
wives, the little group of Augustine's friends debated on 

1 Letter 24, 2. 2 Letter 24. 

3 Letter 25. * Letter 26, A.D. 395. 



LETTERS PRIOR TO -HIS CONSECRATION 35 

possibility of leading a Community life {Confessions , 
VI. 24). Augustine's earnestness was sometimes a 
little lacking in a sense of the ludicrous. 

In the little party of friends in retreat at the country 
house of Verecundus, outside Milan, Licentius was 
included. At that time he was Augustine's pupil, and, 
as the records of their conversations show, was in his 
master's opinion deficient in moral calmness and sincerity 
of purpose. Licentius was gifted with ability and was 
an educated person, but his interests were classical and 
pagan, literary and worldly, not by any means spiritual 
or Christian. He is frequently mentioned in the 
Dialogues and early writings of his great teacher. 1 

Now that Augustine was a priest, Licentius sent 
a lengthy piece of Latin hexameters to his former 
teacher. 

Augustine was not at all disposed to criticise his 
verses, but rather if possible to deepen his character. 
He was very anxious about the young man's morals. 
In affectionate terms Augustine told him that while 
dreading the restraints of wisdom the young man was 
becoming enslaved to mortal affairs. He tells Licentius 
that the restraint of discipline, while admittedly hard 
to bear at first, results in freedom and in joy : whereas 
the fetters of the world have a delusive charm and an 
experience full of misery. 

Augustine tells him that if his verses were not 
according to rule of rhythm he would be ashamed of 
them, and would never rest until they had been carefully 
corrected : but if his conduct is not in accordance with 
the laws of God, how can he be content to let it remain 
uncorrected? Is an error in literary composition more 
serious to him than moral disorder must be in the ears 
of God ? 

Licentius had put into verse the wish that the days 
spent with Augustine in the hills of Italy might be 

1 See De beata Vita, 6, Works, I. p. 501. 



36 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

recalled. If Augustine will but express the wish 
nothing would prevent Licentius from following him. 

Augustine quotes this sentiment and applies it to 
morals. He calls on Licentius to follow him not to 
the hills of Italy but into a better life. " Give heed 
to your own poem," he exclaims, " listen to yourself, 
my most unreasonable, most unheeding friend," He 
calls upon the young man to attend to the words : " My 
yoke is easy and my burden is light." 

To this he adds a constraining and affectionate 
appeal. " Why do you turn away from me ? Why 
yield your ears to the imaginations of deadly pleasures ? 
They are false. They will perish. They lead to de- 
struction. They are false, Licentius." He tells him 
that if he were to find a golden crown in the earth he 
would present it to the Church. Licentius has received 
from God a mind which is spiritually golden, and he 
makes it an instrument of his passions, and a means of 
approach to Satan. 

The bearer of Augustine's reply to Paulinus was 
Romanian. 1 Augustine reminds Paulinus that the 
bearer's name will be found in the treatise on True 
Religion : 2 a treatise which was evidently one of the five 
which Augustine sent to Paulinus. This treatise was 
written for Romanian's instruction and in reply to his 
inquiries. Augustine informs Paulinus that Romanian 
possesses copies of all his writings, and will submit them 
to Paulinus's consideration. But Augustine asks Paulinus 
to remember that what he has written erroneously is his 
own, whereas what he has written correctly is due to 
Him in Whose light we shall see light " For," says 
Augustine characteristically, " what have we that we 
have not received ? " It is important to note this ascrip- 
tion of insight to the grace of God in this early period 
of Augustine's development, and long before the Pelagian 
troubles had become conspicuous. 

1 Letter 27, p. 62. . ~ De Vera Religione, 12. 



LETTERS PRIOR TO HIS CONSECRATION 37 

Paulinus had written to Bishop Alypius asking for an 
account of his religious experiences. 1 Alypius, whose 
spiritual life had been bound up with that of Augustine, 
and who had been the solitary witness of Augustine's 
conversion (Confessions, VIII. 30), could undoubtedly 
have written a religious autobiography of exceptional 
interest. But he appears in this letter of Augustine as 
a man of profound humility and reserve, whose sensitive- 
ness of nature did not allow him to record his innermost 
experiences even for the edification of others. He 
therefore asked Augustine to reply instead of him. 
Augustine accordingly answered Paulinus's request by 
dwelling on the exceptional character of his intimate 
friend, and by informing Paulinus that Alypius was 
a relative of Romanian, the bearer of this letter. 

It further appears that Romanian was travelling to 
Italy with his son Licentius, the young man who was 
the subject of Augustine's affectionate anxiety. He 
commends Licentius to Bishop Paulinus in the earnest 
hope that the young man will be influenced by him. 
" I desire earnestly," wrote Augustine, " that while his 
life is yet in the green blade, the tares may be turned 
into wheat, and he may believe those who know by 
experience the dangers to which he is eager to expose 
himself." Augustine sends Paulinus a copy of the young 
man's poetry and of his own letter in reply. 

An exceedingly graphic letter, 2 written by Augustine 
soon after he became a priest to his friend Alypius, 
Bishop of Thagaste, shows the tenacity of pagan cus- 
toms over Christian converts, and the difficulty expe- 
rienced by the Church in overcoming them. 

The ordinary Christian of Hippo was strongly disposed 
to convert the festivals of the Church into occasions for 
drunkenness. This scandal appears to have reached 
its worst on the Festival of S. Leontius, a former Bishop 
of Hippo, and in the Church which he had erected and 

1 Letter 27, 5, p. 65. 2 Letter 29. 



38 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

which was dedicated in his memory. Bishop Valerius 
imposed on his priest Augustine the task of preaching 
against this popular vice. 

Just before the festival the passage read in the Gospel 
was on casting pearls before swine, and Augustine availed 
himself of the lesson to make some emphatic statements 
against sensual self-indulgence. He told the congrega- 
tion that people who did that sort of thing in their own 
houses ought to be driven away from the pearls which 
were in the Church's possession. 

This discourse on pearls and swine was made to a 
somewhat scanty congregation. But the hearers re- 
ported the substance of it in Hippo, where it roused 
considerable opposition. 

On a later occasion the people assembled in much 
larger numbers. The Gospel account of Christ cleansing 
the Temple was the singularly appropriate lesson for 
the day. Augustine drew the moral that if Christ could 
not tolerate the intrusion of worldliness in the Sanctuary 
even in the form of commercial transactions, the con- 
gregation might infer for themselves what our Lord's 
attitude would be towards vices which are nowhere per- 
missible. Drunkenness at a religious festival would 
have been an intolerable scandal among the Jews. 
What was it among Christians? Augustine read to 
them from Exodus how the great Legislator threw down 
the Tables of the Law in despair at the conduct of his 
people. What distinguished the Christian from the 
Jew was the writing of the Law upon his heart. What 
degraded the Christian beneath the Jew was the intro- 
duction into Christian worship of a scandal which never 
once occurred among the Jews except when that people 
fell away into pagan idolatry. 

Accordingly Augustine laid Exodus aside and turned 
to the Pauline Epistles. He reminded his hearers how 
S. Paul required the faithful to separate themselves 
from the drunken ; how he warned that they who do 
such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God ; how 



LETTERS PRIOR TO HIS CONSECRATION 39 

he corrected the Eucharistic scandals at Corinth ; how 
he characterised the works of the flesh and the fruits of 
the Spirit. 

Then Augustine pleaded with the people with all the 
earnestness that he could command, by the Passion of 
Christ, by their regard for the venerable Bishop 
Valerius, by the trust imposed on the preacher, by 
solemn warnings from the Psalms ; 

" If his children forsake my law I will visit their 
offences with the rod, and their sin with scourges." 

Being deeply moved he spoke so effectually that they 
were also moved and softened, and priest and people 
wept together over the sins of the congregation. 

But there .was yet the outer circle to be convinced 
and won. Adverse criticism upon the preacher still 
continued. The time-honoured argument against re- 
forms was made as usual. There had been clergy in 
Hippo before Augustine came. They permitted these 
customs to continue. They were just as true Christians 
as Augustine was. 

Rumours of these criticisms were brought to the 
preacher. He prepared himself to answer them by 
appeal to the assurance given to Ezekiel (xxxiii. 9), 
that the prophet who warns the evil even if his warning 
is unsuccessful at least delivers his soul. He would 
shake his robe and depart. 

That sermon however was not delivered. For the 
critics themselves came and interviewed Augustine 
before the time of service, and he was enabled to win 
them over to his course. Setting aside therefore the 
sermon which he had prepared, he contented himself 
with explaining how it was that the clergy of a pre- 
vious generation had not insisted on suppressing these 
festivities. It was due to the fact that the Church was 
in the period of persecutions. The leaders of the 
Church made concessions to the pagan ways. It was 
an indulgence to human infirmities: an encouragement 



40 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

to the pagan to become converted, if too austere a 
demand were not made upon him at the beginning. 
They were permitted to honour the Martyrs by social 
festivities. These reasons were now matters of the past. 
Now that men were converted the Christian standard 
must prevail. 

It appears that the supporters of pagan custom had 
been able to appeal to similar festivities held in Rome 
in the Basilica of the Blessed Apostle Peter. 

Augustine's reply to this is characteristic. He ad- 
mitted the fact but urged that it had been often for- 
bidden ; that the place where it happened was a long 
way off the Bishop's dwelling; that in so large a city 
the population was very mixed ; and that in any case 
those who desire to honour S. Peter should obey his 
precepts, and pay attention to his ideal plainly given 
in his letters, rather than to the practice which went 
on in his Church in contradiction to his ideal. There- 
upon Augustine quoted i Pet. iv. 1-3, where S. Peter 
says that the time of our past life should suffice us to 
have walked in drunkenness. 

The effect of this explanation was excellent. Augus- 
tine directed that the time should be spent in Scripture 
readings and in the Psalms. And the day passed in 
a very edifying manner. 

One further day completed the good work. The 
congregation assembled in larger numbers than ever. 
Scripture was read and Psalms were sung. So the 
evening came on. The Bishop ordered Augustine, much 
against his will, to address the people again. Accord- 
ingly he gave a short thanksgiving for the blessings 
of the day. So the daily evensong was reached, and 
evening closed in upon the singing of a hymn. 

Meanwhile, he hears that there has been trouble at 
another Church in the diocese. The Circumcellions 
broke into the Basilica and destroyed the Altar. The 
place was called Hasna, where Brother Argentius is 
presbyter. 



LETTERS PRIOR TO HIS CONSECRATION 41 

From a letter to Paulinus of Nola 1 comes the 
announcement that Augustine has been consecrated 
in 395 coadjutor bishop at Hippo by Bishop Valerius, 
who was not satisfied with continuing him in the rank 
of presbyter. This was done relying on certain pre- 
cedents. In Augustine's Life by Possidius we are 
informed that Augustine had misgivings whether the 
consecration of a successor during a Bishop's lifetime 
was not against the custom of the Church. But he 
was led at the time to believe that the procedure was 
correct. Precedents both in the African Church and 
in other Churches across the seas were produced for 
it. Augustine did not know at the time that this was 
forbidden by the Council of Nicaea. 

The eighth Canon of Nicaea regulates in such a way 
as to maintain the principle "that there may not be 
two bishops in the city." Hammond says that " the 
rule of one bishop only in a city was of universal 
observance in the Church from the very beginning . . . 
All attempts to ordain a second were condemned and 
resisted . . . This rule however did not apply to the 
case of coadjutors, where the bishop, from old age or 
infirmity, was unable to perform the duties of his 
office." 2 

Towards the close of his life, some four years before 
his death, Augustine held a meeting of his people, and 
with their approval took the step of nominating his 
own successor. But he declined to have his successor 
consecrated while he lived. He informed his people 
that such consecration was forbidden by the Council 
of Nicaea, and that the irregularity incurred in his 
own consecration had been done in ignorance, since 
neither he nor Bishop Valerius were aware of the 
Nicene Decree at the time. 3 It might be thought a 
singular thing that African Bishops should be ignorant 

1 Letter 31, 4. 

2 Hammond, The Definitions of Faith, 1843, p. 28. 

3 See Letter 213, 4. 



42 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

of the Decrees of Nicaea seventy years after they had 
been passed. But when we find even a Pope (Zosimus) 
confusing the Decrees of Nicaea with those of another 
council we shall be less surprised at the ignorance of 
a local bishop. 

Augustine begs Paulinus to pay a visit to Africa, 1 
sends him his three books on Free Will, and refers to 
some writings of S. Ambrose which are no longer ex- 
tant. One of Augustine's Community, Brother Severus, 
has been made Bishop (Antistes) of the Church of 
Milan. Augustine sends Paulinus bread, after the 
manner of eastern salutation. 

Paulinus did not visit Africa in person, but some 
of the Spanish clergy did. They brought back to 
Paulinus in Spain, letters from Aurelius of Carthage, 
Alypius of Thagaste, Severus of Milevis, and Augustine. 
After receiving these, Paulinus, acting on Augustine's 
request about Licentius, wrote a letter to Romanian, 
the young man's father. He congratulates the African 
Churches on possessing Augustine among their Bishops, 
and speaks in high praise of the aged Bishop Valerius's 
freedom from all jealousy of Augustine's great abilities. 
Paulinus expresses the hope, nay the assurance, that 
Romanian's son will listen to this " summus Christi 
pontifex." 2 Augustine's pleadings will prevail over 
the young man's earthly desires. 

The writer directs the remainder of his letters to 
Licentius. Remembering the young man's love of 
verse, Paulinus sends him a poem in which he sings 
Augustine's praises. What the young man thought of 
the poem history does not record. But Paulinus did 
not hesitate twice over in some eighty-six lines to end 
an hexameter with the word Augustinus. Licentius 
was very fastidious of his literary productions. The 
young man did nothing of this kind in the Carmen 
which he sent to Augustine, his father's teacher 

1 Letter 31, 4. 2 Letter 32, 3. 



LETTERS PRIOR TO HIS CONSECRATION 43 

(cf. Letter 26). Paulinus's verses are full of admirable 
advice and spiritual principles. 

At the date of Augustine's priesthood (391-395) it 
was not the custom in the African Church that a priest 
should preach when his bishop was present. It appears 
to have been Bishop Valerius of Hippo who introduced 
this innovation. Other bishops soon began to follow 
his example. There is a letter written by Augustine 
together with his friend Alypius, soon after the former 
became a bishop, to Bishop Aurelius of Carthage 1 con- 
gratulating him on authorising priests to preach at 
Carthage when the Bishop was present. 

References to Augustine's delicate health appear from 
time to time in the letters, as they do in the sermons 
and in the treatises. Weakness of constitution is fre- 
quently mentioned in the Confessions. Illness hindered 
him during the period of retreat in the villa outside 
Milan before his baptism. Before he had been Bishop 
two years he speaks of himself as well in spirit, but 
unable to walk or stand. 2 He writes to his friend 
Profuturus from a bed of sickness. 

It was the time when Megalius, Primate of Numidia, 
had just died. The Primate's relations with Augustine 
had been unfortunate. Megalius, for some reason not 
distinctly ascertainable, wrote an angry letter against 
Augustine while the latter was only a priest. But 
Megalius afterwards apologised for this letter before 
an African council. He also became Augustine's con- 
secrator. The letter was remembered, and the apology 
forgotten, by Augustine's Donatist opponents. This 
unfortunate letter and its misuse is expressly mentioned 
by Augustine in his reply to the Donatist Petilian, 3 
which was written shortly after the letter to Profuturus. 
And the same calumny, in spite of Augustine's refuta- 
tion, was repeated yet again on the Donatist side. It 

1 Letter 41. 2 Letter 38, A. D. 397 

3 Contra lift. Petit, iii. 19. 



44 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

has been thought probable that the Primate's unjust 
and angry letter was in Augustine's mind when he 
mentioned the death of Megalius, and was the reason 
why he added : u We are not free from troubles neither 
are we deprived of protection. If there are grounds 
for grief so also there are for consolation." 

This reference to Megalius leads Augustine to warn 
himself against the dangers of anger, and its tendency 
to become habitual. Prolonged anger is hatred. 1 

1 Inveterascens ira fit odium. Letter 38, cf. Letter 9, 4. Ira 
est autem, quantum mea fert opinio, turbulentus appetitus au- 
ferendi ea qiue facilitatem actionis impediunt. On this distinction 
between ira and odium see Trench's Synonyms. 



CHAPTER II 

LETTERS ON PAGANISM 1 

IN Augustine's correspondence with Pagans we have 
the advantage of possessing letters addressed to him as 
well as his replies. Of several of these letters the date 
cannot now be ascertained. Those whose dates we 
know range between 390 and 412. We are here enabled 
to see how Christianity appeared in the beginning of the 
fifth century to Pagans of culture and position ; what 
were the lines of attack as well as what were the lines of 
apologetic defence. Augustine's earliest controversial 
reply to a Pagan writer dates in 390, that is just six 
years after the famous controversy in Milan between 
S. Ambrose and the Prefect Symmachus. 2 The atmo- 
sphere is much the same in Africa as it was at Milan ; 
only on the Catholic side there is a yet more serene 
assurance of victory. The Pagan consciously represents 
a religion no longer supported by the State. The 
Christian consciously possesses political influence as 
well as spiritual. The Pagan is sarcastic or deferential, 
mingling respect for the Church official with contempt 
for his principles, but always curbed by consciousness of 
dealing with a person in power. The Pagan's ideas of 
Christianity are often quite inadequate, and sometimes 
mere misrepresentation. But he has a high conception 

1 Much help will be found on this subject in Gaston Boissier, 
La Fin du Paganisme. Two vols. 1891. See also Leclercq, 
LlAfrique Chretienne, Two vols. 1904. 

2 Ambrose, Works. Migne, ii. 971 ; Augustine's Letter 18. 

45 



46 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

of a bishop's function ; and while he does not hesitate 
to use Christian terms in non-Christian senses, he can 
appeal to a bishop on the basis of episcopal ideals. 

Just a year before Augustine became a priest he re- 
ceived a letter 1 from a Pagan grammarian of Madaura ; 
a scornful and contemptuous letter of criticism on 
Christian religious practices. Maximus, the writer of 
this letter, admitted that the multitude of divinities was 
a fiction invented by the Greeks. In his opinion the 
existence of one Supreme Deity was a fact which no 
one could be so mad as to deny. God is a name 
common to all religions. 2 

But what arouses his contempt is the host of dead men 
whom Christians are elevating to the position of minor 
divinities. These heroes are quite impossible persons 
with appalling names. Maximus pours ridicule on such 
names as Mygdon, Sanais, Namphanib : 3 names detest- 
able alike to gods and men ; martyrs who in his opinion 
ended a scandalous career in a well-merited execution. 
It reminded him of Egyptian monsters finding their way 
among the gods of Rome. 

1 he writer calls on Augustine to set aside his usual 
weapons of logic which aim at the demolition of all 
certainty, and to inform him who that God is whom 
Christians claim as their peculiar possession and declare 
to be present in hidden places. 

The writer says he has no doubt that this letter will 
be thrown on the fire. But if so it will only involve the 
destruction of a document, not of its contents, for he 
has other copies which he intends to circulate freely. 
Wherewith he takes farewell of the distinguished re- 
cipient, whom he regards as an apostate from his own 
religion ; ending with a hope that the gods may preserve 
Augustine ; those gods through whom all mortals on the 

1 Letter 16. (?) A.D. 390. 

2 Maximus might have learnt his opinions from Cicero. 

3 This is the Benedictine text. The Vienna Edition reads : 
" Migginem, Sanamem, Namphamonem." 



LETTERS ON PAGANISM 47 

earth, in a thousand ways, and with discordant harmony, 
worship the one Common Father of gods and men. 

When Maximus alludes to the Christian Deity as one 
Whom His adherents assert to be present in hidden 
places, we may wonder whether he had heard of the 
Presence in the Eucharist. 

Such a letter laid itself open to the reply that it was 
difficult to know whether the writer was in earnest or in 
jest. 1 Augustine explains that the uncouth, outlandish 
names of martyrs which offended so greatly the gram- 
marian's literary taste were after all only Punic appella- 
tions. Maximus as an African writing to Africans, 
since both he and Augustine were living in Africa, 
ought not to be startled by the use of Punic names. 

If the grammarian is disposed to be scandalised by 
names, there were many among the Pagan divinities who 
ought to offend him. Augustine gives him examples. 

Augustine assures him that the private worship in 
Christian places will bear favourable comparison with 
what transpires in certain Pagan temples. He appeals 
to Maximus to find some question worthy of discussion 
and he will meet him. Meanwhile let him rest assured 
that Christian Catholics (there is a Church of them in 
the grammarian's own city) do not worship the dead, 
and that no creature is adored as divine, but only the 
one true God. 

In the year 408 the Pagan population at Calama, a 
town where Possidius was Bishop, broke out into a 
furious attack on their Christian fellow-citizens. 2 Nec- 
tarius, a leading Pagan, alarmed at the legal consequences 
for his town, implored Augustine to intercede for them. 
The letter is interesting because it gives a contemporary 
pagan idea of a bishop. Nectarius recognises that the 
offence will be punished very severely if dealt with accord- 
ing to the laws of the State. " But a bishop is guided 
by another law. His duty is to promote the welfare of 

1 Letter 17, A.D. 390. 2 Letter 90. 



48 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

men, to interest himself in any case only for the benefit 
of the parties, and to obtain for other men the pardon of 
their sins at the hand of Almighty God." Nectarius 
acknowledges that compensation must be made. He 
deprecates retaliation. He is moved by a deeply patriotic 
spirit and loves his country. 

To this appeal Augustine replied commending the 
writer's 1 patriotic zeal; but insisting that the highest 
form of patriotism is that which is concerned for a 
nation's eternal destinies. He criticises the contrast 
between the Pagan moralists and the morals of the 
pagan religion ; points out, as he does in the work on 
The City of God, the effect of the Pagan legends on the 
morals of young men ; quotes to this effect from the 
plays of Terence ; urges the inconsistency of imitating 
Cato rather than Jupiter in the daily conduct while 
worshipping Jupiter rather than Cato in the temples ; 
and insists on the blindness of worshipping in the temples 
what is ridiculed in the theatres. 

If Nectarius is increasingly anxious the older he 
becomes to leave his country in prosperity, let the 
people be converted to the true worship of God. 

Augustine quotes Nectarius's ideal of the conduct 
appropriate for a bishop, and proceeds to give his 
version of the facts during the recent riot. It was on 
the ist of June, a Pagan festival, when a Pagan mob 
attacked the church at Calama with stones, attempted 
to set it on fire, killed one of the Christians, while the 
Bishop only escaped by concealment in some hole where 
the invaders failed to find him, although he could hear 
their expressions of disappointed rage. Meanwhile the 
secular authorities of the town did nothing to keep the 
peace. 

Augustine had himself visited the town since the out- 
rage and addressed the Pagans. He assures Nectarius 
that the concern of the Church is for the souls of the 

1 Letter 91. 



LETTERS ON PAGANISM 49 

Pagans. As for the loss Christians will seek no com- 
pensation. 

If justice is to be done to these outbursts of Pagan 
violence it must be remembered that they were suffering 
from the suppressive enactments of the State, and the 
aggressive movement of the Church. In the year 400 the 
great Pagan Temple at Carthage was closed by imperial 
authority. Augustine himself in a letter (Letter 232, 
3) speaks of the Pagan Temples in Africa being closed, 
or ruinous, or destroyed, or converted to other uses ; their 
statues of the deities being broken or burnt or destroyed. 
It was ttu's destructive policy which provoked retaliation. 
In the colony of Suffectana in Augustine's diocese 
Christians destroyed the statue- of Hercules. As a con- 
sequence sixty members of the Church were massacred 
by the infuriated Pagan populace. Augustine wrote 
promising to restore this emblem of Pagan religion. 
"Gold, metals, and marble, shall all be supplied them. 
Will they please restore to the Church the sixty souls 
who have been massacred." (Letter 50.) 

Sometimes a Pagan Temple was converted to Christian 
purposes, sometimes a portion was incorporated in the 
Church, or a church was built upon the foundation of 
the older building. 1 

The Pagan had powerful incentives before his eyes for 
exasperation as he passed along the familiar places of 
his town, and saw the ancient religious landmarks com- 
pletely revolutionised while he remained unconverted. 
Augustine was conscious enough, and told the Pagans 
so in a letter, that it was one thing to remove the statues 
from the temples, another thing to remove them from 
their hearts. 

Sometimes Augustine deals with difficulties which 
Christianity presented to the Pagan mind. 

There is a letter 2 dealing with six questions raised by 

1 Cf. Leclercq, LAfrique Chrettenne, II 87-88. 

2 Letter 102, A.D. 408. 



50 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Pagans, which illustrates the sort of criticism then made 
on Christianity. The letter came from Carthage. The 
subjects are, the Resurrection of Christ ; the late period 
at which the Christian religion arose ; the objection 
raised by Christians to Pagan sacrifice while Christians 
practise rites which are essentially similar ; misconcep- 
tions of Christ's teaching on retribution ; difficulty in 
believing the doctrine that God has a Son ; exposition 
of the Book of Jonah. 

The subjects are as miscellaneous and ill-assorted as 
in a modern popular gathering of the sceptically disposed. 
Augustine sent his reply in the form of a letter to the 
priest Deogratias. 1 

Much confusion existed in the minds of inquirers 
between the raising of Lazarus and the Resurrection of 
Christ. They were not clear which of these two repre- 
sented the Christian doctrine of the future resurrection. 
Augustine had no difficulty in explaining the distinction. 

The Pagan criticism 2 on the late arrival of Christianity 
among religions was ably put by Porphyry. If Christ 
is the Way and the Truth and the Life, what of the men 
who lived in the centuries before Christ came ? It is no 
answer to say that they possessed the religion of the 
Jews : for that religion was of late beginning, and 
when it came was long confined to a narrow corner of 
Syria. 

To these criticisms on the newness of Christianity, 
Augustine replied 3 that from the very beginning of the 
human race men believed in the Word of God by 
anticipating His coming ; and were undoubtedly saved 
through Him. The pre-Christian ages looked forward 
to His appearing ; the Christian ages look back to it. 
Thus religion adopted one sacrificial form corresponding 
to the period of anticipation and another for the period 
of retrospect. But the principle of faith in the Word of 
God was the same, and the Salvation was the same. 

1 Letter 102. 2 Letter 102, 8. 3 Letter 102, 11. 






LETTERS ON PAGANISM 51 

Moreover there is such a thing as Providential control 
of human history, 1 by which the form of religion is 
adapted to the stage of human progress. Augustine 
further suggests that Christianity 2 was providentially 
withheld from those times and places where men were 
not prepared to believe in it. Men are more disposed 
to trust their human opinions than to yield themselves 
to Divine authority. This is exactly the weakness of 
human nature. Augustine is never tired of urging what 
his personal experience accentuated, that the incapacity 
of human intelligence must find its refuge in divinely 
given truth. 

Nevertheless, it must never be forgotten that truth 
has been revealed to men (sometimes more obviously, 
sometimes more obscurely) from the very beginning of 
the human race. Augustine holds that revelation of 
saving truth has never been withheld from any who was 
worthy of it. 

How Augustine harmonised these comprehensive pro- 
positions with the Predestinarian severities of his later 
career, or with his doctrine of the scanty number of the 
elect, is not quite obvious. The great writer had a way 
of flinging out separate aspects of truth and leaving 
them unreconciled. Hence it is so often possible to 
quote him in contradictory directions. But while the 
austere propositions are remembered, the larger and 
more merciful, not to say more just, ought not to be 
forgotten. 

In reply to the criticism on Jonah and the whale, 
Augustine observes that ridicule on the subject comes 
inappropriately from a Pagan who believes miraculous 
incidents equally startling of such persons as Apollonius 
of Tyana. The Bishop has no doubt that it is literally 
true. 

He concludes by remarking that to delay faith until 
detailed criticisms have all been solved is to reverse the 

1 Letter 102, 13. a Letter 102, 14. 



52 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

true order. For there are many difficulties which can 
only be ended by faith. Otherwise life will be ended 
before faith begins. 

Among Augustine's correspondents we find a young 
man who l requests the Bishop to send him explanation 
of a number of passages in Cicero. The young man 
was frankly concerned to get a reputation for scholarly 
attainments. He received in reply a letter of very con- 
siderable length, in thirty-four sections, containing many 
remarks of a sort which he had neither desired nor 
expected. Augustine was greatly distressed at the 
young man's vanity, and charged him with being more 
concerned for reputation than for knowledge. Did he 
suppose that bishops had nothing better to do than 
write comments on Cicero? Very unpalatable remarks 
followed on the emptiness of human praise and the 
futility of ambition. 

Let the young man picture himself with his Ciceronian 
criticisms solved and his inquiries satisfied. 2 What 
then? Then he would gain the reputation of being a 
learned man. But what then ? These criticisms are 
not the fundamental problems of human life. Augustine 
is clear that young Dioscorus sees things out of all 
proportion. The essential thing is the Way of Salva- 
tion, the Christian Truth. There is no necessity for 
Dioscorus to teach men the Dialogues of Cicero. A 
knowledge of controversial errors is of service to the 
teacher of Christian truth because it enables him to 
answer objections and remove difficulties. But the main 
thing is the knowledge of the truth. Augustine seems 
to have felt that his correspondent was wasting his time 
on obsolete speculations and philosophical objections 
which no living person adopted. Dioscorus must learn 
not to be ashamed to say he does not know. Augustine 
quotes the example of Themistocles. Themistocles at 
the feast when asked to sing or play, replied that he 

1 Letter 118, A.D. 410. 2 Letter 118, 11. 






LETTERS ON PAGANISM 53 

knew no melody. They asked him, What then did he 
know ? He answered, " I know how to make a small 
Republic great." Let Dioscorus be prepared to say of 
many minor matters, I do not know. If asked, What 
then do you know ? let him reply, I know how a man 
without this knowledge can be blessed. 

So Augustine discovers what is the secret of a blessed 
life. What is the highest good ? The answer must be 
found either in the body, or in the soul, or in God. 

Hereupon follows a disquisition on philosophic and 
Christian schools of thought, much on the lines of the 
sermon preached by Augustine on S. Paul at Athens 
(Sermon 150). 

The highest good is not to be found in the body, 1 for 
the soul is the body's superior. It would be senseless 
to assert that the body is superior to the soul. The soul 
does not receive the highest good from the body. Not 
to see this is to be blinded by sensual pleasure. 

Neither is the highest good to be found in the soul. 2 
Otherwise the soul would never be wretched. Moreover 
the soul is changeable. At one time it is foolish, at 
another wise. It cannot find the final good in itself. 

Consequently, by elimination of these two, it follows 
that the supreme good must be found in God : God the 
immutable. 

Here, as constantly, Augustine commends the Plato- 
nists. 3 It would not require many changes of ideas to 
make them Christians. 

And here comes the famous passage 4 in commenda- 
tion of Humility : one of the noblest sentences ever 
written in praise of that most distinctively Christian 
Virtue. Dwelling on the thought, What is the way to 
reach the truth ? Augustine writes : 

" In that way the first part is humility ; the second, 
humility ; the third, humility : and this I would continue 

1 Letter 118, 14. 2 Letter 118, 15. 

3 Letter 118, 21. 4 Letter 118, | 22. 



54 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

to repeat as often as you might ask direction ; not that 
there are no other instructions which may be given, but 
because, unless humility precede, accompany, and follow 
every good action which we perform, being at once the 
object which we keep before our eyes, the support to 
which we cling, and the monitor by which we are 
restrained, any good work on which we are congratu- 
lating ourselves is wholly wrested from our hand by 
pride." * 

This Christian Virtue of Humility is a necessary 
consequence of the Incarnation. Our Lord was humili- 
ated in order to teach humility. 

And here Augustine, in spite of his deprecatory 
remarks on classical studies, shows a thorough know- 
ledge of Cicero's opinions on the nature of the Deity, 
and contrasts the Christian doctrine of the personal 
Word of God, a doctrine which none could realise unless 
God revealed it. 

Then after an acute criticism on Democritus and the 
theory of the fortuitous concourse of atoms, 2 Augustine 
asks his correspondent Dioscorus to consider whether 
any method would be better adapted for the enlighten- 
ment of the human race than the Incarnation. 3 For in 
the Incarnation the Truth itself clothed itself in Man- 
hood (et ipsius in terris personam gerens), taught the 
ideal, and realised the idea4 in Divine deeds. By assent 
to the authority of the Incarnate One we escape from 
the reign of perplexity into the atmosphere of pure and 
perfect truth. 

Then with a reference to Plotinus, or rather to his 
disciples at Rome, the letter closes with an acknowledg- 
ment that he has answered some of Dioscorus's inquiries, 
and deliberately set many aside, and doubtless treated 
him otherwise than his correspondent desired, but in a 
manner which he will appreciate as he matures. The 



1 Letter 118, 22, Cunninghams translation, i. 109. 

2 Letter 118, 28-31. 3 Letter 118, 



32. 



LETTERS ON PAGANISM 55 

whole reply would have been impossible had not Augus- 
tine been at a distance from Hippo recruiting himself 
after an illness. 

Another supporter of the old Pagan religion is met 
in the person of Volusian. Volusian was a man of 
distinction, education, and influence, who had succeeded 
in frustrating many a conversion to Christianity. Volu- 
sian's mother was a Christian, and she begged the 
Tribune Marcellinus to bring what influence he could 
to bear upon her son. Volusian had come across 
Augustine and conversed with him on the subject of 
religion. Volusian was evidently much impressed, 1 and 
afterwards wrote a letter to the Bishop in which, with 
much deference and profession of admiration for the 
Bishop's eloquence, he propounds certain criticisms on 
the doctrine of the Incarnation. 

That the Lord of the Universe should have passed 
through the process of human beginnings and have been 
born of a Virgin, and have passed through the successive 
stages of infancy, childhood, adolescence, and maturity, 
is to his mind utterly inconceivable. The absence of 
the Deity from His proper throne is quite incredible. 
Augustine's ability imposes on him the obligation of a 
solution to these difficulties. Ignorance may exist in 
other priests without detriment to their religious func- 
tions, but when Augustine is approached there is no 
room for ignorance to exist. VVith which elaborate 
compliment his letter closes. 

Marcellinus had written 2 privately to Augustine 
begging him to answer Volusian's criticisms. 

To Volusian's inquiries Augustine accordingly replies, 3 
insisting first that the Christian doctrine is so profound 
that if a man studies it from early youth to decrepit old 
age, with the concentration of all his powers, it may 
still be truly said that when he has finished he has only 
begun. 

Volusian is bidden first to understand what the 

* Letter 135. A. 0.412. 2 Letter 136. 3 Letter 137. A. 0.412. 



56 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Christian doctrine is. The doctrine of the Incarnation 
does not mean that the Person Who became Man * and 
was born of a Virgin abandoned the direction of the 
Universe, or was limited to the space of an infant's body. 
God cannot be estimated by physical dimensions. He 
is not contained in space like water, or air, or light. 
He comes without departing whence He was, and 
departs without abandoning whence He came. 2 

If the human mind marvels at these propositions and 
is disposed to discredit them, Augustine advises Volusian 
to consider the marvels involved in the relations of body 
and spirit in himself, and how totally inexplicable it all 
is. And let him be prepared for the probability of 
greater mysteries in Deity. 

Thus, in Augustine's view, the narrow limits of our 
knowledge of ourselves, which is not infrequently urged 
as a proof of our incapacity for any real knowledge of 
God, should rather lead us to accept on the authority 
of revelation, facts in the Godhead which we could not 
otherwise ascertain. If our human limitations are an 
argument against knowledge they are an incentive to 
faith. It is instructive to notice that Augustine draws 
exactly the opposite inference to that which is commonly 
drawn from the acknowledged fact of our limitations. 

God comes by self-manifestation. He departs by 
self-concealment. But He is present whether manifest 
or concealed. 3 

Thus there are no such consequences involved in 
Incarnation as Volusian supposes. As to the mysterious 
nature of Incarnation and of the Virgin Birth, "if the 
reason of this event is required, it would cease to be 
miraculous. If a parallel is demanded, it would cease 
to be unique." Augustine was afterwards challenged 
for this statement. He explained that he did not mean 

1 Deus infusus carni. 

2 Letter 137. Novit ubique totus esse, et nullo contineri loco ; novit 
venire non recedendo uti erat ; novit abere non deserendo quo venerat. 

3 J,etter 137, 7. 



LETTERS ON PAGANISM 57 

by this statement that a miracle is an event which has 
no reason. " I said this," he wrote, " not because the 
event was without a reason, but because the reason of it 
is concealed." (Letter 1 6 1.) "Let it be granted that 
God is able to do what transcends our comprehension." 
Further he maintains Mary's perpetual Virginity. 

The gradual transition of Christ through the stages of 
human life was a necessity of His Mediation. 1 Had it 
been otherwise the inference must have been the unreality 
of His Manhood. 

Some, observes Augustine, 2 insist on demanding an 
explanation of the manner in which God was blended 
with Man 3 to make One Person in Christ. As if they 
were able to explain what is of daily occurrence : the 
manner in which body and soul are blended to make 
one person in man. 

Accordingly, the great writer tells Volusian what In- 
carnation means. 4 It is essentially that the Word of 
God took Manhood (suscepit hominem) and made Him- 
self one with it: equal to the Father according to His 
Divinity, and less than the Father according to the 
Flesh. We notice here, as so often, phrases which are 
almost identical with the Athanasian formula. 5 This 
action of the Word of God occurred at the time which 
He knew to be most appropriate and had eternally 
determined. 

The two main purposes of the Incarnation are in 
Augustine's view Instruction and Strength (Magisterium ; 
Adjutorium). 

i. Enlightenment, instruction, came by Christ. Truths, 
indeed, had been already before the Incarnation taught 
to men : partly by the sacred Prophets, partly also 
by Pagan philosophers and poets, who mingled much 
truth with elements which are false. But the Incar- 
nation confirmed what was true by God's own authority. 

1 Letter 137, 9. 2 Letter 137, u. 

3 Letter 137. Quomodo Deus homini permixtus sit. 

4 Letter 137, 12. 5 Cf. esp. the Treatise on the Trinity. 



58 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Although the Truth before He became incarnate pre- 
sented Himself to all who were capable of receiving truth. 

2. But not only is enlightenment a purpose of the 
Incarnation. The other main purpose is strength or 
help. For without grace no one can overcome evil 
desires. 

If objectors urge " that the authority of Christ was not 
shown with sufficient distinctness above the miraculous 
powers which existed under the Jewish dispensation," 
Augustine points to the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, 
and the Ascension, as the supreme instances, unparalleled 
manifestations of power. 

Augustine here draws a brilliant outline of the pre- 
parations for Christ in history. The call of Abraham, 
the selection of Israel, its training, its discipline, its fail- 
ings, and its receptiveness down to the Incarnation of 
Christ. Prophets, priesthood, sacrifices, and the Temple 
itself, were all Sacraments or sacred signs of that 
crowning event. 

To these preparations succeeded the realisation. 
Christ appeared. His life, words, deeds, suffering, death 
and Resurrection and Ascension, correspond and fulfil the 
anticipations. Then came the descent of the Spirit and 
the work of the Church. Augustine describes in elo- 
quent terms the Church's growth and influence, . the 
opposition of the Pagan world, and the strange evi- 
dential position of the Jews. The chosen people 
dethroned, dispersed, carrying everywhere their sacred 
books which are evidences to the truth of Christianity. 
They are the Church's librarians, bearing the books 
which are only explicable in the light of Christianity. 
The very heresies which oppose the name of Christ do 
in reality support that against which they contend. 
Thus everything converges and contributes to verify 
the truth of the Catholic Religion. 

This remarkable letter, written in the year 412, was 
produced while the writer's mind was full of his great 
reply to Paganism which appeared later in the work on 



LETTERS ON PAGANISM 59 

The City of God. The letter to Volusian has been 
rightly regarded as an outline or preliminary sketch of 
that masterly production. 

When Augustine had been a bishop some years he 
received a curious letter of friendly congratulation from 
the Pagans of Madaura, a place familiar to the readers 
of the Confessions as the school where he was placed in 
preparation for higher studies at Carthage. Madaura 
was near to Hippo. It was the place from which he 
had to be withdrawn owing to the narrow resources 1 of 
his family. The Pagans of Madaura evidently wanted 
to conciliate this powerful opponent, and fellow-country- 
man, the Christian Bishop. They addressed him in 
phrases which had a Christian sound, wished him eternal 
salvation in the Lord, and added, " We wish that for 
many years your lordship may always, in the midst of 
your clergy, be glad in God and His Christ." 

Augustine in his reply declares that at first 2 he 
thought himself reading a letter composed by Christians, 
and supposed that the people of Madaura had become 
converted. He objected greatly to their misleading use 
of Christian expressions. Referring to the closing of the 
Pagan sanctuaries by the laws of the Emperor Honorius, 
he told them that Paganism was more easily excluded 
from their temples than from their hearts. 

Augustine appealed to the dispersion of the Jews ; 3 to 
the marvellous rise and extension of Christianity ; to the 
fulfilment of predictions with regard to heresies and 
schisms from the Christian society ; to the Apostolic 
Sees and the succession of bishops ; to the overthrow of 
idols ; to the Pagan temples falling into ruin and neglect ; 
to the State accepting the religion of men who died for 
the truth ; the chief of the noblest empire in the world 
laying aside his crown and kneeling as a suppliant at 
the tomb of the fisherman Peter. 

1 Confessions, II. 5, p. 154. 2 Letter 232, p. 1279. 

3 Letter 232, 3. 



60 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Augustine assures these unfortunate Pagans, who after 
all were only maintaining the religion of their fathers, 
that not one of them will be able in the last judgment 
to plead anything in defence of his unbelief. He tells 
them that they cannot avoid mentioning the name of 
Christ. The Pagan flatterer and the Christian worship- 
per both repeat the name : " Christianus venerator, et 
paganus adulator" ; but they will have to give account 
for their use of it. 

After these warnings as to their spiritual peril, 1 
Augustine proceeds to give an exposition of the Christian 
doctrine of the Trinity and of the Incarnation. The 
Incarnation is represented 2 as the supreme revelation of 
lowliness and of gentleness, and therefore the remedy 
for human pride and violence. God subduing us by 
persuasion, not by force, through the amazing act of 
Divine condescension. They are not bidden to contem- 
plate an imperial Christ, nor a wealthy Christ, nor a 
prosperous Christ, but a Crucified Christ. For there is 
nothing more powerful than the humility of God. 

Then the letter closes with an appeal to the people of 
Madaura as his fellow-citizens who have given him this 
opportunity of speaking to Pagans something concerning 
Christ. 

It was. the Pagan people themselves who made this 
overture and gave the Bishop his opportunity. At 
other times Augustine himself took the initiative. 3 We 
find him writing to ask Longinian, a Pagan philosopher, 
what he thought concerning Christ. That the philo- 
sopher regards Christ with reverence he is aware. What 
he desires to know is whether Longinian regards Christ's 
teaching as the only way to a blessed life. The date of 
this letter is unknown. 

Longinian, in an interesting reply, 4 gives the con- 
temporary Pagan view. He writes with evident em- 

1 Letter 232, 5. . 2 Letter 232, 6. 

3 Letter 233. ' 4 Letter 234. 



LETTERS ON PAGANISM 61 

barrassment. For Paganism is now discountenanced by 
imperial law. Longinian is himself a Platonist and a 
believer in God. The approach to God is through 
righteous acts and words. And by aid of the lesser 
divinities whom the Christians call Angels, men are 
intended to reach the one ineffable Creator. There is 
need for this purpose of purification and of expiation, 
of self-discipline and self-control. 

But as to the Christ by whom Augustine and the 
Christians feel themselves sure to reach the supreme 
Father of all, Longinian confesses he is perplexed, he 
knows not what to say. He has great regard for 
Augustine, and his religious aspirations. 

Longinian's answer encouraged Augustine to write 
again, 1 partly on account of the philosopher's cautious 
attitude of suspense. He rejoiced that Longinian would 
neither rashly assent nor deny anything concerning 
Christ. He rejoices that Longinian is willing to read 
what Augustine has written on the subject. There is 
one point, however, on which he desires further discus- 
sion. Longinian maintains that purification by sacred 
rites, expiation by sacrifice, is part of the way of 
approach to the one Father of the gods. But if a man 
requires to be purified by sacrifice, then he is not yet 
pure; and if he is not yet pure, he is not living the 
righteous life. Augustine desires to know what place 
Longinian assigns to sacrificial cleansing in the deve- 
lopment of a religious life. 

Longinian's reply unfortunately does not exist. It 
will not escape the reader how keenly Augustine seizes 
on the central question of expiation, as a Pagan 
acknowledgment of personal imperfection and of human 
inability to reach the Divine unaided ; how he passes 
by subordinate interests, and fixes attention on the 
one subject which seems to promise best a way to 
appreciate Christian principles. 

1 Letter 235. 



62 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

A letter of Augustine's to Bishop Deuterius * shows 
us something of the intrusion of non-Christian principles 
into the Church. It appears that a certain sub-deacon 
named Victorinus, a man advanced in years, was 
secretly an adherent of the Manichaean heresy. Augus- 
tine had deposed him on his own admission. Victorinus 
was a Manichaean of the preliminary class called 
" Hearers." He had not been admitted to be one of the 
" Elect." Augustine's object in mentioning this to 
Deuterius is to warn him against admitting Victorinus 
among his penitents. Augustine further takes the 
opportunity of explaining to Deuterius the main 
practices of the Manichaeans. He informs him that the 
Hearers are permitted to eat flesh and to marry, neither 
of which things are permitted to the Elect. They say 
prayers to the sun and the moon, they fast on the Lord's 
Day, they deny the doctrine of the Virgin Birth and the 
reality of the Incarnation. They neither believe in 
the Passion nor in the Resurrection. They hold that 
the Jewish Law is a product of the Prince of Darkness. 
They believe that animals as well as men have souls, 
and that souls are a part of God. They hold that the 
good and the evil principles have become intermingled 
and confused ; that the good is to be liberated by the 
wholesome action of the sun and the moon, and that 
such part of the Divine nature as cannot be extricated 
from this confusion will be condemned for ever. 

1 Letter 236. 



CHAPTER III 

LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GOD 

A LETTER to Nebridius 1 is important because it 
shows that the problems of the doctrine of the Trinity, 
which were afterwards to mature in Augustine's won- 
derful treatise, were already occupying his mind some 
two years afier his conversion. Already he was dis- 
cussing how to reconcile the inseparability of the Persons 
in the Trinity with the fact that the Son alone became 
incarnate. 

Count Pascentius was an Arian who boldly attacked 
the Catholic belief, and exerted much influence over 
clergy of the less instructed sort. Pascentius set him- 
self in opposition to Augustine at a conference in Car- 
thage, where he assembled a number of leading people. 
Augustine demanded that shorthand writers should be 
admitted in order to secure an accurate report of the 
discussion. 2 Pascentius objected to this, apparently on 
the ground that it was not legal for a person in his official 
position. Accordingly the proceedings had to be of a 
private nature. They were, as might be expected, 
utterly unsatisfactory. 

In an account of the incident, 3 Augustine complains 
that Pascentius propounded propositions to which he 
did not adhere ; made dogmatic statements in the 
morning and changed the wording in the afternoon. 
When the discussion began, Count Pascentius affirmed 
faith in God the Father Almighty unbegotten, and in 

1 Letter n, A.D. 389. 2 Vita, auctore Possidio, 19. 

3 Letter 238. 

63 



64 THE LETTERS OF ST, AUGUSTINE 

Jesus Christ His Son, God born before the ages, by 
Whom all things were made ; and in the Holy Spirit. 

Augustine on hearing this replied that he was pre- 
pared to endorse this statement of faith. 

Pascentius then proceeded to denounce l the use of 
the term Homoousion, and to require to be shown that 
it was a scriptural expression. 

Augustine claimed that the proper course would be 
first to ascertain what the expression means, and then 
to consider whether it could be found in the Scriptures. 
For men ought to contend for principles and not for 
words. 

However, as Pascentius refused to allow this course, 
Augustine asked whether the phrase which Pascentius 
himself had formulated, that the Father is unbegotten, 
can be found in Scripture. And if it could, whether 
Pascentius would kindly indicate the passage. To this 
it was replied, u Do you then believe that the Father 
was begotten ? " Augustine answered " No." To which 
his opponent replied, " Then if He is not begotten He 
must be unbegotten." Augustine thereupon rejoined, 
" You see then that a reason may be given to justify 
the use of a term which is not in Scripture." 2 A similar 
justification may be made for the term Homoousion. 

The Arians could not answer this. But in the Con- 
ference in the afternoon they withdrew their own expres- 
sion that the Father was unbegotten, and called on 
Augustine to formulate his own belief. But Augustine 
insisted that they must deal with Pascentius's own decla- 
ration. Pascentius accordingly repeated his principles, 
but omitted the terms employed before about the Father. 
This of course made any definite di'scussion hopeless. 

Pascentius then descended to personalities about 
Augustine's intellectual reputation. The meeting broke 
up having accomplished nothing. 

Augustine subsequently sent Pascentius an exposition 

1 Letter 238, 4. 2 Letter 238, 5. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GOD 65 

of the Catholic Belief. 1 Here he expressed his faith in 
the One God and the Only Begotten Son, and in the 
Spirit Who is the Spirit 2 both of God the Father and 
of His Only Begotten Son. The Scripture phrase, "Who 
only hath immortality," 3 applies not only to the Father 
but also to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. 

The Father and the Son are one God. As Christ 
Himself said : " I and my Father are One." Father- 
hood and Sonship are relative attributes. 4 But the 
Substance of the Godhead is One. Father, Son and 
Holy Spirit are not three Gods, but one God. 5 The 
Son of Man and the Son of God are identical. This 
is only another way of affirming the Incarnation. 6 The 
Lord, thy God, is one Lord. But when S. Thomas 
exclaimed " My Lord and my God ! " Christ, so far 
from rebuking him, commended him ; for He answered, 
" Because thou hast seen Me thou hast believed." Thus 
the Father is Lord and God ; the Son also is Lord and 
God ; and yet the Lord thy God is one Lord. "To us 
there is but one God, the Father . . . and one Lord Jesus 
Christ" (i Cor. viii. 5, 6). 

And the Son of God became the Son of Man, not by 
changing what He was, but by assuming what He was 
not. 7 Moreover, the Father was never without His Son 
any more than the eternal light can be without its 
brightness. 8 The generation of the Son must be eternal. 

Augustine informs Pascentius that this is his faith. 
As to the claim that Pascentius has refuted Augustine, 
the real question is whether the Homoousion is refuted. 9 
It is easy for men to ridicule a great word which they 
do not understand. But let them look at the Scripture 
words : " I and my Father are One." What else can that 
mean but that they are of one and the same substance? 

1 Letter 238, 10. 2 Letter 238, 10. 

3 Letter 238, n. 4 Letter 238, 14. 

5 Letter 258, 16. 6 Letter 238, 18. 

7 Letter 238, 21. 8 Letter 238, 24. 
9 Letter 238, 28. 



66 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Augustine wrote a second letter, 1 reminding Pascen- 
tius how greatly the Arian had changed the wording of 
his profession of faith. 

One version of it was, " I believe in God the Father 
Who made the Son first of the creatures before all other 
creatures ; and in the Son Who is neither equal to the 
Father nor like Him nor true God ; and in the Holy 
Spirit Who was made after the Son and by the Son." 
If this is Pascenttus's Creed, Augustine desires to know 
how he proposes to defend it out of the Scriptures ? 

The other version was, " I believe in God the Father 
Almighty, invisible, immortal, unbegotten, of Whom 
are all things; and in His Son Jesus Christ, God born 
before the ages, by Whom all things were made. And 
in the Holy Spirit." 

This version Augustine can accept. It appears that 
the Arian was prepared to believe in the Virgin Birth. 

To these letters Count Pascentius wrote a short 
contemptuous reply, 2 in which he expresses regret that 
Augustine has not abandoned his errors, but makes no 
attempt to discuss either Augustine's faith or his own. 
All he does is to throw out a question. If there are 
Three, which of them is God ? Or is there una persona 
triformis ? 

Augustine hastens to reply that he does not maintain 
a triformis persona. There is one form because there 
is one Deity. 

It is curious that in these letters Augustine says 
nothing of the psychological and moral arguments which 
involve a Trinity, and which occupy so important a 
place in the Bishop's great treatise on this doctrine. 

What was the outcome of the correspondence is 
unknown. It may have served some purpose in sup- 
porting Catholics at Carthage. 

A thoughtful correspondent named Consentius sent 
for Augustine's inspection and revision an outline of 

1 Letter 239. 3 Letter 240. 






LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GOD 67 

his ideas about the Trinity. 1 He held that the truth 
in things divine was rather to be perceived by faith 
than by reason. For if the Doctrine of the Church was 
derived from the discussions of reason rather than from 
the assent of faith, Religion would be rather the privilege 
of the philosophic few than of the unlearned many. 
But since God was pleased to choose the weak things 
of this world whereby to confound the strong, and to 
save believers by the foolishness of the Christian preach- 
ing, it was clear that we were not so much to depend 
on reason as on the authority of the saints. 

Consentius thereupon proceeded to propound dis- 
tinctions between the Divine Substance and the Divine 
Persons. 

Augustine in reply observes 2 that Consentius asks 
him to discuss the oneness of the Deity and the dis- 
tinctions of the persons. Yet Consentius himself urges 
that we ought rather to follow the authority of the 
Saints than the inference of reason. But if the stress is 
thus to be laid on authority why should Consentius 
appeal to Augustine for reasons? The truth is, that 
both faith and reason have their function. Let him 
hold the doctrine by faith, and endeavour to apprehend 
it by reason. God does not endow us with reason with- 
out intending it to be used. 3 The exercise of faith 
presupposes a rational intelligence. Faith comes first 
because there are things which reason cannot as yet 
perceive. But reason must be exercised on the contents 
of faith. There are things concerning which a rational 
explanation cannot be given ; 4 not because it does not 
exist, but because we have not yet discovered it. Faith 
prepares the mind for intellectual appreciation. 

Contemplating therefore the doctrine of the Trinity 
in the light of these presuppositions, we are not to 
shrink from the use of reason but only from its abuses. 

1 Letter 119. 2 Letter 120. 

3 Letter 120, 3. * Letter 120, 5. 



68 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Thus the theory that the Son is inferior to the Father 
is not to be rejected because it is rationalising but 
because it is false reasoning. 1 

To avoid false reasoning it is essential to rid the mind 
of material and spacial analogies. 2 The Trinity is not 
to be conceived as three individuals in spacial juxta- 
position. Nor is the Divinity to be regarded as a 
fourth element beyond the Trinity. Nor are the Three 
Persons to be regarded as existing nowhere but in 
Heaven while the Deity itself is regarded as everywhere 
present. All these theories are to be completely 
abandoned and dispelled. 

What is to be maintained is this: that the Father 
and the Son and the Holy Spirit are the Trinity and 
yet one God ; 3 that there is not a fourth element of 
Deity in addition to the Trinity. All corporeal similitudes 
are to be avoided, rejected and cast out. Augustine 
warns against the danger of materialistic conceptions 
of Deity by a string of imperatives : abige, abnue, nega, 
respice, abjice, fuge. And this rejection of the false is 
a great step towards acceptance of the true. For it is 
no small beginning of the Knowledge of God if, before 
we can know what He is, we begin to know what He 
is not. 

And further, the theory which locates the substance 
of the Father exclusively in Heaven, 4 while it ascribes 
ubiquity to the Deity ; as if the Trinity were localised 
and material, while the Deity was everywhere present 
as incorporeal ; this theory is to be unquestionably 
repudiated. 

The true doctrine is that the Father and the Son and 
the Holy Spirit is a Trinity and is one God. For it is 
inseparably of one and the same substance, or more 
properly, essence. 5 There is no other essence of God 
beside the Trinity. 

1 Letter 120, 6. 2 Letter 120, 7. 

3 Letter 120, 13. 4 Letter 120, 16. 

5 Letter 120, 17. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GOD 69 

Materialistic conceptions of God's Nature appear to 
have been popular in Africa among Churchmen as well 
as beyond the Church's limits. Augustine wrote several 
times on the Vision of God, insisting that God cannot 
either here or hereafter be seen by bodily eyes. It appears 
that a certain African bishop was greatly offended by a 
letter in which Augustine refuted such materialistic 
views. Augustine in a characteristic letter 1 to Bishop 
Fortunatianus requests the recipient to intervene in his 
behalf with the offended person, asking his forgiveness 
for any want of consideration in the letter which, how- 
ever, he does not regret having written. The substance 
of his former teaching on the Vision of God is rein- 
forced and supported by quotations from Ambrose ; 
from Jerome, whom he calls holy and a man of God ; 
from Athanasius ; and finally from a writing, which 
Augustine ascribes to Gregory, a holy Eastern bishop, 
but which "as a fact appears to have been a Latin 
composition mistakenly incorporated among Gregory 
Nazianzen's genuine discourses. 2 

Augustine writes earnestly warning against the 
anthropomorphic tendencies of the popular theology. 
The entire physical terminology of Scripture by which 
God is represented must be interpreted in an allegorical 
way. Thus, the Wings of God signify Protection ; and 
the Hands of God, His Working ; and the Eyes of 
God, His Knowledge. This interpretation, Augustine 
assures his reader, is traditional and no invention of 
his own. 3 

This leads him to dwell on the difference between the 
authority of Scripture and the authority of Catholic 
expositors. 

" The reasonings of any men whatsoever, even though 
they be Catholics, and of high reputation, are not to 
be treated by us in the same way as the Canonical 
Scriptures are treated. We are at liberty, without doing 

1 Letter 148, A.D. 413. 2 cf. p. 15. 3 Letter 148, 13. 



70 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

any violence to the respect which these men deserve, to 
condemn and reject anything in their writings, if per- 
chance we shall find that they have entertained opinions 
differing from that which others or we ourselves have, 
by the Divine help, discovered to be the truth. I deal 
thus with the writings of others, and I wish my 
intelligent readers to deal thus with mine." 1 

And here comes a remarkable passage on the Resurrec- 
tion Body of Christians. 2 " As to the spiritual body which 
we shall have in the resurrection, how great a change 
for the better it is to undergo : whether it shall become 
pure spirit, so that the whole man shall then be a spirit, 
or shall (as I rather think, but do not yet confidently 
affirm) become a spiritual body in such a way as to be 
called spiritual because of a certain ineffable facility 
in its movements, but at the same time to retain its 
material substance," Augustine confesses that he had 
not read anything sufficiently established to be made 
the basis of instruction. 

This last paragraph deserves serious attention. It 
was written about the year 413. It is incomparably 
less materialistic and less confident than the teaching 
given in the closing books of the work on the City of 
God (De Civ. Dei, XXII. 12 ff. p. 1077). There is an 
openness of mind and a cautiousness of expression in the 
letter which is sadly lacking in the later treatise. The 
final book on the City of God was probably written 
some twelve years later than the letter, but it reveals 
a harder doctrine contrasting unfavourably with the 
passage here. In the City of God Augustine considers 
that the measure of the stature of Christ is the physical 
height to which those who died in infancy will grow. 

Evodius, Augustine's friend, frequently sent the 
Bishop strings of questions to explain. Out of one 
series Augustine selected two : one concerning the 

1 Letter 148, 15. Cunningham's translation. 

2 Letter 148, 16. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GOD 71 

Holy Trinity, another concerning the appearance of 
a Dove at the Baptism of our Lord. 1 

This letter is also of interest owing to the information 
it gives about the progress of Augustine's literary 
labours. He tells Evodius that he has now finished 
the first five books of the treatise on the City of God. 
Thesa five are an answer to those who consider that 
Pagan divinities are to be worshipped for the sake of 
advantages in the present world. He will next proceed 
to answer those who maintain that Pagan divinities are to 
be worshipped for the sake of advantages in the world 
to come. He has also dictated three expositions on the 
Psalms, and is being pressed urgently to dictate more. 
Meanwhile the books on the Trinity which have been 
long in hand are still delayed. Augustine thinks 
they will not be intelligible to many persons. More 
widely useful works may, therefore, rightly take 
precedence. 

Augustine begins by correcting a misapprehension 
by Evodius of a text in S. Paul. Evodius applies the 
words: " He that is ignorant shall be ignored" (i Cor. 
xiv. 38), to those who are unable to discern the unity of 
the Trinity in the same manner as the unity of memory, 
understanding, and will in the human soul is discussed. 
Augustine advises Evodius to consult the original pas- 
sage again. He will then realise that the reference is 
to persons who caused disorder by their insubordinate 
use of spiritual gifts within the Church. Such persons 
should be ignored, that is rejected. 

Augustine warns Evodius 2 against supplying this 
sentence to persons of small intellectual insight. If 
Christ died only for the intellectually discerning, the 
labour of the Church is almost in vain. The fact is, 
that throngs of simple-minded folk without much intel- 
lectual power crowd in to the Great Physician and 
are cured by the Crucified : while some, who pride 

1 Letter 169, A.D. 415. - Letter 169, 4. 



72 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

themselves on their intellectual ability, wander far away 
from the path that leads to eternal life. 

What, then, we Christians must firmly hold and believe 
concerning the Trinity is this : We must believe in 
one God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 
At the same time we must believe " that the Son is not 
He Who is the Father, and the Father is not H* Who 
is the Son, and neither the Father nor the Son is He 
Who is the Spirit of both the Father and the Son." 
"Let no separation be imagined to exist in this Trinity 
either in time or space ; but that these Three are equal 
and co-eternal, and absolutely of one nature ; and that 
the creatures one and all which have been created or are 
being created subsist in the Trinity as their Creator ; 
not that some were created by the Father and some by 
the Son and some by the Holy Spirit ; also that no one 
is saved by the Father without the Son and the Holy 
Spirit, or by the Son without the Father and the Holy 
Spirit, or by the Holy Spirit without the Father and 
the Son ; but by the Father, the Son and the Holy 
Spirit, the only one true and truly immortal (that is, 
absolutely unchangeable) God." x Nevertheless, adds 
Augustine, many things are said in Scripture concerning 
each of the Three separately, teaching us that although 
the Trinity is inseparable, at the same time it is a 
Trinity. 

Thus, at the Baptism of Christ, the Father is heard 
in the Voice, the Son is seen in the human nature, the 
Spirit in the bodily form of a Dove. The Three are 
present separately but they are not separated. 

Augustine illustrates this by the co-existence of 
memory, understanding and will in the human soul. 2 
He warns Evodius, however, that the illustration is 
imperfect, for whereas these three human faculties are 
not the soul but exist in the soul " the Trinity does not 
exist in God but is God." The point of the illustration 

1 Letter 169, 5. 2 Letter 169, 6. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GOD 73 

is that as in man so in God the three are inseparable in 
operation. 

In the scene at the Baptism of Christ the Voice is not 
permanently united with the person of the Father, 1 nor 
the Dove with the person of the Holy Spirit. Both the 
sound and the appearance passed away. It is the man- 
hood alone (for whose deliverance the entire dispensation 
was brought about), which was brought into unity with 
the person of the Word of God, by a wondrous and 
unique assumption. Nevertheless the Word remains in 
His own nature immutable. The human nature came 
to the Word. The Word did not come to the human 
nature by a process of change. Thus He continues to 
be the Son of God while He has assumed humanity. 2 

Thus the assumption of humanity by the Word, 3 or 
Son of God, has made no increase in the number of the 
persons. The Trinity remains a Trinity still. For just 
as in every man, that one alone excepted Whom He 
assumed into union with Himself, the soul and body 
constitute one person, so in Christ the Word and His 
human soul and body constitute one person. 4 

This unity of person makes it possible to speak 
concerning the Son of God under either of the two 
natures, either as human or divine. Then it is correct 
to say that God was crucified, just as you say a philo- 
sopher dies, although that is only true of him in his body, 
and not in his mind. 

1 Letter 169, 7. 

2 Letter 169, 7. Solus homo, quia propter ipsam naturam 
liberandam ilia omnia fiebant, in unitatem personae Verbi Dei, 
hoc est unici Filii Dei, mirabili et singular! susceptione coaptatus 
est, permanente tamen Verbo in sua natura incommutabiliter 
. . . Homo autem Verbo accessit, non Verbum in hominem 
convertibiliter accessit . . . 

3 Letter 169, 8. 

4 Non enim homine assumpto personarum numerus auctus est, 
sed eadem Trinitas mansit. Nam sicut in homine quolibet, praeter 
unum ilium qui singulariter susceptus est, anima et corpus una 
persona est ; ita in Christo Verbum et homo una persona est, 



74 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Towards the close of this letter 1 Augustine informs 
Evodius that he has written to Jerome concerning the 
origin of the soul. Jerome had maintained the crea- 
tionist theory that a new soul is created at every birth. 
Augustine desires to be informed how this theory can 
be harmonised with the doctrine of original sin. 

A studious young Spaniard, the priest Orosius, was 
at this time (A.D. 415) on a visit to Augustine to consult 
him on the heresy of the Priscillianists and concerning 
some opinions of Origen which the Church had not 
accepted. Augustine induced Orosius to go to Palestine 
on a visit to Jerome. So he became Augustine's letter 
carrier. 

The sequel will be found in the correspondence with 
Jerome. 

This does not complete the list of Augustine's 
occupations. He has also written a book against 
Pelagianism at the request of some of the brethren 
who had been led astray into that error. The book 
was apparently the treatise on Nature and Grace. If 
Evodius wants these books Augustine advises him to 
send a copyist. Meanwhile for himself the great writer, 
evidently a little wearied, pleads to be left uninterrupted 
to study matters urgently necessary and in his opinion 
more important than some of Evodius's questions, which 
are of interest to very few. 

There is an interesting letter written by Alypius 2 and 
Augustine to Maximus, a physician recently converted 
from the Arian heresy to the Catholic Faith, urging 
upon him to impart to others the truth which he now 
accepts. It is noteworthy that Augustine puts first the 
Unity of God. There is only one God to Whom divine 
worship is due. Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God 
and Him only shalt thou serve. But divine worship is 
not only due to the Father, but also to the Son. And 
this can only be the case because both Father and Son 

1 Letter 169, 13. 2 Letter 170 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GOD 75 

are included within the Divine Unity. There is more- 
over the Holy Spirit to Whom also divine worship is 
due. The Unity includes a Trinity. The Son is of 
the Substance of the Father ; eternal as the Father is. 
There is no temporal priority. The Father was never 
without the Son. Augustine illustrates by the light 
which is co-equal with the flame. The Spirit proceeds 
from the Father and the Son. 

This Trinity is of one and the same nature and 
substance. It is not less in each than in all. God is 
neither confusedly One nor separatedly Three. (Nee 
confuse unum sunt, nee disjuncte tria sunt.) 

The letter is chiefly concerned with explaining that 
like generates like; 1 that the son of a man has the 
qualities of his father, and the Son of God the qualities 
of His Father. Thus the Son of God is the Father's 
equal. This equality is inherent and essential. It is 
not something subsequently acquired, as of one who, 
being naturally unequal, rose to equality. 

Also when it is said " the Father is greater than I " 
the reference is to the Son as Incarnate. 2 Whereas " I 
and my Father are One " refers to the Son in His own 
self. 

Augustine pleads most earnestly with the convert to 
instruct his former associates and to bring them into the 
Catholic Faith. 

Leporius was a Gallican monk condemned by certain 
Bishops of his country of erroneous opinions about the 
Incarnation, He was sent to Hippo to be instructed by 
Augustine and if possible to be reclaimed. Augustine 
succeeded in convincing him. Leporius was ready to 
believe that the Word was God, but not that the Word 
became flesh. He denied that God was made man. 
The ground of this denial was a fear of introducing 
mortality into the substance of God. Incarnation 
seemed to him to detract from the equality of the Word 

1 Letter 170, 8. 2 Letter 170, 9. 



76 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

with God the Father. Augustine showed him that, in 
his anxiety to maintain the immortality of God, he had 
in reality introduced a fourth person into the Trinity. 
For he had elevated the Man Jesus to a level with Deity 
while denying that Jesus was the Word made flesh. 
Augustine has explained the position very briefly, but 
this appears to be the essence of Leporius's view and of 
his own reply to it. 

Augustine wrote to the Galilean Bishops, Procopius 
and Cylinnius, 1 certifying that Leporius was now 
orthodox. Leporius openly recanted his error. He is 
mentioned by Cassian in his work on the Incarnation, 2 
and by others, with admiration, as a man of exemplary 
life, and was afterwards raised to the priesthood. 

1 Letter 219, A.D. 427. 

2 Gaume, I. 4. See Appendix to Augustine. Tom. X. p. 2398. 

[These letters on the Christian doctrine concerning God should 
only be taken as an introduction to the great writer's teaching in 
his Confessions, in his Expositions of St. Johns Gospel, and above 
all in the Treatise on the Trinity^ 



CHAPTER IV 

LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 1 

To appreciate Augustine's letters on African Church 
Divisions it is necessary to recall the principal facts of 
their history prior to Augustine's time. 

The divisions had existed since A.D. 311. It was one 
of the indirect results of the Diocletian persecution 
in A.D. 305. In that persecution many an African 
Christian failed. The clergy were required to surrender 
their sacred books to be destroyed. Mensurius, Primate, 
Bishop of Carthage, instead of yielding the Scriptures, 
presented a quantity of heretical writing to the magis- 
trates, who, on being informed of the Primate's subtlety, 
refused to allow further investigation. So Mensurius 
escaped. If his measures were unheroic they were 
prudent. He did his utmost to discourage a fanaticism 
in the Church which courted danger, and provoked an 
ordeal which it might not have the power to endure. 
In these measures he was throughout supported by his 
Archdeacon Caecilian. 

Now there existed among the bishops of the Province 

1 Help will be found on this subject in the following works : 

Noris, Historia Donatistarum, ed. Ballerini. 4 Vols. Verona 
1732. 

Morcelli, Africa Christiana, 3 Vols. 1816. 

Reuter, Augustinische Studien. 

Ribbeck, Donatismus, 1858. 

Monceaux, Article " L'Eglise Donatiste avant S. Augustine," in 
the Revue deFHistoire des Religions. July 1909. Histoire 
Litteraire d? ^Afrique Chretienne^ 4 Vols. 1915. 
77 



78 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

of Numidia a long-standing jealousy of the See of Car- 
thage, which in reality held a sort of patriarchal position 
without the title. The conduct of Mensurius was most 
unfavourably represented among the Numidian bishops. 

In 311 Mensurius died, and his Archdeacon Coecilian 
was consecrated by Felix Bishop of Aptunga, to take 
his place, without consulting the bishops of Numidia. 
But the Numidian bishops refused to acknowledge him. 
They assembled at Carthage and held a Council in which 
they complained (i) that the consecration of Caecilian 
was irregular because according to custom the proper 
consecrator of the Bishop of Carthage was the Primate 
of Numidia ; (2) that in any case Caecilian was an im- 
possible candidate, because he was a Traditor ; that is, 
he had surrendered the Sacred Scripture to the Pagan 
magistrates in the days of the persecution. There is 
irresistible evidence that the conduct of some of Caecilian's 
accusers, the Numidian bishops, during that same period 
would not bear investigation. None the less they refused 
to acknowledge him, and ordered him to appear before 
their Council ; which he refused to do. Accordingly 
they proceeded to elect another bishop for Carthage. 
They consecrated Majorinus, a reader of the Carthaginian 
Church, whose candidature was supported by the wealth 
and influence of a lady named Lucilla whom Bishop 
Caecilian had mortally offended by objecting to her 
devotional esteem for some questionable relics, which he 
regarded as little better than superstition. Majorinus 
was a mere figurehead, a nonentity. In a few months 
he died and was replaced by Donatus, a powerful, com- 
manding personality who gave not only his influence 
but also his name to the Sect. 

Meanwhile the Emperor Constantine acknowleged 
Caecilian and ordered his officials to support him against 
the Separatists. 

Thereupon the Separatists appealed to the Emperor 
through the Proconsul at Carthage requesting Con- 
stantine to submit the dispute to a Synod of Gallican 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 79 

bishops, on the ground that such a Synod would be 
impartial, seeing that Gaul had been exempt from the 
persecution. To this appeal Constantine consented. 
He selected three Gallican bishops together with Pope 
Melchiades and other Italian bishops, making in all a 
Council of seventeen which was held at Rome in 313. 
By that Council of the Lateran Csecilian was acquitted. 

From that first decision the Separatists appealed to 
Constantine again. They complained that in the 
Council in Rome no inquiry had been made into the 
qualifications of Caecilian's consecrator, Felix of Aptunga, 
whom they asserted to be also a Traditor. Accordingly 
Constantine ordered inquiry to be made by the Pro- 
consul ^Elian at Carthage. ^Elian acquitted Felix of 
the accusation made against him. Constantine then had 
the whole subject brought before the Council of Aries 
in 314. Here for the second time Caecilian was declared 
to be innocent. 

For the third time the Separatists appealed. They 
now requested the Emperor to take the matter into his 
own hands. Accordingly Constantine decided at Milan 
in 316 that Caecilian was duly and regularly elected 
and consecrated, and was the lawful Bishop of Carthage. 

Constantine then attempted coercive measures to sup- 
press the Schism. The usual result of coercion followed. 
The Separatists had now their persecuted and their 
martyrs, and the spirit of their community was intensi- 
fied even to a fanatical degree. 

Then arose in Africa that extraordinary band of 
religious furies known as the Circumcellions, who 
terrorised the villages l and waylaid travellers with clubs 
and afterwards with swords, beating and wounding all 
Catholics who had the misfortune to come within their 
reach. These Agonistici consisted chiefly of the sub- 
merged element of the African population, the social 
failures, impecunious colonists, runaway slaves, the 

1 Aug. Contra Ep, Parmen. i. 17, 18, and Letter 23, 6. 7. 
Letter 133, i.ff. 



8o THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

unemployed, the discontented, who gathered in formid- 
able groups to the destruction of social order and 
civilised existence (Letter 108, 18). They robbed the 
inhabitants and threatened their lives. They ill-treated 
the clergy and attacked the Churches : self-constituted 
defenders of the Donatist Communion against the 
ancient Church of the land. They freely shed the blood 
of Church-people to the glory of God. 

The Roman Imperial authorities in Africa were quite 
unequal to their task, and were dismayed by the con- 
sequences of the persecution which they had instituted. 
After some five years of utter distraction, hostility was 
suspended. In 321 Constantine allowed a contemptuous 
peace. The Donatists had in reality gained their way. 
Imperial vacillation promoted their increase. In the 
year 326 they were so strong that they assembled a 
Council of 270 Donatist bishops at Carthage ; so that 
they clearly existed in opposition to the Catholic Church 
in almost every place of much importance in North 
Africa. 

No Church outside Africa acknowledged them, whereas 
the Church over which Caecilian presided was in com- 
munion with all the ancient Churches of the World. The 
Donatists attempted to establish a Church in Rome, 
which, however, could but maintain a struggling and 
precarious existence on a hill and in a cave, while it set 
up a rival against the Roman Bishop. Elsewhere the 
Donatists made overtures to the Arians and for that 
purpose offered doctrinal reductions concerning the 
Trinity. 

Under the successors of Constantine fresh attempts 
were made by Imperial power to bring the two Churches 
into union, chiefly in the interests of social peace. But 
history does not encourage political efforts at ecclesiastical 
unity. A state official, whose name became notorious 
in Africa, Macarius, was commissioned to bring the 
Separatists into union with the Church by all possible 
means. He attempted bribery. He resorted to force. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 81 

He failed in both. He interviewed the Chief of the 
Community at Carthage, but Donatus scorned his 
overtures. What has the Emperor, he asked, to do with 
the Church ? Donatus wrote a circular to all his sub- 
ordinates prohibiting all relations with the State official. 
An Imperial Edict of Union was issued in 347. This 
promoted quiet when the Donatists were weak ; but 
when they were strong it intensified strife. Macarius 
at times lost self-control and resorted to violence. The 
result was more martyrs for the Sect. The Catholics 
were now nicknamed the Macarian Church. The period 
was long after called in Augustine's time the Macarian 
period, the Macarian persecution. 1 Donatus was exiled 
and other leaders after him. 

Catholics began to think that unity was restored. 
Their feelings are described in the pages of the con- 
temporary historian Optatus. But the victory was only 
superficial : peace was but partial. Underneath the 
apparent quiet simmered the old resentment awaiting 
or rather preparing for retaliation. These were the days 
in which the Donatists composed their records of the 
Macarian persecution. The Passio Mercuti relates how 
a Donatist bishop died. 

Then came the Donatist opportunity. The accession 
of Julian reversed all Christian prospects. In 362 he 
decreed that the Donatists might return, and ordered 
the restitution of their Churches. The scenes that 
followed baffle description. 2 The Agonistici revived. 
Retaliations everywhere occurred on the Catholic occu- 
pants of the property of which the Donatists had been 
for years deprived. The Reserved Sacrament in Catholic 
Churches was flung to the dogs, the altars scraped. 
Consecrated Virgins were insulted and injured, clergy 
were wounded and sometimes killed. The wildest and 
most atrocious incidents are recorded. 

The reign of terror ceased with Julian's death in 363, 

1 Letter 87, 10. Letter 49, 3. 2 Letter 105, 9. 

F 



82 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

after less than two years. Edicts of Valentinian, of 
Gratian and of Theodosius, were all adverse to the 
Doriatist cause. 1 

Such were the antecedents of the African Church 
divisions when Augustine entered on his priestly work. 
In Numidia the Separatists were exceedingly strong. 
In Hippo they outnumbered the Catholics. 2 

Augustine's letters on the Donatist Controversy oc- 
cupy a larger space than those on any other subject. 
They extend over thirty years (from 388 to 417). 

The fundamental problem of the Donatist Con- 
troversy is : What constitutes the Validity of a 
Sacrament? Does its validity depend on the personal 
religion of the minister ? Is the validity of a sacrament 
affected by its being administered beyond the limits of 
the one visible historic Church ? 

These questions were forced upon the Church by the 
facts of its history. 

A very admirable discussion of the principles under- 
lying this controversy will be found in Essays on the 
Early History of the Church and the Ministry, edited by 
the late Professor Swete, pp. 143-196. 

There is much to be gathered from these letters on 
Donatism about Augustine's theory of the relation of 
the Roman See to the other local churches ; of the 
position of Apostolic Sees in general ; of the place 
which the Authority of Councils occupied in the Uni- 
versal Church ; of the authority of the Episcopate ; of 
the principles of Succession ; of the validity of Sacra- 
ments ; of the nature of the Church and of Schism. 

It is necessary to remember that our knowledge of 
Donatism is chiefly derived from its opponents ; that it 
clearly possessed many sincere and admirable men ; 
that the rude fanatics who became the terror of North 
Africa in Augustine's days were not necessarily the 

1 Letter 105, 9. 2 Letter 129, 6. Letter 209, 2. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 83 

truest examples of its spirit, although they were his- 
torically the most conspicuous. 1 

Moreover Augustine's teaching on coercion in religion 
must not be criticised apart from the deplorable cir- 
cumstances which provoked him to alter his opinion. 

Augustine's earliest existing letter 2 on the Donatist 
Controversy is addressed to a bishop of the Donatist 
Communion. It is directed in terms of courtesy " to 
Maximin, my most beloved lord and honoured brother, 
Augustine, presbyter of the Catholic Church, sends 
greeting in the Lord." 

But Augustine proceeds to qualify every epithet and 
to neutralise its effect by explaining the sense in which 
he employs them. He explains that if he call Maximin 
honoured he does not mean to honour him as Bishop, 
for he says quite frankly " you are no Bishop to me." 
He asks Maximin not to be offended by this, as he 
considers that sincerity requires such plain speaking. 
What he honours in Maximin is simply his dignity as a 
man. After explaining away the whole of the address 
in this fashion, Augustine reaches the subject of his 
letter. Rumour says that Maximin has actually re- 
baptised a Catholic deacon. Now, to rebaptise a 
Catholic is in Augustine's opinion the most atrocious 
wickedness ("immanissimum scelus"). 

He therefore calls on Maximin to explain his conduct 
in a letter 3 which he will read to the congregation in 
church. He appeals to Maximin to remember the 
transitoriness of earthly honours and the judgment-seat 
of Christ. 

" The honour of this world passes away, ambition 
also passes. In the future judgment of Christ neither 
elevated stalls nor canopied pulpits (absidae gradatae, 
nee cathedrae velatae), nor the processions and chantings 
of throngs of consecrated virgins shall be admitted for 

1 Cf. Monceaux, Histoire Litteraire de VAfrique Chreiiennc, 
1905. 

2 Letter 23, A.U. 388. 3 Letter 23, 3. 



84 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

the defence, when conscience shall begin to accuse and 
the Lord of Conscience to give decision. The things 
that are an honour here will be a burden there : what 
here exalts will there depress." l 

Augustine calls on him to say, I know but one 
Baptism, consecrated and sealed in the Name of the 
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This 
form, wherever I find it, I needs must acknowledge. I 
do not destroy what I recognise as my Lord's. I do 
not dishonour the banner of my King. 

Augustine pleads earnestly with the Donatist Bishop 
against rending the seamless robe of Christ : breaking, 
that is, the unity of the Church. He laments the de- 
plorable divisions of African Christianity of which one 
consequence was that believers in Christ could share 
their daily bread at home, but could not share together 
the Table of Christ. There was no spiritual hospitality 
between the Donatist and the Catholic Communion of 
the fourth century. Augustine dwells on the strange- 
ness of the fact that man and wife who vowed mutual 
fidelity were rending Christ's own Body by belonging 
to different Communions. It was a scandal, a triumph 
of Satan, a ruin of souls. Great would be his reward in 
Heaven who could remedy this miserable calamity by 
which the whole of Africa was grievously afflicted. 

He appeals to Bishop Maximin that both sides 
should avoid exasperating allusions to the past. 2 Let 
Donatists say nothing again of the incidents which they 
call the tempora Macariana (that is, the period when 
the State official Macarius treated the Donatists with 
severity). Let the Catholics say nothing again about 
the violence of the Circumcellions (that is, the rude 
gang of fanatics who terrorised all Africa in the 
Donatist interest). He invites Maximin to a further 
conference with him on the subject of the Schism. If 

1 Another of Augustine's untranslatable plays on words : " Quas 
hie honorant, ibi onerant." 

2 Letter 23, 6. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 85 

Maximin refuses, he will read the correspondence 
between them before his congregation, in order that the 
Catholic people may be the better instructed in the facts 
of the Controversy. He promises that he will not 
appeal for protection to the civil power if the Donatists 
do not invoke the support of their fanatics. 

Augustine further explains that he writes in the 
absence of his Bishop, who, if present, would doubtless 
either have written in person or have approved Augus- 
tine's action. But the rebaptising of a Catholic deacon 
was a scandal which admitted of no delay in expressing 
his grief. 

Soon after his episcopate began, 1 and while Bishop 
Valerius was still living, he wrote to Proculeian, the 
Donatist bishop of his own city Hippo. 

In this letter he is most anxious to conciliate, and to 
remove any bad impression caused by Catholics on the 
Donatist mind. He is afraid that his companion Evo- 
dius has spoken with more zeal than consideration. 
Proculeian has complained of this. Augustine asks 
him to believe that Evodius's conduct was not caused 
by contempt but by devoted attachment to the Church. 2 

Augustine invites Proculeian to hold a discussion with 
him on the subject of African divisions. 3 

He pleads strongly with Proculeian on the duty of 
promoting Reunion. 4 What have we to do, he asks, 
with the quarrels of long ago ? He points out that 
insensibility to wounds is a sign of mortification and 
not of life. He appeals to the miserable effects of 
separate Communions on the life of the home. Husband 
and wife agree in their union with each other but dis- 
agree concerning the altar of Christ. They can keep 
pace on every subject except religion. Parents and 
children share one house but cannot share one House 
of God. 

1 Letter 33. 2 Letter 33, 3. 

3 Letter 33, 4. 4 Letter 33, 5. 



86 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

The letter to Proculeian was followed by two others 
to his congregation in Hippo diocese. 1 

Augustine here lays down emphatically that he has 
no desire that any one should be coerced into the 
Catholic Communion. That was his original principle, 
however much under the influence of circumstances 
he diverged from it afterwards. 

But Augustine feels forced to call attention to the 
unworthy motives by which exchange of Communion 
was sometimes prompted. 2 There was a young man 
among the Catholics at Hippo who beat his own mother, 
and, on being rebuked by the Bishop, became a convert 
to the Donatists, who baptised him, and gave him a 
conspicuous position in their Church. 

Augustine desires to know what responsibility Bishop 
Proculeian acknowledges in this transaction. And 
further he desires to know whether Proculeian will 
meet him and discuss their differences. Such discus- 
sion cannot be held in some other city, as Proculeian 
appears to suggest. For Augustine has no business 
beyond the diocese of Hippo, and the question is 
between Proculeian and himself. If Proculeian thinks 
himself no match for Augustine let him call in what- 
ever aid he pleases. But Augustine professes that 
hesitation on the part of a matured, experienced person 
like Proculeian to meet such a novice as himself is 
unaccountable. Or if Proculeian prefers, Augustine 
will send another Catholic Bishop instead of coming in 
person. 

The scandalous conversion mentioned in his last 
letter 3 was not the only example which came under 
Augustine's notice in the diocese. There was a sub- 
deacon of the Church at Spana named Primus, who was 
deprived of office for immoral relations to certain nuns. 
He instantly became converted to the Donatist Com- 

1 Letters 34 and 35. 2 Letter 34, 2. 

3 Letter 35. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 87 

munion, and the two nuns followed him. This trio 
were now members of a group of wandering missionaries. 
Augustine inquires whether Proculeian is ignorant of 
this scandal as well as of the other. 

There is a further grievance still. Augustine himself 
visiting the Church at Spana was shouted at by a 
Presbyter of Proculeian for being a persecutor. Yet 
Augustine had expressly refused to allow a father to 
compel his daughter to leave the Donatists for the 
Catholic Communion. 

One of the very best of Augustine's letters on African 
Church Divisions is Letter 43. l 

This letter was written in 398 to a group of prominent 
Donatists with whom Augustine had recently held a 
discussion. He wants to approach them in a con- 
ciliatory spirit. The present generation had inherited 
this schism, not created it. What constitutes a heretic 
is not so much the special error which he maintains as 
the spirit in which he maintains it. Augustine puts 
these ideas into the following sentence : 

" But though the doctrine which men hold be false 
and perverse, if they do not maintain it with passionate 
obstinacy, especially when they have not devised it by 
the rashness of their own presumption, but have accepted 
it from parents who had been misguided and had fallen 
into error, and if they are with anxiety seeking the 
truth, and are prepared to be set right when they have 
found it, such men are not to be counted heretics." 2 

The letter is concerned with the proper inferences to 
be drawn from the history of the Donatist Communion 
and of the Catholic Church in Africa. It presupposes 
a knowledge of the main facts. Both Catholic and 
Donatist alike were familiar with the general history of 
the divisions. 

Augustine here recalls 3 to the Donatist reader's mind 



1 Letter 43, written in A.D. 398. 2 Letter 43, i. 

3 Letter 43, 3. 



88 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

the principal points urged in his recent discussion with 
them. The Donatists produced certain Acts or Eccle- 
siastical Records in which it was stated that Caecilian 
of Carthage was condemned by a Council of seventy 
bishops. The Catholics replied by producing certain 
other Ecclesiastical Documents according to which the 
Donatist party included bishops who had committed 
the very same offence with which they charged Caecilian 
and yet were tolerated in office among them. 

Augustine maintains that the ordination of Majorinus 
as a rival to Bishop Caecilian l was an " erection of altar 
against altar," and a sinful rending of the unity of Christ. 

He points out that the Donatists appealed to the 
secular authorities in the person of the Emperor Con- 
stantine, asking him to appoint bishops at a distance 
from the scene of strife who might adjudicate in the 
dispute. Constantine granted the request, and three 
trials followed. 

The first was before Melchiades, Bishop of Rome, and 
certain assessors (313). In this trial Caecilian was 
acquitted. From this the Donatists appealed. A 
second trial was held in the Council of Aries 314. 
Here again Caecilian was acquitted. Once more the 
Donatists appealed to the Emperor. A third trial was 
now held by Constantine in person. This confirmed 
the acquittal of the previous judgments. 

Augustine's comment on all this is that Caecilian 
of Carthage " could afford to disregard even a number 
of enemies conspiring against him, because he saw him- 
self united by letters of communion both to the Roman 
Church in which the supremacy of an apostolic chair has 
always flourished 2 (" in qua semper apostolicae cathedrae 
viguit principatus "), ancl to all other lands from which 
Africa itself received the Gospel ; and was prepared to 
defend himself before these Churches if his adversaries 
attempted to cause an alienation of them from him." 3 

1 Letter 43, 4. 2 Letter 43, 7. 3 Ibid. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 89 

The points to notice in this important paragraph are : 
(i) the meaning vtprincipatus, or supremacy, as applied 
to the Roman Church. (2) Whether the rendering 
should be an apostolic chair, or the apostolic chair : 
that is, whether Augustine denotes a prerogative of all 
apostolic Churches in general or of the Roman See in 
particular. (3) The appeal which Augustine considers 
Caecilian is prepared to make is not only to the Roman 
Church, but to the other Churches also with which he 
was united. 1 

Augustine argues 2 that Secundus, the Primate, who 
presided over the Council at Carthage, ought not to have 
permitted a judgment to be given against the absent 
Bishop Caecilian. True, that Caecilian refused to appear 
before the Council. But this was not the case of the 
trial of a priest or one of the inferior orders of clergy. 
It was a case of one of their own colleagues, a bishop ; 
who had the right to reserve the decision to the judg- 
ment of other bishops, especially those of the Apostolic 
Churches. The Primate's duty in the case was to 
Augustine's mind perfectly plain. 

If the Numidian bishops had resisted the Primate's 
advice to postpone decision, 3 they would have been 
frustrated, because no act of theirs could be valid with- 
out the Primate's approval. If they still persisted, and 
acted in defiance of the Primate, he would be wiser to 
separate himself from their disorderly procedures than 
from the Communion of the world-wide Church. 

Augustine further contended 4 that Caecilian's oppo- 
nents included men who had committed the very act of 
betraying sacred writings which they laid to Caecilian's 
charge. 

In any case Caecilian and his adherents ought not to 

1 For critical notices of this passage see Bright, The Roman 
See in the Early Church, p. 62 ; Father Puller, The Primitive 
Saints and the See of Rome, 1914, p. 152 ; Denny's Papalism. 

2 Letter 43, 7, 3 Letter 43, 9. 
4 Letter 43, 10. 



90 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

have been condemned in their absence. 1 For they 
were not chargeable with deserting a tribunal before 
which they had never stood ; nor was the Church so 
exclusively represented in these African bishops that 
refusal to appear before them was equivalent to declin- 
ing all ecclesiastical jurisdiction. For there remained 
thousands of bishops in countries beyond the sea, be- 
fore whom it was obvious that those who seemed to 
distrust their peers in Africa and Numidia could be 
tried. 

There was a further problem to be discussed : 2 
namely, the relation of the Church to the State. The 
Donatists complained that Caecilian had been acquitted 
by the secular authorities. It was not right that a 
bishop should be acquitted by trial before a proconsul. 

Augustine points out in reply that it was not Caecilian 
who appealed to the Emperor Constantine. Augustine 
appears to recognise an authority in the Emperor to 
secure the peace of the Church in case of internal dis- 
putes. This matter belonged especially to his care. 
He would have to give account concerning it to God. 
(" Imperator ... ad cujus curam, de qua rationem Deo 
rediturus esset, res ilia maxime pertinebat." 3 ) In any 
case the objection came most unbecomingly from the 
Donatists, since it was they who made the appeal to the 
Emperor, and then refused to abide by his decision. 

But after all, as Augustine had already reminded 
his Donatist opponents, 4 the Imperial sentence was 
only one of the three trials of the case of Caecilian. 
It was also tried before the Roman Bishop with certain 
episcopal colleagues. Augustine asks whether the 
Donatists object to this episcopal court ? 

" Perhaps you will say that Melchiades, Bishop of the 
Roman Church, along with the other bishops beyond 

1 Letter 43, n. 2 Letter 43, 13. 

3 Contrast S. Ambrose. " Sermo contra Auxentium." Works, II, 
1018, 36. 

4 Letter 43, 14. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 91 

the sea who acted as his colleagues, had no right to 
usurp the place of judge in a matter which had been 
already settled by seventy African bishops, over whom 
the Bishop of Tigisis (Secundus) as Primate presided." 

Augustine's reply to this possible objection against 
,the Roman Bishop with his colleagues deciding a case 
already tried before a tribunal in Africa is remarkable. 
He says : 

" But what will you say if he in fact did not usurp 
this place ? For the Emperor, being appealed to, sent 
bishops to sit with him as judges, with authority to 
decide the whole matter in the way which to them 
seemed just." 

Augustine apparently here represents the Roman 
Bishop as nominated judge of this African dispute by 
the Emperor with authority to give final decision. But 
before any inference is drawn from this passage it is 
essential to read what the writer says later in 20 of 
this same letter. 

Meanwhile Augustine is strong in praise l of the 
moral value of the Roman Bishop's conduct of the 
Court before which Caecilian was tried. 

Augustine refuses to acquiesce merely in superiority 
of numbers. Doubtless there were seventy bishops 
who condemned Caecilian in Africa, while not a tenth 
part of that number acquitted him with Melchiades 
in Rome. But it is a question of quality not of mere 
quantity. Augustine is clear that in this instance the 
votes must be weighed not counted. And the weighti- 
ness of which he thinks is moral not ecclesiastical or 
official, He does not mean that the Roman Council 
had higher ecclesiastical authority than belonged to an 
African provincial assembly. It possesses a moral 
superiority. 

In Augustine's view the Council over which the 
Roman Bishop Melchiades presided 2 did not care to 

1 Letter 43, 16. 2 Ibid. 



92 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

inquire either what was the number of those bishops, 
or whence they had been collected, when they saw 
them to be blinded with such reckless presumption as 
to pronounce rash sentence upon their colleagues in 
their absence, and without having examined them. 

With these moral defects of the Council of the 
Seventy Bishops, Augustine proceeds to contrast the 
moral excellence of the Council of the few, and more 
especially of the presiding bishop. 

. "And yet what a decision was finally pronounced 
by the blessed Melchiades himself: how equitable, how 
complete, how prudent, and how fitting, to make peace ! 
For he did not presume to depose from his college 
(de collegio suo) colleagues against whom nothing had 
been proved," etc. " O excellent man ! " (adds Augus- 
tine after a little further explanation,) " O son of 
Christian peace, father of the Christian people. Com- 
pare now this handful with that multitude of bishops, 
not counting, but weighing them : on the one side 
you have moderation and circumspection ; on the other, 
precipitancy and blindness." * 

And here Augustine goes behind the Ecclesiastical 
Assembly in Africa 2 to the wire-pullers and real in- 
fluences at work. He declares that some of Caecilian's 
opponents were maintained against him by the wrath 
of a lady named Lucilla, who took a violent dislike 
to Caecilian because he had ventured to rebuke her 
for certain religious practices which he considered 
superstitious. Augustine also declares that it could 
be proved from public records in the possession of one 
Zenophilus that Lucilla's money had greatly promoted 
the opposition to Caecilian, 3 He says they were urged 
on by a women's spite. 

But, says Augustine, suppose that the tribunal before 
which the case of Caecilian was tried was, as his 
opponents declare, unjust. 

1 Letter 43, 16. 2 Letter 43, 17. 3 Letter 43, 18. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 93 

" Well, let us suppose that those bishops who decided 
the case at Rome were not good judges ; x there still 
remained a plenary Council of the Universal Church, 
in which these judges themselves might be put on 
their defence ; so that, if they were convicted of 
mistake, their decisions might be reversed." 

Augustine complains that the Donatists make no 
such appeal to a plenary Council of the Universal 
Church, Instead of appealing to the plenary Council 
they appealed against the Council at Rome to the 
Emperor. That was the reason why Constantine 
granted the Donatists a second trial of Caecilian at the 
Council of Aries : not because this was due to them, 
but only as a concession to their stubbornness. " For. 
this Christian Emperor did not presume so to grant 
their unruly and groundless complaints as to make 
himself the judge of the decision pronounced by the 
bishops who had sat at Rome ; but he appointed, as 
I have said, other bishops, from whom, however, they 
preferred again to appeal to the Emperor himself; and 
you have heard the terms in which he- disapproved 
of this." 2 

From this point Augustine describes in strong and 
indignant terms 3 the inconsistences and the calamities 
in which the adherents of the Schism are involved. 
This he does at considerable length and with much 
eloquence. He brings his long letter towards its close 
with one of those striking and remarkable sentences 
which live to this day: " No one can cancel from 
heaven the decree of God, no one can cancel from 
earth the Church of God." 4 

This long and careful letter on the history of the 
Donatist Body was the sequel to a conference held 
by Augustine with their leaders at a town in his 

1 Letter 43, 19. 2 Letter 43, 20. 

3 Letter 43, 21. 

4 Nemo delet de ccelo constitutionem Dei, nemo delet de terra 
Ecclesiam Dei. Letter 43, 27. 



94 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

diocese. He was indefatigable in his exertions to 
secure reunion. We find him, as he travelled about 
his diocese, seeking interviews wherever possible with 
the Donatist Bishops. Thus at a town called Tubursi 
he visited the Donatist Bishop Fortunius, and wrote 
an account of the interview in a letter 1 to the same 
persons whom he had addressed in Letter 43. 

Augustine's account shows the singular futility of 
Conferences on Reunion where the desire for mutual 
understanding is not strongly developed. The Catholic 
desired reunion with the Donatist, but not the Donatist 
with the Catholic. Crowds assembled, but rather in 
the hope of witnessing a scene between the two bishops ; 
jn the spirit in which they might attend a theatre rather 
than a serious discussion on matters of faith. Augustine 
draws a lively picture of the confusion and disorder and 
interruptions, and the refusal to allow reporters to take 
notes, in a meeting of several hours' duration. 

When the meeting had been reduced to comparative 
quiet, 2 Fortunius spoke approvingly of Augustine's 
manner of life, but added that such work would be 
excellent if it had been done within the Church. But 
he denied absolutely that Augustine was within the 
Church. 

Thereupon Augustine asked what the true Church 
was ? Was it a world-wide community, or was it merely 
local and Afiican? Fortunius replied that his Church 
existed in all parts of the world. Augustine then 
inquired whether the Donatist Bishop could prove his 
membership in the Universal Church by issuing letters 
of Communion to places which Augustine would select. 

This question Fortunius evaded in a cloud of words, 3 
and went off into the totally different proposition that 
a test of the true Church was to be found in its 
endurance of persecution. He quoted the Beatitude on 
those who suffered persecution for righteousness' sake. 

1 Letter 44, A. D. 389. 2 Letter 44, 3. 3 Letter 44, 4. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 95 

Augustine thanked him for the appropriateness of 
the quotation, but pointed out that the Beatitude did 
not apply to all the persecuted as such indiscriminately, 
but only to those whose cause was righteous. The 
previous question, therefore, was whether the Donatists 
were acting rightfully. No one denied that they had 
suffered persecution. 

Augustine, however, insisted on asking whether the 
Donatists had not, as indeed they had, separated from 
the Church Catholic long before the Macarian perse- 
cution. Consequently the real question was, whether 
they had not done serious wrong in severing themselves 
from the Universal Church. So Augustine brought 
the discussion back to the question whether the persecu- 
tion which the Donatists suffered was for righteousness' 
sake. 1 

"I asked them," wrote Augustine, 2 "how they could 
justify their separation of themselves from all other 
Christians who had done them no wrong, who through- 
out the world preserved the order of succession, and 
were established in the most ancient churches, but had 
no knowledge whatever as to who were traditors in 
Africa ; and who assuredly could not hold communion 
with others than those whom they heard of as occupying 
the episcopal sees/' 

He found that the Donatists were supporting their 
cause by appealing to a Council of Arians. 3 But the 
Donatists refused to lend him the document or even to 
allow him to mark the MS. to insure its identity on a 
subsequent occasion. 

Returning to the subject of persecution for righteous- 
ness' sake, Augustine 4 asked Bishop Fortunius whether 
he considered Ambrose, Bishop of the Church of Milan, 

1 The facts about Macarius, sent in A. D. 347, will be found in 
Optatits, Book III. See also Augustine's Works, ed. Gaume, 
Tom. IX. pp. 1115-1117. 

2 Letter 44, 5. 3 Letter 44, 6. 
4 Letter 44, 7. 



96 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

to be a righteous man and a Christian ? This apparently 
simple question put the Donatist Bishop in a dilemma. 
If he were to admit that Ambrose was a righteous man 
and a Christian, Augustine intended at once to retort, 
" Then why do you think it necessary for Ambrose to be 
baptised ? " Fortunius, in order to avoid that perplexity, 
was forced to say that Ambrose was not a Christian 
nor a righteous man. To which Augustine replied by 
relating the story of the persecutions which Ambrose 
had endured from the Arian authorities. Clearly 
therefore, on Fortunius's own principles, the suffering 
of persecution was not a test of righteousness. 

After further debate on this point, 1 Augustine urged 
that mutual recriminations ought to be laid aside. 
Christ's treatment of Judas Iscariot emphasised the 
duty of tolerating evil. Christ admitted Judas to the 
first Sacrament of His Body and Blood. Augustine 
says that almost everybody present felt the force of this 
argument. 

Fortunius endeavoured to destroy the force of it by 
urging that communion with an evil person did no injury 
to the Apostles, because they had not yet received the 
Baptism of Christ, but only that of S. John Baptist. 

Augustine's reply to this is curious, (i) He asserted 
that when Christ sent His disciples to baptise, the 
Baptism which they administered was that of Christ and 
not that of S. John. (2) That accordingly the disciples 
must have been already themselves baptised with the 
Baptism of Christ. For how could they give what they 
had not received? This was the favourite Donatist 
maxim. (3) That the Apostles must have received the 
Baptism of Christ before the Institution of the Eucharist. 
" For how could they receive the Eucharist if not 
previously baptised ? " 

Fortunius here observed 2 that his party were appre- 
hensive of further persecutions from Catholics, and asked 

1 Letter 44, 10. 2 Letter 44, n. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 97 

what attitude Augustine was prepared to adopt in the 
event of any such occurrence. 

Augustine dissociated himself altogether from approval 
of persecution. We know how on this important matter 
he was afterwards overruled. But he said on the present 
occasion that if persecution arose it would be the work 
of evil men. He spoke of forbearing one another in 
love. He referred to the conduct of Bishop Genethlius 
of Carthage, 1 predecessor of Aurelius, who suppressed 
an edict against the Donatists. This reference was 
highly commended. Nevertheless, retorted Augustine, 
the Donatists would have rebaptised Bishop Genethlius 
if he had fallen into their power. 

The Conference was now breaking up, and ready to 
disperse. Fortunius remarked with great frankness that 
their existing rule required the rebaptism of every 
convert from the Catholic Church. But he evidently 
regretted that this rule had ever been made. He 
deplored many of the actions perpetrated by his own 
Communion. He was evidently well-disposed toward 
the Catholic Church. He went the following day of his 
own accord to have further talk with Augustine, and 
parted on friendly terms. 

Augustine thought that good might be done by 
further consultation in the absence of the disorderly 
throng of Donatist adherents, and suggests that a private 
meeting might be held elsewhere. 

The Donatist Communion experienced the tendency 
to sub-division, which is the common tendency of 
separated churches. 2 A remarkable and instructive 
example of this was the case of the Maximianists, which 
Augustine puts forward in Letter 51. Since the facts 
were thoroughly well known to the Donatists whom 
he was controverting, Augustine deals with the case 
here in a rather allusive manner, taking much for 
granted as common knowledge. He tells the story 

1 Letter 44, 12. 2 Letter 51, A.D. 400. 

G 



9& THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

more completely elsewhere in his treatises against the 
Donatists. 1 Briefly the facts were these. Maximian 
was a Donatist deacon who rebelled against his Bishop, 
separated from the parent Community, obtained episco- 
pal consecration, and established a new Donatist Church, 
over which he presided as chief. The original Donatist 
Communion not only pronounced him and his adherents 
outside the Church, but also went to law against them 
and endeavoured to get them turned out of the churches 
which they occupied. But meanwhile the Maximianists 
thrived. Their adherents multiplied. They set up rival 
Churches in hundreds of towns and villages. Thus two 
Donatist Bishops in addition to the Catholic Bishop 
existed in most places. The separation grew so serious 
that the original Donatist Church took alarm. It was 
now determined to secure reunion at every cost. The 
Maximianists, who up to then were discredited and 
regarded as unbaptised, were now received without 
rebaptism into the original Donatist Communion and 
their adherents with them. 

Thus on motives of expediency the very principles 
which the original Donatist Church insisted on as vital 
in regard to the Catholic Communion were simply over- 
looked and set aside for the sake of recovering the 
Maximianists. 

This is the point which Augustine forces on the atten- 
tion of the Donatists in the present letter. He draws 
out the inconsistency of it, and the injustice of the 
Donatists towards the Catholic Church. They acknow- 
ledged the Baptism of the Maximianists and rejected 
that of the Universal Church. 

Here is his concluding appeal : 

" Look to the charge made by your Council against 
the Maximianists as guilty of impious schism ; look to 
the persecutions by the civil courts to which you appealed 

1 See the Treatise against Cresconius, Book IV. ; Works, IX. 
742, and the Treatise de Gestis cum Emerito, Works, IX. 964. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 99 

against them ; look to the fact that you restored some of 
them without reordination, and accepted their baptism 
as valid ; and answer, if you can, whether it is in your 
power to hide, even from the ignorant, the question why 
you have separated yourselves from the whole world in 
a schism more heinous than that which you boast of 
having condemned in the Maximianists?" 

Another letter was written to Generosus, a layman of 
Cirta, or Constantine, the capital of Numidia. 1 The 
Episcopal Succession in the Donatist Communion in 
Cirta had been urged upon Generosus. And Augustine 
accordingly here deals with the principle of the Apostolic 
succession in the Catholic Church. Herein lies the 
importance of the letter. It has been pointed out 
(Turner, " Apostolic Succession," essay in Early History 
of the Church and Ministry, pp. 192, 193) that this is not 
one of Augustine's usual arguments in the Donatist 
Controversy. But he was willing enough to take it 
up when challenged. Succession, as he understood it, 
meant the series of Bishops in a particular See. It is a 
succession " from holder to holder, not from consecrator 
to consecrated " (ib. p. 193). 

Another letter was written by Augustine together 
with Alypius and Fortunatus to the same Generosus. 
Generosus had received a letter 2 from a Donatist priest 
who professed that he had been ordered by an angel to 
convert Generosus to the Donatist Communion. 

Augustine reminds Generosus, who was not at all 
favourably impressed by this Donatist overture, of the 
Pauline teaching that if an angel from heaven were to 
preach any other gospel than that which he had received, 
the proper reply would be an anathema. 

Augustine proceeds further to give a list of the 
Episcopal succession in Rome from S. Peter to 
Anastasius. 3 The list including Peter consists of thirty- 
nine names. Augustine points out that no Donatist can 

1 Letter 53. 2 Letter 53, A.D. 400. 3 Letter 53, 2. 



ioo THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

be found in this Succession. There was indeed a small 
Donatist Community in Rome with a Bishop sent to 
them from Africa. The sect was known apparently 
derisively from its insignificance and obscurity as the 
Montenses^ or by a term which is probably corrupt, and 
the meaning quite uncertain Cuteupitce. 

But, says Augustine, 2 even if a faithless individual had 
been intruded into the order of the Bishops between 
S. Peter and Anastasius who now occupies the See, that 
individual failure would not affect the status of the 
Church (nihil praejudicaret Ecclesiae et innocentibus 
Christianis). Christ Himself has provided against such 
contingencies (S. Matt, xxiii. 3). 

And the Donatist is at the disadvantage that he reads 
in Scripture of Apostolic Churches with which he is not 
in communion. 

Augustine then turns to the evidence of public docu- 
ments 3 to show that the Donatist succession had been 
invalidated by the very infidelity and persecution which 
they charged against the Catholic Succession of Bishops. 

Another letter on the African Schism warns the 
Donatists by the fate of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. 4 
Augustine appeals to the moral sense of his corre- 
spondent Emeritus, that no high-minded man could 
defend the conduct of the notorious Donatist, Bishop 
Optatus, whose scandalous career was a disgrace to any 
Community. 5 He asks with what justice could the 
Churches, which were apostolic foundations, be con- 
demned by the Donatists for their ignorance of an 
African dispute. He claims that if Catholics 6 appealed 
to the State it was only to protect themselves from 
violence, as S. Paul himself had done. "The question 
between us, however, is, whether your Church or ours is 
the Church of God ? " 7 

By the beginning of the fifth century the fanaticism of 

1 Letter 53, 2. 2 Letter 53, 3. 3 Letter 53, 4. 

4 Letter 87, A.D. 405. 5 Tjtt"r 87, 4 and 5. 

Letter 87, 8. ^^^ W3ffl*Vg7, 10. 




LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 101 

the Donatists' Communion had become intolerable. In 
the year 406 the Catholic clergy of the diocese of Hippo 
Regius sent the Donatists a letter 1 which gives details 
of the cruel sufferings inflicted on the Church by the 
Separated Body. Important extracts are given from 
public documents of the time of Constantine to show 
what the actual facts at the beginning of the Division 
really were. But the account of the sufferings of 
Catholics is dreadful. Bishops were waylaid during 
their pastoral visitation and savagely beaten. 2 When 
complaints were made to the Donatist authorities they 
were evaded or rejected. Catholics were compelled in 
self-defence to appeal to the State for protection. 

The diocese of Calama over which Possidius, Augus- 
tine's friend and biographer, presided was the scene of a 
Pagan riot in 408 (see Letters 90, 91). Shortly after 
that outbreak subsided a riot of Donatist fanatics 
followed. A desperate attempt was made by a Donatist 
priest named Crispin to murder Bishop Possidius, who 
very narrowly escaped with his life. 

Augustine has elsewhere told the story of the suffer- 
ings of Bishop Possidius. 3 The Donatists surrounded 
the house in which he was taking refuge, stormed it, and 
attempted to set it on fire. The inhabitants of the town 
dared not resist the Donatists, but warned Crispin, the 
leader of the attack, what the consequences might be at 
the hands of the State. This warning had some effect, 
and the flames were partially extinguished. But Crispin 
and his crew burst into the house, killed the cattle on 
the ground floor, and dragged down the Bishop from the 
upper storey and beat him, until Crispin himself grew 
frightened and called his associates off. 

The case was brought before the secular authorities, 
and Crispin was condemned to pay a fine of ten pounds 
in gold, according to the Law of Theodosius. The 

1 Letter 88, to Januarius. 2 Letter 88, 6. 

3 Augustine, Contra Crescon. Donat. iii. 50. 



102 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Catholics then acted with great forbearance. Bishop 
Possidius himself interceded on Crispin's behalf with the 
Emperor and the fine was remitted. 

A Council of Bishops was held which sent a deputa- 
tion to Rome requesting that this fine of ten pounds in 
gold should not be inflicted on all Donatist leaders 
indiscriminately, as the Imperial decree had ordered, but 
only on those who inflicted violence on the Catholic 
Church. However this considerate and forgiving spirit 
did little good. Another bishop, the Catholic Bishop of 
Bagae, had been brutally injured by the Donatists, and 
his case was known at Rome. The Emperor therefore 
insisted on severer measures with a view to repress these 
ferocious outbursts of fanaticism. 

Then the Circumcellions resorted to vitriol throwing. 1 
They flung a mixture of lime and acid into the eyes 
of their religious opponents with blinding effect. When 
action was taken against them by the State the 
Donatists considered themselves victims of persecution. 
In a sentence Augustine sums up the position: "They 
live as robbers, they die as Circumcelliones, they are 
honoured as martyrs." 

Further arguments and criticisms on the Donatist 
position are given in a letter 2 to an owner of property 
near Hippo whose servants were members of the sect. 

Once more Augustine insists that rejection of the 
authority of the State comes with bad grace from those 
who appealed to the Emperor Constantine, esteeming 
the Imperial authority so much "above that of all the 
Bishops beyond the sea, that to him rather than to 
them they referred this ecclesiastical dispute." 3 

But, argues Augustine, 4 even if you grant that 
the decision of these judges was unjust, what then ? 
They are responsible to God for their verdict. But 
what has the Church done, the Universal Church, that 

1 Letter 88, 8. 2 Letter 89. 

3 Letter 89, 3. 4 Letter 89, 4. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 103 

it should deserve to be rebaptised, merely because it 
accepts the decision of the civil courts, of judges whom 
it believed to be in a position to know the facts? 
" No man deserves to be blamed for the crime of 
another ; what then has the whole world to do with 
the sin which some one in Africa may have committed ? 
No man deserves to be blamed for a crime about which 
he knows nothing ; and how could the whole world 
possibly know the crime in this case, whether the 
judges or the party condemned were guilty ? You who 
have understanding, judge what I say. Here is the 
justice of heretics : the party of Donatus condemns 
the whole world unheard, because the whole world 
does not condemn a crime unknown." 

Then as to the Donatist theory, 1 that the validity of 
Baptism depends on the righteousness of the minister, 
Augustine reduces it to an absurdity. For they 
admitted that Baptism conferred in their own Com- 
munion by an unworthy minister whose unworthiness 
is secret is valid. Accordingly the Catholics asked : 
Who in that case is the real Baptiser? The Donatists 
could only answer it is God. Thereupon Augustine 
presented the Donatist with the following conclusion : 
If when Baptism is administered by a righteous minister, 
it is the minister who sanctifies the candidate ; but 
when Baptism is administered by a secretly unworthy 
minister, it is God who sanctifies ; the candidate ought 
to wish to be baptised rather by a minister who is secretly 
bad than by one who is manifestly good. For obviously 
God sanctifies much more effectually than any minister, 
however righteous, can do. 

The absurdity of this logical inference shows how 
wrong the Donatist theory of the influence of the 
minister on the Sacrament is. We are not to put our 
trust in man, but in Christ. The validity of Baptism 
does not depend on the moral worth of the minister. 

1 Letter 89, 5. 



io 4 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

It is valid because Christ Himself is the real 
Baptiser. 

Augustine warns Festus, his correspondent, that the 
men on his property near Hippo are still Donatists, 1 
and that Festus's letter to them has taken no effect. 
He suggests that Festus should send some trusty 
servant to the Bishop who will explain the steps that 
should be taken. 

The letter to Vincent contains Augustine's famous 
defence of coercion. 2 

The defence is based on the ground of expediency. 
Coercion has been found productive of satisfactory 
results. It has made men amenable to reason, and 
reduced them to a teachable frame of mind. 

Augustine illustrates from cases in which coercion is 
incontestably right. 3 It is right to restrain a delirious 
patient from injuring himself. Severity is confessedly 
sometimes right. 4 Did not God chasten Israel? Does 
He not correct those whom He loves ? Is it not 
written " compel them to come in " ? 5 giving that fatal 
interpretation which was destined to have such far- 
reaching and disastrous consequences. Was not S. 
Paul coerced by Christ to embrace the truth ? Did 
not Sarah rightly afflict her insolent servant? If 
Jezebel slew prophets so did Elijah. 6 Nor was this 
confined to the Old Testament. 7 God spared not His 
only Son. The difference between rightful and wrong- 
ful compulsion depends upon the motive. When the 
Father delivered up His Son, and Judas delivered up 
Jesus Christ, the action was the same but the motive 
different. Everything depends on the motive of 
coercion. The magistrates imprisoned S. Paul, but 
S. Paul delivered over a person to Satan which is 
infinitely worse. The Jews scourged Christ ; Christ 
also scourged the Jews. 8 

1 Letter 89, 8. 2 Letter 



J-.CLIC1 oy, 3 - J_iCllCI yj, /Y.J-'. 4<JO. 

Letter 93, 2. 4 Letter 93, 4. 5 Letter 93, 5. 

Letter 93, 6. 7 Letter 93, 7. s Letter 93, 8. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 105 

Vincent objected that no example of appeal to the 
State by the Church 1 to exercise coercion is found in 
the New Testament. Augustine admits that this is 
true. But times have changed. He finds an illustra- 
tion of two periods of the Church's existence in the 
story of Nebuchadnezzar. The age of the Apostles 
resembled Nebuchadnezzar's persecution of the faithful. 
The age after Constantine resembled Nebuchadnezzar's 
decree enforcing penalties against those who spoke a 
word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and 
Abed-nego. 

Coercion as a matter of practical experience had 
proved extremely beneficial. 2 It had brought many 
misguided individuals to accept the truth. 

Augustine confesses that he had originally held the 
opposite view. 3 He had maintained that no one should 
be forced into Christian unity. He had believed that 
Christianity must be advanced by argument and per- 
suasion, but not by compulsion. He had been keenly 
alive to the dangers of hypocritical conversions. 

But he had now altered his opinion. And this 
change of mind was not due to the arguments of other 
bishops, but simply to the evidence of the results 
which compulsion had produced. He had seen the 
change wrought in his own city, under his own eyes, 
by the Imperial edicts. Hippo had been almost entirely 
Donatist. It was now a Catholic city. He had ascer- 
tained from the admissions of those converts that family 
tradition, ignorance, prejudice, misrepresentation, had 
kept multitudes alienated from the Church. Crowds 
of people had imagined that it was a matter of pure 
indifference to which Christian Communion a person 
might belong. Many remained in schism simply be- 
cause they had been born into it, and not from any 
personal conviction. 

1 Letter 93, 9. 2 Letter 93, 16. 

3 Letter 93, 17. 



io6 * THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Augustine dwells here as often on the note of 
Catholicity as a test of the true Church. 

" You think that you make a very acute remark 
when you affirm the name Catholic to mean Universal, 
not in respect to the Communion as embracing the 
whole world, but in respect to the observance of all 
Divine precepts and of all the Sacraments ; as if we 
(even accepting the position that the Church is called 
Catholic because it honestly holds the whole truth, of 
which fragments here and there are found in some 
heresies) rested upon the testimony of this word's 
signification, and not upon the promises of God, and 
so many indisputable testimonies of the truth itself, 
our demonstration of the existence of the Church of 
God in all nations. In fact, however, this is the whole 
which you attempt to make us believe, that the 
Donatists alone remain worthy of the name Catholics, 
on the ground of their observing all the Divine precepts 
and all the Sacraments ; and that you are the only 
persons in whom the Son of Man when He cometh 
shall find faith. You must excuse me for saying we 
clo not believe a word of this." l 

Augustine further insisted here, as often in other 
places, above all in his expositions on the Psalms, that 
Scripture contains witness to Christ and witness to 
the Church, and that to throw discredit on its witness 
in the one case virtually undermines its credit in the 
other. How can we be sure that we have indisputable 
testimony to Christ in the Divine word, if we do not 
accept as indisputable the testimony of the same word 
to the Church ? 2 

The Donatist was involved in this inconsistency, for 
he accepted the witness of Scripture to Christ's Passion 
and Resurrection, but rejected its witness to the Catholic 
or world-wide character of the Church. 

He also urges that the erection of an exclusive, 

1 Letter 93, 23. 2 Ibid. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 107 

separated body, 1 on the plea of higher sanctity, must 
always make the separated body liable to be similarly 
treated by a still smaller and more exclusive minority, 
who may separate in turn from them as they did from 
the larger Church and may claim exactly as they did 
to be the only true Church existing on the earth. 

" You are by no means sure that there may not be 
some righteous persons, few in number, and therefore 
unknown, dwelling in some place far remote from the 
south of Africa, who, long before the party of Donatus 
had withdrawn their righteousness from fellowship with 
the unrighteousness of all other men, had, in their 
remote southern region, separated themselves in the 
same way for some most satisfactory reason, and are 
now, by a claim superior to yours, the Church of God, 
as the spiritual Zion which preceded all your sects in a 
justifiable secession," etc. 

Vincent further supported his separation by quotation 
from S. Hilary and from S. Cyprian. 2 Cyprian was a 
peculiar cause of embarrassment to the Catholics in this 
controversy, because he had advocated rebaptism of 
separatists, which was precisely what the Donatist main- 
tained against the Church. This put the African 
Church in difficulties. For there was no greater 
authority among African churchmen than Cyprian. 
And in this question of rebaptism they were obliged 
to disown him. 

Augustine argues first that episcopal writings are 
not to be placed on a level of authority with the 
Scriptures. 3 Secondly, that whatever Cyprian may 
have written he never separated from the unity of the 
Church. Thirdly, that Cyprian recognised that his 
own theory had not been acted upon in the previous 
generation. Tourthly, Augustine propounded the 
exceedingly hazardous proposition that Cyprian may 



Letter 93, 25. 2 Letter 93, 35 

Letter 93, 36. 



io8 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

have altered his opinions ; 1 adding that critics existed 
who maintained that Cyprian never held the view 
ascribed to him, but that it was a pure invention of his 
enemies. Augustine, however, is much too genuine to 
agree with such critics as these. He has no doubt 
that Cyprian held this view. 2 The style of his writings 
is unmistakable. But after all this does not help the 
Donatists. 3 For Cyprian's principle was that unity 
must remain unbroken. Each Bishop was responsible 
for his action with that unity to Christ. But the 
Church must continue undivided. 

Augustine proceeds to distinguish what he could 
accept 4 as valid in the Donatists, and what he must 
regard as their defect. He accepted their Sacraments 
as valid, because those Sacraments'were the Sacraments 
of Christ and not of Donatus or any other chief of a 
separation. 

" For from the Catholic Church are all the Sacraments 
of the Lord, which you hold and administer in the same 
way as they were held and administered even before 
you went forth from her. The fact, however, that you 
are no longer in that Church from which proceeded the 
Sacraments which you have, does not make it the less 
true that you still have them." . . . ''You are at one 
with us in Baptism, in Creed, and in the other Sacra- 
ments of the Lord. But in the spirit of unity and the 
bond of peace, in a word, in the Catholic Church itself, 
you are not with us." 5 

It should be noted that the letter to Vincent is dis- 
tinguished by use of such phrases as " Catholic Churches," 
" Catholic Unity," "Communion of the Catholic Church" ; 
"within the Communion of the Sacraments of Christ." 

The riots at Calama resulted in fresh laws against 
Pagans and Donatists. The African Proconsul, Donatus, 
was commissioned to carry these new enactments into 

1 Letter 93, 38. 2 Letter 93, 39. 

3 Letter 93, 41. 4 Letter 93, 46. 

5 Ibid. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 109 

effect. Augustine, fearing that this would mean severe 
retaliation on the offenders, exerted himself to restrain 
the severities of the State. He wrote in 408 (Letter 
100) to the Proconsul, entreating him with a most 
solemn appeal to the Name of our Lord, to exercise 
Christian leniency even toward the most desperate of 
these fanatics ; to remember the Bishop's petition ; to 
forget the magistrate's power of the sword ; to use 
milder methods of coercion, and to spare their lives. 

But the attempts to suppress Donatism by legislation 
produced its natural result : it intensified their hatred of 
the Church. Augustine wrote 1 a circular letter to Dona- 
tists in general, in which he claims to be promoting 
Catholic peace, and to be acting in the spirit of the 
Beatitude : Blessed are the peacemakers. But he acknow- 
ledges that his overtures were frustrated by the desperate 
threat of his opponents : " Go away from our people if 
you do not desire us to kill you." If imperial laws com- 
pel the Donatists to unite with the Church, 2 they have 
brought it upon themselves by the violence of their own 
fanatics. Augustine gives examples of the brutal manner 
in which Donatists revenged themselves on seceders to 
the Church. 

Imperial decrees against the Donatists had been 
enacted by all the Emperors since Constantine, with 
the sole exception of Julian, the desertor Christi who 
hoped to destroy Christianity by encouraging divisions. 
If the sons of Theodosius now made similar enactments 
they are only following the Imperial tradition. 3 

After all, the appeal to the State was originally made 
by the Donatists themselves. 4 But Constantine did not 
venture to pass judgment in the case of a bishop. He 
left that to be investigated and determined by bishops. 

Moreover the imperial decree ordering unity is, after 
all, the order of Christ. 5 It is exactly what the Apostle 

1 Letter 105, A.D. 409. 2 Letter 105, 3. 

3 Letter 105, 9. 4 Ibid. 5 Letter 105, n. 



no THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

commands, that there be no divisions among us. The 
Emperors insisted on this because they are Catholic 
Christians. 

God does not desire that they should perish in a sacri- 
legious discord separated from their Catholic mother. 1 

As to the question concerning unworthy clergy. 2 The 
charge against Caecilian has never been proved. But 
the Christian principle is to correct evil when we can, and 
to endure it when we cannot correct it. We can unite 
in Sacraments with unworthy persons without consent- 
ing to their sins. Remember the Parable of the Wheat 
and the Tares. Augustine appears to argue as if un- 
spirituality did not affect the orthodoxy of the teaching. 
Even if the teacher is unspiritual his teaching may be 
true. For what he teaches is not his own but God's, 
Who has placed the teaching of truth in the seat of 
unity. 3 

Augustine was simply indefatigable when the State 
determined to compel the Donatist leaders to a Con- 
ference with the Catholics at Carthage in 41 1 . The 
Tribune Marcellinus had been entrusted by the Emperor 
with the whole affair, and was authorised to act as a sort 
of Moderator between the two parties. Marcellinus 
published a decree regulating the method of procedure. 4 
He wished that none but certain selected episcopal 
representatives should be present at the Conference. 
Every one else was to be kept at a distance to secure 
quiet and avoid disturbance from the unruly. To this 
the Catholics consented. But the Donatists refused. 
They demanded that the entire number of their Bishops 
should be present. And the Catholics yielded to this. 

The African Bishops proposed that, 5 in the event of 
Reunion, the Catholic Bishop and the Donatist Bishop 
should share the See between them. Or else if this was 
uncongenial to the diocese, both of them should resign. 

1 Letter 105, 13. 2 Letter 105, 16. 

3 Ibid. 4 Letter 128, A.D. 411. 

5 Letter 105, 3. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS in 

The Catholic Bishops declared that no one ought to 
shrink from this resignation of their thrones if the 
interests of the unity of the Church demanded it. 

This acknowledgment of the Donatist Orders shows 
how remarkable a change had passed over African 
ecclesiastical theories since the age of Cyprian. 1 

The Catholic Bishops, in another letter to Marcellinus, 2 
protested their anxiety that mutual recriminations should 
be laid aside. But they justified Imperial action against 
the Donatists by an unfortunate appeal to the Jews, 
threatening foreigners who spoke against the God of 
Israel. They were on safer ground when they urged 
that according to the Parable the Church of Christ was 
to be a mingled community of wheat and tares, and 
that the separation would take place at the end and not 
now. They pointed out that the Donatists had been 
compelled, most inconsistently with their protest against 
the Church, to overlook unspirituality among themselves 
in order to avoid subdivision. 

The Bishops were apprehensive that the Donatist 
desire to appear in full force boded ill for unity. It par- 
took rather of the nature of a demonstration of their 
strength. They wanted to show that Catholics had 
underrated them and underestimated their numbers. 
Catholics might have said that the Donatists were not 
numerous. This was true except in the Province of 
Numidia. The Catholic Bishops express a hope that 
there will be no disturbance at the Conference. But 
they think it wise to be prepared for the worst. 

The details of the Conference at Carthage in 411 are 
to be found in Augustine's Summary of the Conference. 3 
But the principal incidents are related in a letter written 
by Augustine and sent in the name of a Numidian 

1 See further on this subject in Swete's Early History of the 
Church and the Ministry, essay on " Ordination " by Frere. See 
also Hefele's comments on the bearing of such procedures on the 
Eighth Canon of Nicsa, History of the Councils. 

2 Letter 129, A.D. 411. 3 Letter 141, A.D. 412. 






ii2 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Council to the Donatists in June 412. Augustine tells 
us that he wrote this letter, but did not include it in the 
collection of his correspondence because it was issued 
as an official document of a Council. 1 It is, however, 
now placed among his letters by the Benedictine editors. 
Augustine was himself a member of the Council which 
issued his letter. The Donatists after the Conference 
spread a report that the president, Marcellinus, had been 
bribed by Catholics to decide in their favour. The pur- 
pose of the present letter is to refute this baseless scandal 
by describing the actual events. Augustine says that 
this letter cost him several nights of labour (Letter 

139. P- 3)- 

The letter bluntly accuses the Donatist Bishops of 
fraudulent misrepresentation of their real numbers, and 
of deliberate attempt to delay the proceedings and to 
evade a decision. Under the circumstances this latter 
is not improbable. For the Donatists were forced by 
Imperial regulations to attend in spite of their reluctance. 
It is strange that the African Bishops did not realise the 
moral futility of such conferences. Modern historians 
consider that the confusion can be accounted for without 
accusations of duplicity. 

The letter says 2 that in the course of the investigation 
into the history of both parties it was shown that the 
Donatists had retained unspiritual persons within their 
Communion ; which was the very pretext of their 
separation from the Catholics. When this was urged 
against them in the Conference the Donatists were 
forced to excuse it on the principle that causes and 
persons must be judged on their own merits : the very 
principle which the Catholics maintained as an argument 
against Separation. If that principle were applied to 
the claim of Caecilian and the claim of the Church, the 
entire controversy would be at an end. 

The letter adds that the Donatists were reduced to 

1 Retract, ii. 40. 2 Letter 141, 6. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 113 

much confusion and embarrassment, and produced docu- 
ments in their own defence which in reality strengthened 
the Catholic cause. It was all providential in the 
opinion of the Council. 

In 412 we find Augustine writing to Apringius the 
Proconsul, Marcellinus's brother, 1 calling on him to re- 
member the Divine Judgment Seat, where he will have to 
give account for his present judgments on his fellow-men. 
He allows that criminals who have blinded people, or 
mutilated them, deserve to be flogged, but he would not 
have them tortured. This Augustine entreats by the 
mercy of Christ. Doubtless the magistrate bears not 
the sword in vain. But the principles of the State are 
one thing : those of the Church another. Augustine 
would argue on other lines if he were not corresponding 
with a Christian. He is conscious that Christians are 
under a condition of exasperation. He pleads that they 
should not be stained with the blood of their enemies. 

Much in the same spirit of forbearance and deprecation 
of reprisals Augustine wrote in the same year 41 2 2 to 
the very distinguished State official, Marcellinus, asking 
that copies of Official Acts concerning the Donatists 
should be set up with all publicity and recited in the 
Church at Hippo ; but at the same time making it a 
matter of conscience that Catholics must exercise 
leniency towards religious fanatics. He is sure that a 
magistrate can mitigate the penalties of the law. It is a 
case in which appeal should be made to the Emperor. 
He warns Marcellinus that if Donatists are sentenced to 
death they will be honoured as martyrs. Augustine 
has himself drawn up a summary account of the Con- 
ference held with the Donatist chiefs at Carthage in the 
previous year. The whole letter breathes the spirit of 
Christian charity. 

All this gives a very different view of Augustine's prin- 
ciple and character from that frequently held. It would 

1 Letter 134, A.D. 412. 2 Letter 139, A.D. 412. 

H 



ii 4 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

be difficult to be more unhistoric and more unjust than to 
represent Augustine as a Torquemada born before his 
time. That his unhappy misinterpretation of the Scrip- 
ture words formed a deadly precedent, and led to appal- 
ling consequences, is indeed only too painfully true. But 
Augustine is not the only great thinker who failed to 
anticipate the consequences of his teaching : conse- 
quences from which, it may be safely said, no man would 
have recoiled more completely. 

The student of history will compare the unhappy use 
made of this precedent for coercion by Bossuet against 
the Huguenots, and by Balmes in his instruction of the 
Spanish Church in the nineteenth century. In neither 
case had these theologians the excuse, such as it is, of 
severe provocation. 

It is clear that Augustine's activity in this depart- 
ment was resented by the legal authorities. The Bishop 
persisted, and such magistrates as were Christians did 
not see their way to refuse his petitions, but cordially 
wished he would confine himself to his proper sphere. 

Macedonius, for example, writes granting Augustine's 
request, 1 but adding, deferentially yet firmly : " You say 
that it is the function of your priesthood to intervene 
in behalf of the accused, and that unless you obtain 
your request you have no right to be offended. I very 
greatly doubt whether this claim can be justified from 
religion." 2 

Macedonius appeals to the principles of the Church. 
According to the practice of the Church restoration is 
allowed only once after Baptism in the case of serious 
sin. To allow sins to go unpunished is to lower the 
standard. He considers that exemption for penalty has 
been pleaded for cases in which such exemption has 
done no good whatever. 

To this criticism Augustine sent an admirable answer: 3 

1 Letter 152. 2 Letter 152, 2. 

3 Letter [53, A.D. 414. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 115 

" You ask me why I maintain that it is part of our 
priestly office to intercede in behalf of the guilty, and 
why I consider it derogatory to my office if the petition 
is not allowed. You say that you are not sure that this 
is a proper inference from religion. For if the Church 
granted restoration to the penitent only once, how can 
it require that crime of every sort -should be forgiven? 
To advocate such laxity would be a sin against the 
social order." 

Augustine replies l that this severity would frighten 
any one who did not know how gentle and humane 
Macedonius really was. Augustine certainly by no 
means condones a sin, nor has the slightest wish that 
it should go unpunished. But while you abhor the sin 
you must pity the sinner. And the more you abhor 
the sin the more you must desire the sinner's conver- 
sion. It is easy to hate bad men because they are bad : 
it is less common, but it is religious, to love them because 
they are men. Augustine held that no other place for 
moral correction existed beyond the present world. For 
after this life a man would possess exactly what he had 
acquired. Charity, therefore, prompts us to intercede 
for the guilty for fear they should end this life by a 
punishment which involved a further punishment which 
would never come to an end. 

Clearly, then, such intercession is a work of religion. 
Augustine appeals to the Divine benevolence toward 
the evil, taught by our Lord in the Sermon on the 
Mount (S. Matt. v. 44, 45). Doubtless Divine patience 
might be abused, but it was exercised none the less 
(Rom. ii. 3-6). 

Augustine propounds the theological principles and 
motives to the legal mind. God is the only judge 
whose decisions need not be revised, for He alone is 
incapable of being deceived. And yet He sends the 
sun to shine on the evil as well as on the good, 

1 Letter 153. 



n6 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

and sends rain upon the just and also upon the 
unjust. 

Macedonius must also remember that persons who 
are liberated from the severity of the State are punished 
by the Church ; are removed from the Altar, and com- 
pelled to penitence. 

If there are relapses even after such penitential dis- 
cipline, yet God still continues to the scandalous offender 
the gifts of nature, and still offers him the grace of 
salvation. And although the Church no longer gives 
him a place even for the humblest penitence, yet God 
has not forgotten to be patient towards him. And 
Augustine drew a very striking picture of a penitent 
soul pleading for restoration : 

" Either grant me again a place of repentance or suffer 
me in despair to live as I please. Or if you call me 
back from such an evil course, tell me whether it will 
profit me anything in the future life if in this life I resist 
the seductions of pleasure ; if I chasten my body, and 
withdraw myself even from lawful and permissible 
things ; if by my penitence I afflict myself more griev- 
ously than before ; weep more profusely, live far better, 
maintain the poor more generously, burn more ardently 
with charity which covers the multitude of sins." Cer- 
tainly, says Augustine, no one would be so mad as to 
tell him that all this would profit him nothing in the 
future life. The Church, Augustine considered, could 
not venture to allow restoration of the offender more 
than once for fear of lowering the moral level of Chris- 
tian life. But God goes further than the Church dare 
venture. The long-suffering of God leads men to 
repentance. 

There is the case of the woman brought by the 
Pharisees before our Lord. Christ called them back 
to mercy, by an appeal to their own consciences. 
Augustine thinks that if the woman's husband had 
been present he would have been moved to spare the 
guilty one. For since Christ here warned off the 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 117 

judicial accusers, the injured person could scarcely fail 
to learn the lesson of mercy and be reluctant to make 
his wife a public example. 

Augustine recalls 1 a day when Macedonius himself 
interceded in the Church at Carthage in behalf of a cleric 
with whom his bishop was justly indignant. If it is 
right for Macedonius to mitigate the severity of ecclesi- 
astical discipline, it must be right for a bishop to 
mitigate the seventy of secular discipline, especially 
in a trial where the life of the accused is at stake. 

And here Augustine appeals to Macedonius 2 on the 
ground of the magistrate's goodness. He calls him 
good in spite, he says, of the words of Christ, " There 
is none good save one, that is God." This leads the 
Bishop to insinuate the lesson that all human goodness 
is imperfect. We call him good in whom good exceeds 
the evil : and him best who sins the least. 

Quoting Seneca, 3 whose letters to S. Paul, he says, 
still exist, " He who hates the bad must needs hate all 
men," Augustine adds: "And yet the bad are to be 
loved in order that they may cease to be bad." 

As to Macedonius's fear that ecclesiastical interven- 
tion 4 in criminal cases would render judicial action 
nugatory, Augustine denies it. Both imperial and 
paternal power have undoubtedly the right of discipline ; 
but the intercessions of a bishop are not contrary to 
secular authority. 

So much depends upon the motive which induces 
men to spare. 5 Certainly a magistrate may grant a 
bishop's intercession for an offender, and yet the leni- 
ency make the offender nothing better. But then the 
intention must be remembered. The purpose of the 
intercession is none the less excellent, in spite of its 
failure to improve the offender. 

Thus the severity of the magistrate is good, 6 and the 

1 Letter 133, 10. 2 Letter 153, 12. 

3 Letter 153, 14. 4 Letter 153, 16. 

5 Letter 153, 17. fi Letter 153 19. 



n8 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

leniency of the interceding person is good. The former 
is to be feared and the latter not to be despised. 

Certainly to plead that a thief need not restore what 
he had taken 1 would be to become a party to the 
fraud. 

Then, of course, there are cases in which the person 
interceding may be deceived ; 2 and the magistrate may 
know what the Bishop does not. 

So Augustine, before the letter ended, had written 
almost a small treatise for the magistrate's use, ex- 
tending to six-and-twenty sections, full of reason and 
insight into human nature, and shrewd reflections, and 
all of course expressed in terms of persuasive eloquence. 

Macedonius was greatly captivated by this letter. 
He sent a short but extremely grateful reply, 3 acknow- 
ledging himself convinced by the Bishop's explanations, 
which were so replete with penetration, knowledge, 
sanctity ; while his intercessions for offenders so marked 
by humility that the magistrate would feel inexcusable 
unless he consented. 

Augustine replied that although he was unable to 
discover 4 in himself the wisdom which Macedonius 
ascribed to him, yet he was profoundly indebted to 
the writer's kindliness, and rejoiced that his work com- 
mended itself to such a reader. Most of all he rejoiced 
that Macedonius was an ardent follower of the truth. 
No one can truly be a lover of man unless he is first 
a lover of truth. Thereupon the Bishop seizes the 
occasion to dwell on the theme that the meaning and 
the blessedness of life is only to be found in God. 

The so-called Conference of 411, when the Donatists 
were forced by the State to conform to the Catholic 
Church, was one of the strangest parodies of Reunion 
ever invented. The reluctant and despairing leaders 
of the sect were driven by imperial officials into the 



Letter 153, 20 and 31. 2 Letter 153, 22. 

Letter 154. 4 Letter 155. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 119 

Catholic Church. One result was that suicidal frenzy 
was intensified. 1 One of the oddest letters Augustine 
ever wrote was sent to a Donatist priest in the diocese 
of Hippo. This unfortunate man was ordered to be 
arrested and brought to church. He threw himself 
down a well to escape conformity. He was brought 
up again, seriously injured, and scarcely in a mood to 
attend to Augustine's remonstrances and exhortations. 
Seldom was logic more futile, or argument more mis- 
placed, than in Augustine's reasonings with this unhappy 
victim of imperial and ecclesiastical coercion. Augus- 
tine insists on the educational and corrective value of 
coercive measures, illustrated in the Divine punishment 
of the rebellious Israelites, and the violent Conversion 
of S. Paul ; insists that much good may result from a 
father flogging his son ; distinguishes between martyr- 
dom false and true false when endured without charity, 
which, says the Bishop, was the case with the Donatists : 
" For if I give my body to be burned, and have not 
charity, it profiteth me nothing ; " repeats again the fatal 
interpretation : " Compel them to come in." 

What impression Augustine's reasonings made on the 
suicidal tendencies of the despairing sectarian has not 
been recorded. But the hopelessness of curing the 
effects of violence by the use of logic and history does 
not seem to have dawned upon the great writer's mind. 
He seems to have had no misgivings. It never occurs 
to him that the situation which he deplored was one for 
which coercive measures were largely responsible. 

No summary of this Conference with the Donatist 
Bishops can be complete without a reference to the 
tragic fate of its President. 

Two years after the date of the Conference the im- 
perial representative in Africa, Count Heraclian, revolted 
from his master Honorius. Count Marinus was sent 
to Africa in the Emperor's interests, and Heraclian was 

1 Letter 173. 



120 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

captured and executed. Marinus was commissioned to 
pass judgment on all the supporters of the late revolt. 

It appears from Augustine's account that this act of 
retaliation was carried out with haste, indiscriminately, 
and with gross injustice. Vengeance fell on the inno- 
cent as well as on the guilty. Suspicion easily lighted 
on the wrong persons. Private jealousy and spite found 
an opportunity to requite personal dislikes under pre- 
text of loyalty to the State. Solitary accusations un- 
supported by further evidence were allowed to ruin men. 

These were the circumstances which the Donatists 
are said to have utilised for taking revenge on the 
President Marcellinus. He was accused with having 
supported the usurper Heraclian. So was his elder 
brother the Proconsul Apringius. It will be remembered 
that Augustine had written to both brothers entreating 
them not to be over-severe with Donatist offenders 
(Letters 133, 134). Count Marinus had them both 
arrested and imprisoned. Augustine was in Carthage 
at the time. A distinguished State official, Caecilian, a 
Churchman and a friend, assured him in the strongest 
terms that they were safe. And the Bishop left the 
city with that assurance. Then like a thunderclap 
came the news that both the brothers had been suddenly 
executed. 

Augustine was almost stunned by the terrible news. 
Suspicion fell on Caecilian that, in spite of his assurances 
and professions, he had incited Count Marinus to an 
act of judicial murder for private reasons of his own. 
Augustine kept silence for a considerable time, over- 
whelmed. At last Caecilian wrote to ask the Bishop 
why he did not write ? 

That question produced such a letter 1 as Augustine 
had seldom written. It is a letter in which the intensity 
of grief and affection for the dead were mingled with 
the strongest moral indignation against all aiders and 

1 Letter 151, A.D. 413. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 121 

abettors of the cruel deed, together with wonderful self- 
restraint and measured utterance ; a lofty refusal to 
credit the popular suspicion that Caecilian could have 
perpetrated such loathsome insincerity ; and a courtesy 
and deference which must have made the words of con- 
demnation stinging and scathing beyond description if 
Caecilian were really guilty. 

Quite a number of Augustine's correspondents were 
persons of eminence in the State, who wrote to him for 
advice or instruction. Count Boniface, 1 evidently per- 
plexed by the diversities of African religion, wrote to 
inquire what was the difference between a Donatist and 
an Arian ? This led Augustine to write another most 
important account of the Donatist controversy. He 
explains that an Arian is a person who maintains that 
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are different 
substances, whereas the Donatist, like the Catholic, 
acknowledges one substance of the Trinity ; although, 
Augustine adds, the Donatists, in their desire to strengthen 
their position, made overtures to the Arian Goths, and 
minimised the difference about the doctrine of the 
Trinity. Augustine also tells Boniface how the Donatist 
schism arose. 

Augustine paints an extraordinary picture of sectarian 
fanaticism and violence among the Donatists. 2 They 
tramped the country in troops, and fell on travellers, 
wounding and slaughtering them. Sometimes they 
incited and provoked magistrates on circuit to be their 
executioners. A story is told of a magistrate who pre- 
tended to comply with their request, ordered them to 
be bound, and left them, thereby securing time to escape 
their threats and violence. 

Augustine was naturally led to talk of horse and mule 
which have no understanding, and of the necessity of 
imposing restraint on the violence of those who were 
out of their mind. 

1 Letter 185, A.D. 417. 2 Letter 185, 12. 



122 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

These considerations encouraged Augustine to believe 
in the advantage of force. 1 Runaway slaves, and debtors 
unwilling or unable to pay for goods supplied to them, 
found conversion to the Donatists an effective method 
of escape from their liabilities, for neither owner nor 
creditor were inclined to face the clubs of the Circum- 
cellions, or to have their houses burnt above them. The 
country was under mob regulations. The sectarians 
did exactly what they pleased, played grim practical 
jokes on their victims when the fancy served them. For 
instance, they harnessed an educated and cultured man 
to a mill, in place of an ass, and forced him round and 
round to grind the corn. Authority looked the other 
way, and ignored what it could not prevent. Terrorised 
sufferers dared not complain. Hardly a Church 2 of the 
Catholic Communion was safe from outrage. Hardly 
a road was secure to travellers. Not only laymen and 
clerics were sufferers, says Augustine, but even the 
Catholic Bishops (we note his triple division) were placed 
in a deplorable dilemma. Either they were silent, and 
thereby unfaithful to their duty of proclaiming the truth ; 
or else they spoke, and brought calamity, not only on 
themselves, but upon all their people. It seems clear 
from this that fanatics must have been very numerous. 

Under these circumstances, says Augustine, who could 
question the necessity of appealing to the State in the 
persons of the Christian Emperors? 3 And here Augus- 
tine explains to Count Boniface his own conception of 
the existing relation between Church and State. The 
objection had been raised that the Apostles did not 
desire coercive legislation against their opponents. 
Augustine points out that circumstances had changed. 
There was no Christian Emperor in the Apostolic Age. 
Those were the days in which the kings of the earth 
stood up against the Lord and against His Anointed. 

1 Letter 185, 15. 2 Letter 185, 18. 

3 Letter 185, 18 and 19. 



LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 123 

But now that Emperors were Christian the words applied 
to them : " Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings ; be 
learned, ye that are judges of the earth : serve the Lord 
in fear " : that is, repress irreligion by just severity. 1 
Illustrations of this asserted kingly duty are given from 
Hezekiah to Nebuchadnezzar. And here Augustine 
formulates the mediaeval conception of the duty of the 
State to the Church : " What sober-minded person could 
say to Kings, ' Care not by whom the Church of your 
Lord is in your Kingdom restrained or oppressed ; it is 
no business of yours who in your Kingdom is religious 
or sacrilegious ' ; since you cannot say to them, ' It is no 
business of yours who is chaste or who is unchaste in 
your Kingdom ' ? Why should adultery be punished and 
sacrilege permitted ? Is it a lighter thing that a man 
should not keep faith with God than that a woman 
should be faithless to her husband ? " 2 Thus Augustine 
could not conceive a religious State ignoring offences 
against religion. 

At the same time he saw quite clearly 3 that it was 
an immeasurably better thing that men should be led 
to the worship of God by instruction rather than com- 
pelled by force. But he thought that although the way 
of freedom was better, yet the way of coercion was not 
altogether to be neglected. 

Consequently disobedience is to be coerced : :t Compel 
them to come in." 4 

At the same time Augustine himself and others of 
the African Bishops 5 had been formerly opposed to 
compulsory communion. They had held that force 
should only be exerted defensively to protect Catholics 
from Donatist violence. And this view was expressed 
in a Canon of the Council of Carthage in 414. 

This decision of the Council of Carthage 6 was sent 
to the Emperors with a request that they would endorse 

1 Letter 185, 19. 2 Letter 185, 20. 

3 Letter 185, 21. 4 Letter 185, 24. 

5 Letter 185, 25. 6 Letter 185, 26 and 27. 



124 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

it as a law of the State. But the appearance of a Bishop 
at Court disfigured by scars of Circumcellion violence 
determined the Emperor to legislate on severer lines. 
Honorius accordingly ordered the infliction of fines, 1 
and insisted on enforcing the return of the Donatists to 
Catholic Unity. 

On the arrival of this Law in Africa many immedi- 
ately flocked into the Church, 2 including many ignorant 
persons unable to distinguish between the two Churches. 
But, on the other hand, these defections filled the remain- 
ing sectarians with the madness of despair. Some were 
prepared to commit suicide rather than be converted, 
and to throw the responsibility of their conduct upon 
the Catholics. Well, reflects Augustine, if the House 
of David can only be at peace by the death of Absalom 
what alternative 3 remains but to weep his death, and 
be thankful for peace ? 

After all, reflects the Bishop, there is another side to 
the picture. If Boniface were to see the joy of these 
converts to the Catholic Congregation, and their appre- 
ciation of Sacraments which they had been taught to 
despise as false, he would feel that coercion ought to be 
practised, whatever effect it might have on a certain 
number of desperate men. 4 

" Put it," says Augustine, " in the form of a simple illus- 
tration. Suppose two men in a house which you know 
is certain to fall. You try to warn them, but neither 
will come out. One says that if you try to force him 
he will kill himself. Will you not risk his committing 
suicide in your desire at least to save the other who 
has no such suicidal proclivities ? " 5 This, in the writer's 
opinion, was parallel to the Donatist difficulty. 

Among phrases to be noted in this important Letter 
185 are "sacramentum altaris" ( 24), and that the 

1 Letter 185, 28. * Letter 185, 29. 

3 Letter 185, 32. 4 Ibid. 

5 Letter 185, 33. 






LETTERS ON AFRICAN CHURCH DIVISIONS 125 

Donatists "extra ecclesiam et contra ecclesiam eccle- 
siae sacramenta tenuerunt" ( 46). 

To appreciate at its full value this remarkable series 
of letters on the Donatist Controversy, it is well to 
remember that in addition to those there still exists a 
folio volume of Augustine's set treatises on the same 
subject. These letters are his minor efforts on the 
theme. But the facts and the principles, the history 
and theology contained in them make it possible to gain 
a fairly complete view of the whole course of that tragical 
separation which inflicted such injury on African Christi- 
anity. If Augustine had written nothing else, these 
alone would form a claim to unusual distinction. 



CHAPTER V 

LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 1 

THE letters on Pelagianism extend across the last 
sixteen years of the great writer's activity, from 414 to 
430. During that period occasional letters appeared on 
the Donatist Controversy. Hut the absorbing interest 
of his mind was the great subject of Divine Grace. 

I 

The theological standpoint of Pelagius is very plainly 
shown in his celebrated letter to Demetrias on the 
occasion of her taking the veil in 413. In that letter he 
explains that his 2 practice when giving instructions in 
religious life is always to lay great stress on the capa- 
bility of human nature. He wants to banish the word 
" impossible," and to convince human indolence how 
much it is able to do 3 by its own exertions. Accord- 
ingly he exalts the power of the human will. 4 God 
gave us freedom of choice, made us capable of good and 
evil. And what the capacities of human nature are for 
moral excellence can be seen in the Pagan philosophers 
who were pure and self-denying and benevolent and 

1 Out of the enormous literature on this subject it may be suffi- 
cient to mention: Mozley, Augustinian Doctrine of Predestination ; 
Hermann Reuter, Augustinische Studien, 1887 ; Mausbach, Die 
Rthik des heiligen Augustinus, two vols., 1909 ; Duchesne, His- 
toire Ancienne de PEglise. 

2 In S. Augustine's Works, Gaume's Edition, Tom. II. Appen- 
dix, pp. 1380 ff.-I4I2. 

3 Letter to Demetrias, 2. 

126 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 127 

unworldly. Whence came all this goodness unless out 
of the goodness of human nature ? It all shows how 
men without God were able by the power bestowed on 
them in their creation to please Him. If human nature 
is in itself capable of this high excellence, how much 
more can a Christian accomplish, taught as he is by 
Christ and aided by the help of Divine Grace ? Here, 
then, the distinctive Christian term occurs. Pelagius 
recognises Grace. But Grace nowhere means for him 
what it meant for the Church. It nowhere means the 
supernatural influence of the indwelling Christ within 
the soul. 1 What Felagius finds in human personalities 
is a " naturalis sanctitas " of which conscience is an 
evidence. 

He quotes numerous examples from the Old Testa- 
ment of human perfection. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, 
for instance, perfectly fulfilled the will of God. 2 Job 
was an evangelist before the Gospel, and an apostolic 
disciple of the Apostles before the Apostolic teaching 
had been given. In his psychology the will is always 
free to determine which of two courses it will take. 3 

Pelagius reiterates his interpretation of religious 
history by observing that the Patriarchs who attained 
excellence without the guidance of the Law are no 
doubt proof of the natural goodness of mankind. 
Their Creator had endowed their nature, long before the 
Law was given, with capacities sufficient for achieving 
righteousness. He admits that in process of time the 
moral level deteriorated. In his opinion the Law was 
then revealed in order to enable men by admonition to 
recover their earlier excellence. 

He acknowledges that we have a difficulty in doing 
good. But that difficulty is to be traced to nothing but 
habit and neglect from childhood onward. This habit 
undoubtedly becomes a second nature ; it resists us 

1 Letter to Demetrias, 4, p. 1383. 2 Ibid. 6. 

3 Ibid. 8. Quibus liberum est unum semper ex duobus agere. 
cum semper utrumque possimus. 



128 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

now that we are trying to exert a better will. We 
wonder why, in this ignorance contracted by indolence, 
sanctity seems as if it were conferred upon us by 
another rather than by ourselves. But the truth is, that 
this is caused by our long experience in evil and the 
absence of habitual continuance in good. 

Nevertheless, urges Pelagius, if primitive men before 
the Law was given achieved such excellence, what 
ought not to be possible for us after the Advent of 
Christ ? For we who have been instructed by the Grace 
of Christ, and born again to a better manhood, and 
cleansed by His Blood, and encouraged by His 
example. 

These sentences might seem to have a Catholic 
meaning. But they do not represent that meaning as 
Pelagius uses them. They are phrases of ecclesiastical 
tradition which Pelagius could employ in a sense by 
placing his own construction upon them. They do 
not; convey the Catholic doctrine of the Grace of 
Christ. 

The whole of the letter encourages self-reliance to an 
extraordinary degree. Much is said of studying Scrip- 
ture. Very little is said of prayer. The need of help 
to overcome our weakness is not part of the Pelagian 
conception. He pictures God 1 and the angels wit- 
nessing the Christian conflict. But God is Spectator 
rather than Helper. There is no reference to infusion 
of strength. 

If human weakness pleads that the task is hard and 
beyond 2 the power of the frailty of the flesh, Pelagius 
replies that this plea accuses God of twofold ignorance : 
ignorance of what He has created, and ignorance of 
what He has commanded. As if He can forget the 
limitations of the nature which He created and imposes 
upon it commandments which it is unable to fulfil. Do 
we suppose that God condemns men for disobedience 

1 Letter to Demetrias, 14, p. 1395. z Ibid. 16, p. 1396. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 129 

which they cannot avoid ? No one knows the measure 
of our strength better than He that gave that strength. 

Accordingly Pelagius fixes attention on texts which 
command the ideal. 1 The Christian is to be blameless 
and immaculate in the midst of a perverse generation, a 
shining light in the world. There is remarkable con- 
fidence in the power of the unassisted will to fulfil all 
this. Pelagius appeals to the texts which inculcate 
responsibility and affirm our freedom. But he passes in 
silence those which confirm our weakness and cry aloud 
for help. Demetrias is repeatedly exhorted to act, and 
to make herself acceptable to Christ. But the stress is 
laid entirely on her own ability. It is even strange to 
notice how invariably and instinctively every Apostolic 
passage is left out which ascribes spiritual progress to 
God and the influence of His Grace. 2 Demetrias is to 
control her thoughts by the study of the Law of God. 
Even when Pelagius at last quotes the Apostolic words : 
" Now I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," it does 
not appear to mean for Pelagius the indwelling, co- 
operating Christ, but rather the product of human 
imitation of a Divine example. 

And when Pelagius comes to acknowledge that this 
ideal is a great undertaking, he supports the Christian 
effort, 3 not by suggesting an appeal to God for strength, 
but simply by reminding Demetrias of the greatness of 
the reward to those who are successful. 

Thus the principal characteristic of the letter to 
Demetrias is its consistent and evidently deliberate 
omission of the doctrine of supernatural and moral aid 
enabling man to do and become what otherwise he 
could not. 

The theory of Pelagianism, then, is essentially and 
fundamentally a theory of the goodness of human 
nature ; the power of the human will to realise the 

1 Letter to Demetrias, 17, p. 1397- 2 Ibid. 27, p. 1409. 

3 Ibid. 28, p. 1409. 



I3o THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Divine ideal and achieve its destiny by its own inherent 
strength, independently of any further support than 
nature supplies. It is a theory which leaves no room 
for Grace. Grace in the sense of supernatural strength 
imparted is obviously superfluous in the Pelagian view. 
The term may still be employed and was freely em- 
ployed. It was impossible not to use a term so 
characteristic of Christian thought. But other mean- 
ings were assigned to it. 

1. Sometimes Pelagians identified Grace with Nature. 
Grace denoted the natural endowments with which 
man was created : the essential gifts of our spiritual 
constitution. Thus Grace was the same thing as Free 
Will. To assert that the power of the will was not 
enough was to disparage the Creator. To say that we 
cannot do what God commands is to say that God 
commands the impossible. But this dishonours Him. 
The Grace of God, then, is the same thing as the gifts of 
the natural man. 

2. Pelagianism freely allowed that Grace might have 
a further meaning. For clearly there was one thing 
which men obviously require in addition to the power of 
their will and the capacities inherent in their nature. 
That one thing is instruction. They must be told what 
the Divine Will is. Enlightenment in the ideals of the 
moral Christian Law is essential. The will must be 
informed. Grace, then, may be taken in this larger 
sense to represent the Revelation of Truth and Duty : 
God telling us what we ought to do and then leaving us 
to do it ; for which our unaided will is enough. Of 
course instruction includes example. There is the ex- 
ample of Christ, which is given us for imitation. This 
also comes under the heading of Grace. The Pelagian 
admitted all this, so long as the integrity and indepen- 
dent sufficiency of the will for the purpose of achieving 
our eternal destiny was in no way compromised. 

3. Then, further, Grace might receive another mean- 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 131 

ing. It might denote Forgiveness of Sins. This cer- 
tainly was requisite in addition to human capabilities. 

4. One last concession was made to the advocate of 
Grace. It was admitted that there might be encourage- 
ments to do God's Will which would enable a man to 
do that Will more easily. More easily : that was the 
phrase. The illustration given is that of a boat on the 
water. It will reach its destination more easily with a 
sail than with oars. But. the thing can be done with 
oars only. (" Velo facilius, remo difficilius : tamen -et 
remo itur." Sermon 156, 13.) 

But Pelagianism insisted that the credit of the 
achievement belonged to man. It was man who took 
the initiative in matters of faith. It was man who 
merited God's approval by the use of his unaided will. 
Accordingly nothing was more abhorrent to Pelagius 
than the famous sentence in Augustine's Confessions : 
" Give [grace to do] what Thou commandest and then 
command what Thou wilt." On the contrary, Pelagius 
did not hesitate to say, " God made us human, we made 
ourselves righteous." (See Letter 177, I.) 

II 

To this optimistic view of human nature as it now 
exists Augustine's teaching presents the exact antithesis. 

i. First of all he insists on the powerlessness of the 
unaided will lor good. Unquestionably man was en- 
dowed with freedom of decision. And nothing is so 
much in our power as the will itself (De Libero Arbitrio, 
iii. 7). Nevertheless to speak as if the tendency of the 
will was towards good is to contradict the facts of 
experience. There is no such thing as natural sanctity : 
no moral goodness at all as a product of the unaided 
will. The tendency of human nature is towards evil. 
It never achieves the Divine ideal. The picture of 



132 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

ready compliance with Divine commands which Pela- 
gius has drawn is fiction and nothing else. He has 
ignored the maladies of the will. The will can exist 
without the power. We will and we are not able. 
(Letter 157, 10.) There is the weakness of the will. 
The will is " tanto liberior quanto sanior." (Letter 

157, 8-) 

Augustine contrasts the general Pelagian view with 
S. Paul's confession in the Roman Epistle. It is the 
latter which represents the experience of humanity. 

To represent the human will as requiring nothing 
more than instruction in moral ideals betrayed an ignor- 
ance of human incapacity which in Augustine's opinion 
was positively tragic. Nothing was more certain in 
human experience than the powerlessness of moral ideals 
to get themselves obeyed. We acknowledge their 
excellence, but we do not fulfil them. Nay, more. The 
very fact that a thing is forbidden awakens resistance 
and increases its attractions. To our perversity prohibi- 
tion increases desire. And if this is the case with a 
comparatively low moral standard, the higher the stan- 
dard is raised the more powerless the will to achieve it. 
If the letter of the law is not accomplished, still less is 
its spirit. Hence all moral instruction becomes a 
ministration of condemnation and a ministration *>f 
death. It tells us what to do and then sits in judgment 
upon us for not fulfilling it. All these ideas are com- 
monplaces of Augustine's teaching. The most brilliant 
exposition of them occurs in the great treatise on the 
Spirit and the Letter. The Letter is the moral com- 
mandment. The Spirit is the Holy Spirit, the Giver of 
grace and moral strength to accomplish. 

When Pelagius taught that what Pagans and Jews 
had accomplished before Christ came, Christians ought, 
a fortiori, to accomplish now that they had the addi- 
tional advantages of Christ's illuminating instruction 
and example, the British monk forgot that Christ had 
made fulfilment immeasurably more difficult because He 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 133 

had raised the standard in the Sermon on the Mount to 
the highest conceivable levels of sublimity. And the 
light-hearted way in which the Pelagian could talk of 
fulfilling Christ's ideal and imitating Christ's example 
was to men of Augustine's disposition positively appal- 
ling. The imitation of Christ is an aim which should 
fill the best of men with the protoundest of despair if 
they are expected to attempt it in their own unassisted 
strength. 

2. How is this weakness of the will accounted for ? 
It is accounted for by the sinful condition of human 
nature. Augustine ascribes the origin of this universal 
sinfulness to the Fall. The solidarity of mankind in- 
volving the whole race in a state of transmitted infe- 
rioritythis is Original Sin. Humanity is debased. 
Rom. v. 12 is rendered "in whom" [that is, in Adam] "all 
sinned." It should be noted here that the fact of uni- 
versal sinfulness is one thing ; the explanation of its 
cause is another. Pelagius disputed the explanation, 
but failed to do justice to the fact. His view of sin was 
exceedingly superficial, while that of Augustine was 
profound. For Pelagius sin was merely an act. For 
Augustine it was an abiding condition or state. 

Augustine insists that sin is not what Pelagius thinks 
it is. It is not a mere deed which passes away leaving 
the personality essentially unchanged. On the contrary, 
it involves the doer in a permanent condition of sinful- 
ness. This sinful condition means a tendency towards 
evil and a weakening of the moral nature. The sinful 
individual is in an abnormal and enfeebled state. To 
present him with the moral ideal is as effective as to tell 
the paralysed to walk. That is exactly what his condi- 
tion makes impossible. Augustine has analysed this 
feebleness of the enslaved will most strikingly in the 
pages of his Confessions. 

The remedies which Pelagianism provided for this 
afflicted condition were perfectly futile. They were 
merely external applications to heal a deeply rooted 



134 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

internal malady. Human nature required a complete 
renewal. Nothing less than entire regeneration of the 
inner self could meet the case. Instruction is not 
enough. And forgiveness is not enough. The nature 
itself must be cleansed and purged and strengthened. 
The Pelagians in Augustine's opinion are not defenders 
of free will. They are its " inflatores et prsecipitatores " 
(De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio, 27). They foster its 
pride and encourage its ruin. Neither knowledge of the 
Divine Law, nor natural ability, nor forgiveness of sins 
is the same thing as the grace given by Jesus Christ. 
Grace enables us to fulfil the moral law. It sets our 
nature free from the dominion of our sinfulness (#., 
Works, X. 1249). 

3. Here then comes in the great Christian doctrine of 
Grace : that doctrine of which Augustine is the greatest 
exponent. 

He is never weary of insisting what grace is not. It 
is not nature ; not our constitutional endowments. The 
identification of grace with free will deprives Christianity 
of its supreme moral value, which consists in its supple- 
menting nature, in reinforcing the will. Neither is grace 
equivalent to instruction. In the letter to Volusian (137) 
Augustine maintains that the two main purposes of the 
Incarnation correspond with the two main human defects, 
which are ignorance and inability. Accordingly, Christi- 
anity offers enlightenment to the one and strength to the 
other. The powerlessness of mere instruction in morals 
is proverbial. The setting Christ's example for our 
imitation is simply appalling if it is to be attempted by 
our own unaided will. The thing of all others which 
human nature needs is power. And that power or grace 
is exactly what Christianity supplies. 

While Pelagius confined attention to Scriptural com- 
mands and ideals and exhortations to holiness, Augus- 
tine balanced this one-sided presentment of the Christian 
religion by an array of passages where an appeal is made 
to the help of God ; or absolute dependence upon that 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 135 

help is acknowledged ; or He is praised for strength 
bestowed. 

" It is God that worketh in us both to will and to do." 

" What hast thou that thou didst not receive ? " 

" Lead us not into temptation." 

" Order my steps in Thy word and so shall no 
wickedness have dominion over me." 

" I could not otherwise obtain her except God gave 
her me" (Wisd. viii. 21). 

In this great doctrine of Grace Augustine simply 
exulted. Nowhere has he exhibited such brilliancy, 
such penetration. Nowhere does he carry a doctrine 
out more completely to its results. Every spiritual 
quality is a Divine gift. 

If he thinks of love towards God, he has not the 
slightest doubt that this love does not originate in a 
movement of man towards God. It is awakened in man 
by the Spirit. " The love of God," by which Augustine 
understands man's love toward God, "is shed abroad in 
our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given us." Love 
towards God is God's own gift. (" Ut ea quae facienda 
discendo novimus, etiam diligendo faciamus." Letter 
188, 3.) 

If he thinks of prayer, he is certain that our very 
petitions to God for help are the work of the Spirit co- 
operating with us and according to our weak appeals 
any value they may possess. 

If he thinks of faith, he is equally clear that God takes 
the initiative, not man. Faith does not originate in 
man's decision. Man cannot believe unless God gives 
him faith. 

It is " according as God hath dealt to each man a 
measure of faith" (Rom. xii. 3). Christ Himself has 
said : " No man can come to Me, except the Father 
which sent Me draw him " (John vi. 44) ; " No man 
can come unto Me, except it be given unto him of 
the Father" (John vi. 15). 

Augustine had not always appreciated this. In the 



136 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

early period of his thought, before his episcopate, he 
maintained that our faith is due to ourselves, but our 
good works to God. But in his maturer judgment this 
was wrong. " I should not have said it," he wrote, " had 
I realised that faith itself is among the gifts of God 
which are bestowed by the Spirit " {Retract, xxiii. 2). 

The conclusion from this doctrine of Grace is inevit- 
able. And it is exactly the contrary to the Pelagian 
idea. For if love is a gift and faith is a gift and prayer 
itself, so far as it is acceptable, is a work of the Spirit 
within us, then it is clear that God takes the initiative, 
not man, and that grace begins and accompanies all 
human effort which possesses any moral worth. Ac- 
cordingly, the conclusion is expressed in the celebrated 
sentence that God, when He crowns human merits, 
crowns His own gifts (Letter 194, 19). 

It is a striking illustration of Augustine's influence on 
Western religious thought that this sentence is embodied 
in the teaching.of the Council of Trent. 1 Although, says 
the Council, much is attributed in Scripture to good 
works, " nevertheless God forbid that a Christian should 
either trust or glory in himself, and not in the Lord, 
Whose bounty towards all men is so great, that He 
will have the things which are His own gifts be their 
merits." 

4. But what moved Augustine most of all, and to the 
depth of his being, was his keen realisation of the bearing 
of Pelagianism on the place of Christ in Redemption. 
The Pelagian theory of man's capacity to fulfil unaided 
his own destiny was destructive to the whole Christian 
conception of justification through Christ. They that 
are whole need not a physician. Christ did not come to 
call the righteous. Men who were competent to comply 
with the Divine requirements by their own independent 
strength could not owe their salvation to Christ. Then 

1 Water-worth, Canons and Decrees of the Council of J^rent, p. 43. 
Session VI. Chap. XVI. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 137 

the Apostolic doctrine that there is no other name under 
heaven through Whom Salvation is possible beside the 
name of Christ is not true (De Natura et Gratia, 46). 
Then is the cross of Christ made of none effect. Augus- 
tine cannot resist applying here the words : "This wisdom 
is not from above " (ib. 6). It is only by Regenera- 
tion conferred through Christ that the human soul can 
acquire eternal life (ib. 7). If Pelagius interposes 
here that he admits the necessity of Christ as an instruc- 
tor how we ought to live, although not as a vital force 
of grace enabling us, Augustine retorts : " Here is a 
miserable condition of the human mind, which knows 
how to tame a lion but is ignorant how it ought itself to 
live. If the power of the unaided human will suffices to 
live aright, then Christ has died in vain. Pelagianism 
is a mere ignoring of the divinely given righteousness 
and a futile endeavour to establish a righteousness of 
our own " (ib. 47) . 

According to the Pelagian view, heaven will contain 
two distinct types of men : those who have been justified 
by Christ and those who have been justified without 
Him. There is, then, more than one way into the life of 
God. There is a way with which Christ has nothing to 
do. But this is false. There is only one Mediator 
between God and men. Surely the Pelagians, exclaims 
Augustine, must see, without any further remarks from 
him, how abhorrent this theory should be to Christian 
minds {Contra Julian, vi. 8 1 ; Works, X. 1207). 

Thus the truth is, that in the Pelagian scheme Christ 
sinks from Redeemer to the mere level of a prophet or 
teacher of morals and religion. His Incarnation and 
His Death are deprived of their life-giving power. He 
is no longer the Saviour of Humanity, but is degraded to 
a totally inferior position. 

Consequently Augustine's work, viewed from this 
aspect, is" a defence of the Christian doctrine of the 
Atonement. His accusation against the Pelagians was 
that they glorified the Creator at the expense of the 



138 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Redeemer. They laid such stress on Nature that they 
left no room for Grace. 

Ill 

Whenever the human mind has to dwell on comple- 
mentary truths it is invariably liable to disproportion. It 
readily places undue stress on the one or else on the other. 

i. Augustine saw with perfect clearness that the 
production of a saint is a work of God and man com- 
bined. But the exact proportion which ought to be 
ascribed to Divine action and to Human action, to 
Grace and to Free Will respectively, in the process, is 
a problem of exceeding difficulty. Augustine in the 
course of the discussion laid increasing stress on the 
Divine side in the production of a saint, until Grace 
dominated everything, and the formidable conclusions 
of Predestination emerged, and man appeared to be 
no more than the helpless clay in the hands of the 
Potter. Then the doctrine of universal Atonement, 
the Redemption of the race, became narrowed down, 
under the exigencies of an overwhelming conception of 
Divine power, to the Redemption of a selected few, 
arbitrarily selected from the massa perditionis. The 
clear Evangelical universality of the Apostolic belief 
that He "will have all men to be saved and come 
to the knowledge of the truth," became forced into 
a strange self-contradiction of what it says ; so that 
4< all men " did not mean all men, but only all those 
men whom Providence for inscrutable, if just, reasons 
arbitrarily selected to eternal life. 1 

Augustine's correspondence brings out into exceed- 
ingly clear light the inability of Augustine's disciples to 
force these opinions on certain Catholics of the period. 
And it certainly is one of the most significant ironies 

1 Bossuet identified this with the Faith of the Church. (Defense 
de la Tradition, II. xiii. ch. x.) But he was not fair to Richard 
Simon. See rather Rottmanner, Der Augustinismus, 1892. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 139 

of theological development if it was against Augus- 
tine's extreme conclusions that the famous Vincentian 
Canon was formulated. 

2. Nevertheless, the defects of Pelagianism are im- 
measurably more serious than any of the most rigorous 
conclusions of Augustine; for Pelagianism is simply the 
religion of the natural man. If logically carried out 
there is no Christianity left. Incarnation, Redemption, 
Grace, all disappeared, because they are made super- 
fluous. The words may be retained. The presence 
of the Church's belief, the constant traditional use of 
the great expressions compelled the Pelagian to accept 
words which represented conceptions wholly incom- 
patible with his ideals. Thus he retained the Baptism 
of Infants, for which his theory left no real room. But 
while he retained the words, he "reconstructed" their 
meaning. That is, he replaced the principles which 
they represented by something totally different to the 
Church's use of them. 

No two better champions of the two religions could 
have been discovered. Each pleaded for the value of 
his own experience. Pelagius, the calm, dispassionate 
man of strong will and high principles, had apparently 
never known the fiery trials by which human life is 
too often rent in twain. He felt no need for anything 
which nature did not supply. Augustine was the exact 
antithesis. His stormy impulses and the passions of 
his youth had dragged him through degradations which 
gave tremendous power to his exposition of the doctrine 
of Grace. He is expounding that Grace upon which 
his whole religious security depends. 



IV 

In order to follow Augustine's Letters on this subject 
it is necessary to bear in mind the main facts concerning 
Pelagius and Celestius. 

Pelagius was of British birth. He resided in Rome 



140 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

sometime before the approach of the Goths in 410 : thence 
he escaped to Africa, visited Hippo when Augustine was 
not there. They were at Carthage together. But it was 
the time of the Conference with the Donatists (411) and 
the monk's peculiar theories were not observed. Pela- 
gius then went on to Palestine. His disciple Celestius, 
who was also in Carthage, did not escape undetected. 
Celestius attempted to get ordained ; but he was op- 
posed by Paulinus, one of the deacons of the Church of 
Milan, who, at Augustine's request, wrote S. Ambrose's 
life. Paulinus accused Celestius of heresy before Aure- 
lius, Bishop of Carthage. The consequence was, that 
Celestius could not get ordained. He removed at once 
to Ephesus, where he secured his aim. 

Augustine was speedily informed of the Pelagian 
ideas. He wrote and preached in reply to them. He 
composed in 412 his treatises on the Forgiveness of Sins 
and the Baptism of Infants, also the great treatise on 
the Spirit and the Letter: all these for the benefit of his 
friend, Count Marcellinus. But he nowhere attacked 
Pelagius. On the contrary, he wrote him a friendly 
letter ; expressing regard for his character, of this 
Pelagius afterwards made much use. (Letter 146.) 

Meanwhile Pelagius settled at Jerusalem, where he 
ingratiated himself into the society of the Bishop John. 
Thereupon the old lion at Bethlehem began to growl. 
Jerome made rude references in his commentary on 
Jeremiah to a false antagonist, " the grunter," an indoctus 
calumniator, and his follower a "stolidissimus" indi- 
vidual "stuffed to repletion with Scotch porridge." The 
Pelagian theories have been reported at Bethlehem. 
Jerome, in a fierce reply to a correspondent, quotes 
Ecclesiasticus : " Why art thou proud, O dust and 
ashes?" 1 In God's sight shall no man living be justi- 
fied. And here are men who talk of being without sin ; 
and who say thnt we are not supported in separate 

1 Ecclus. x. 9. Letter to Ctesiphon. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 141 

actions by Divine Grace, and identify Grace with Free 
Will. Jerome freely flings about the charge of sacrilege 
and blasphemy. Then, grappling with his unnamed but 
very obvious opponent, Jerome accuses him of teaching 
in private what he dare not preach openly, and calls 
upon him to imitate Jonah, and to say : " If this disturb- 
ance is on my account, take me and cast me into the 
sea." 

Pelagius did not act on Jerome's advice. But Jeru- 
salem and Bethlehem grew estranged. John of Jerusalem 
was well disposed towards his visitor, and ill disposed 
towards Jerome, of whose learned ferocity he was afraid. 

Meanwhile movements were being matured in the 
Bishop's house at Hippo. The learned Spanish priest, 
Orosius, was on a visit there, consulting Augustine on 
doctrinal affairs. Augustine persuaded him to go on 
to Palestine. The motive announced was to consult 
S. Jerome on the subject of the Origin of the Soul. 
But there can be little doubt that another motive lay 
beneath. It was to prevent the Bishop of Jerusalem 
from committing himself to any approval of Pelagian 
ideas. 1 Augustine was not fortunate in his messenger. 
Orosius was full of zeal, but he was deficient in the 
qualities of a diplomatist. He exhibited no discretion. 
It may be that Jerome's influence enhanced his con- 
troversial vehemence. The result was that the Bishop 
of Jerusalem called him to attend a conference of clergy 
and to give a public explanation. 2 This was in 415. 
Orosius himself has left us his account of it, from which 
it is easy to see that he must have appeared to the 
Bishop of Jerusalem as an advocate of African Church 
opinions, attempting to enforce unquestioning deference 
to the views of Aurelius of Carthage and Augustine 
of Hippo. Orosius compares himself at Bethlehem to 
David called forth to meet the Philistine. He had come 

1 Cf, Duchesne, Histoire Anctcnne de FEglise, iii. 218. 

2 Orosius, Liber Apologeticus, Chaps. 2-4. 



142 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

from Father Augustine, and was seated at the feet of 
Jerome. In the Conference at Jerusalem he was asked 
what he had to say about false doctrine. He read 
before the Conference Augustine's letter to Hilary 
(Letter 157). Bishop John then directed that Pelagius 
should be admitted. Pelagius was asked whether he 
taught what Augustine condemned. To which he 
replied, " What is Augustine to me ? " These words 
created scandal. But Bishop John brushed them aside 
by observing that he represented Augustine at that 
meeting. Whereupon Orosius confesses that he made 
the extremely unwise retort: "It you represent Augus- 
tine's person, follow Augustine's faith." Orosius was 
then asked what he had to say against Pelagius? 
Orosius soon felt that he had gone too far. The Bishop 
of Jerusalem was evidently ready to act as judge. It 
now appears to have dawned on Orosius that he must 
not let the African decision be brought in dispute 
before a tribunal evidently favourable to Pelagius. 
Accordingly Orosius said that this was a discussion 
belonging to the Latin world and must be referred to 
Latin Judges. He secured that the whole question 
should be referred to Innocent of Rome. It was just 
as well. Bishop John spoke Greek, Orosius Latin. 
The discussion was conducted through an interpreter 
who was none too qualified for his task. 

Indeed, the Bishop of Jerusalem entirely misunder- 
stood Orosius ; and on a subsequent occasion charged 
him with teaching heresy. 

Pelagius's opponents in Palestine were discomfited but 
determined not to let matters stop where they were. 
Accordingly they resolved to appeal to the Metropolitan 
Eulogius, Bishop of Caesarea. The subject, therefore, 
came before the Synod of Diospolis (or Lydda) in 
December 41 5. Augustine has preserved fragments of 
this Council in Letter 186 (31, 32, 33). It appears 
that Pelagius exerted n.uch subtlety ; gave plausible but 
evasive answers, which the Greeks, unfamiliar with the 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 143 

intricacies of the Latin discussions, were unable to 
discriminate from orthodox belief. He seemed to 
anathematise what they required of him. He produced 
Augustine's courteous letter to him and flourished it as a 
certificate of his orthodoxy. Altogether he completely 
won his judges. He showed much cleverness and readi- 
ness, and an engaging frankness ; with the result that the 
fourteen bishops who heard his explanations were quite 
prepared to acquit him of heresy. 

That Synod of Diospolis holds an important place in 
Augustine's correspondence, as also in that of Popes 
Innocent and Zosimus. The news of Pelagius's acquittal 
filled Augustine with dismay. Jerome characterises it 
with his customary vigour. It was a great asset on the 
Pelagian side. 

Some time elapsed before Augustine could obtain a 
copy of the Acta of the Council. But presently Orosius 
himself returned to Africa with information from Jerome 
and the report of the acquittal. 

In a letter written about 414 l to Hilary, the necessity 
of supernatural help over and above man's natural 
abilities, if he is to fulfil the Divine commands, is taught 
with characteristic earnestness. Augustine repeats in 
this letter (what he has written in the famous treatise 
on the Spirit and the Letter), that while the assertion 
that any other man, Christ alone excepted, ever lived 
absolutely without sin is permissible, the theory that 
free will is sufficient to fulfil the Divine commands with- 
out being assisted by the grace of God and the gift of 
the Holy Spirit, is to be anathematised and abominated. 2 

Free will is sufficient to good works if it be divinely 
assisted. 3 But there is no solid righteousness (whatever 
knowledge may exist), where a man is deserted by the 
support of God. Lead us not into temptation means 
do not desert us in temptation. This free will of ours 

1 Letter 157. 2 Letter 157, 4. 3 Letter 157, 5. 



144 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

is free in proportion as it is healthy, and it is healthy in 
proportion as it is subject to Divine Grace. . . . Hence 
the petition " Order my steps in thy word, and so shall 
no wickedness have dominion over me." 1 It is not he 
who trusts in his own strength, but he who calls on the 
name of the Lord that shall be saved. 2 

Accordingly Augustine repeats some of his favourite 
phrases. God orders self-control and gives self-control : 
He orders it by the Law ; He gives it by Grace ; orders it 
by the letter and gives it by the Spirit. For the Letter 
without the Spirit killeth. 3 Here is the main principle of 
the famous treatise on the Letter and the Spirit. 

Augustine then proceeds to expound his terrifying 
theory of the fate of infants dying unbaptised. The 
Pelagian discredited altogether the doctrine of Original 
Sin. According to his definition sin is an act of the 
individual will. Infants then have no sin. Consequently 
they cannot be condemned. Whether they die baptised 
or not they must be saved. 

Augustine, defining sin as a condition of the entire 
fallen race, 4 from which no one was exempt, made 
Original Sin the basis of his whole discussion. This, as 
he understood it, was the meaning of the Pauline language, 
" By one man sin entered into the world and death 
through sin." Accordingly Augustine argued as follows. 
In Adam every individual is condemned. Salvation is 
only possible through regeneration. Regeneration is 
only given to the baptised. Those, therefore, who die 
unbaptised die unregenerate. And to die unregenerate 
is to be lost. 5 Generation is only through Adam. 
Regeneration is only through Christ. 

Both theories are perfectly logical, granting their 
premises. Naturally they nowhere meet. The Pelagian 
does not appear to have reckoned that innocence is not 
the same as holiness. Augustine does not seem to have 

1 Letter 157, pp. 119133. 2 Letter 157, 8. 

3 Letter 157, 9. 4 Letter 157, n. 

t Letter 157, 13. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 145 

asked why the Almighty should be so restricted by His 
own sacramental methods as to be unable or unwilling 
to bestow regenerating grace in any other way. 

He assures his correspondent, Hilary, that those who 
desire to live in Christ must pay no attention to those 
who contradict the Apostles' teaching. The theory that 
sinfulness is not transmitted, but only affects us as a bad 
example, is to be absolutely rejected. 1 

Augustine informs Hilary 2 that he has discussed this 
subject in many treatises and serm6ns, because these 
errors had infected his own neighbourhood. They also 
exist in Carthage. Celestius had been living in that 
city ; and was fairly on the way to the dignity of the 
priesthood, if his heresies had not been discovered and 
episcopally condemned. Celestius was unable to recon- 
cile his theories concerning infants dying unbaptised 
with the prevalent ecclesiastical practice of the baptism 
of infants. For why should infants be baptised if they 
had no need to be redeemed ? Augustine is reluctantly 
compelled to mention Celestius's name ; for the Bishop 
suspects that this is the source which is disturbing 
Hilary's faith. 

Perhaps the most interesting part of this letter to 
Hilary is the section on the relation of Christianity to 
wealth. 3 Celestius and his adherents upheld the ideal 
of poverty, of absolute renunciation of all possessions 
as the Christian duty of all rich men. They taught 
that if a rich man retained his riches he could not enter 
the Kingdom of God. 

Augustine's reply to this is a most remarkable testi- 
mony to his power of seeing the two elements on both 
sides of a moral question. He observes to begin with 
that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all rich men, and 
yet they are the persons with whom many shall sit down 
in the Kingdom of Heaven. The beggar Lazarus also was 
poor, but he was admitted in Paradise into the bosom 

1 Letter 157, 21. 2 Letter 157, 22. 3 Letter 157, 23. 

K 



146 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

of Abraham who was rich. These facts demonstrate to 
us that neither is poverty accepted as such, nor wealth 
condemned as such. 

The followers of Celestius replied that the retention 1 
of riches was permissible under the old Dispensation, but 
not after Christ's express command, u Sell all that thou 
hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure 
in heaven ; and come follow me." 

Augustine answers : 2 This is only a partial and one- 
sided use of Christ's injunction. Christ said those words 
in reply to an inquiry. The inquiry was " What shall 
I do to obtain eternal life ? " Christ did not say in reply, 
If tho.u wilt enter into life sell all that thou hast ; but if 
thou wilt enter into life keep the commandments. When 
the rich young man replied that he had kept all these 
and asked, What lack I yet? Christ answered, If thou 
wilt be perfect go sell all that thou hast and give to the 
poor. To' this also Christ added two things: first, by- 
way of encouragement, Thou shalt have treasure in 
Heaven ; secondly, Come, follow Me : lest the young man 
should imagine his renunciation of possessions would 
profit him unless he also followed Christ. Augustine 
thinks that the young man's claim to have kept all the 
commandments was spoken " arrogantius quam verius." 
But in any case Christ drew a clear distinction between, 
the commandments of life and the counsels of perfection. 
Why, then, should Christians deny that obedience to the 
Commandments secures entrance into life, even if the 
counsel of perfection has not been followed ? 

This, says Augustine, 3 agrees with S. Paul's instructions 
for rich people (i Tim. vi. 17-19). Surely the Apostle 
is not mistaken. He did not instruct Timothy to charge 
them that are rich in this world, that they sell all that 
they have and give to the poor ; but that they were not to 
be proud, nor to trust in uncertain riches. It was the pride 

1 Letter 157, 24. 2 Letter 157, 25. 

3 Letter 157, 26. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 147 

of wealth and the faith in material possessions which 
brought Dives to the place of torment. It was not 
riches as such. 

If his opponents infer from our Lord's reflection, 1 " It 
is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle 
than for a rich man to enter into the K ingdom of Heaven," 
that a rich man who obeys S. Paul's instructions cannot 
enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, Augustine propounds 
a dilemma: 

Either the Apostle contradicts our Lord, or else these 
Pelagians are mistaken. 2 No Christian will doubt which 
of these alternatives to adopt. I think it better for us to 
believe that these men do not understand, than to believe 
that S. Paul contradicted our Lord. Did not Christ add 
that what was impossible with men is easy with God ? 

On the other side Christ spoke of those who have 
" left houses or brethren or sisters or father or mother or 
children or lands for His Name's sake" (Matt. xix. 
29). Christ spoke of renunciation as the condition of 
discipleship 3 (Luke. xiv. 33). He who renounces the 
world for the purpose of becoming Christ's disciple 
does certainly renounce all that the world contains. But 
renunciation of wealth may appear in various forms. 
It may consist in withholding love from our possessions ; 
or in liberal distribution to the poor ; or in transference 
to Christ of that faith and hope which some perversely 
place in riches. It may consist in the disposition and 
readiness to forsake father or mother or wife or child if 
Christ cannot be retained without forsaking them. 
Augustine quotes Cyprian's sentence on renunciation of 
the world in words but not in reality. 4 But Augustine 
is quite clear that rich men can truly renounce the world 
while retaining their possessions, and converting those 
possessions to a proper use, breaking their bread to the 
hungry, clothing the naked, and redeeming the captives. 

1 Letter 157, 27. 2 Ibid. 

3 Letter 157, 34. 4 Ibid. 



148 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Consequently these Pelagians may exhort if they will 
to higher courses so long as they do not condemn inferior 
ones. 1 If they exalt virginity they must not condemn 
the married state. Did not the Apostle say that each 
one has his special gift from God : one in one direction, 
one in another ? Let them take the way of perfection 
and sell all that they have. But they must not condemn 
those who retain their possessions in a Christian spirit. 

Augustine reinforces all this by an extremely telling 
reference to his own case. 2 " I who write these things 
was greatly drawn to love that way of perfection which 
the Lord described when he said to the rich young -man, 
4 Go, sell all that thou hast and give to the poor, and 
thou shalt have treasure in Heaven ; and come follow 
Me : ' and, not in my own strength, but by His Grace 
assisting me, I have so done. Nor will it be less 
accounted to me because I was not rich : for neither 
were the Apostles rich, who did the same before me. 
For he renounces all the world who renounces what he 
possesses and what he hopes to possess." 

This way of perfection, then, has Augustine's emphatic 
preference. He will encourage others in it to the best 
of his power. Nevertheless he will never do it in such a 
way as to depreciate those who retain their possessions in 
a Christian spirit and make religious use of what they 
retain. 

The African Episcopate put out its collective strength 
against the Pelagian heresy. Councils were held at 
Carthage 3 in 416 and at Milevis 4 in the same year; and 
letters were written by both these Councils to Pope 
Innocent at Rome. The Bishops invoked the authority 
of the Holy See to support their efforts. They are 
clearly apprehensive that the acquittal of Pelagius in the 
unfortunate Synod of Diospolis may prejudice Innocent's 
mind by concealing from him the serious nature of the 

1 Letter 157, 37. 2 Letter 157, 39. 

3 Letter 175. 4 Letter 176. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 149 

errors to which Pelagius in reality adheres. They insist, 
therefore, that if Innocent thinks that Pelagius was 
rightly acquitted so far as his expressions went, yet 
nevertheless the erroneous doctrine widely prevalent 
among his followers ought to be condemned. They call 
on Innocent to realise that Pelagianism is laying such 
stress on the natural abilities by which we are human, 
that it leaves no place for the Grace of God, by which 
we are Christians. For, according to Pelagian views, we 
ought not to pray, " Lead us not into temptation," 
although Christ Himself taught us so to pray ; nor to 
pray lest our faith should fail, which our Lord did for 
S. Peter. 

There is little doubt that this letter of the Council of 
Carthage represented Augustine's mind and influence, 
although his name does not appear in the list of the 
signatures. 

At the Council of Milevis Augustine was present. 1 A 
letter similar in character to that of the Council of 
Carthage was sent to Innocent. 

Augustine was apparently not entirely satisfied with 
this. At any rate he supported it in a longer letter, sent 
from Bishop Aurelius of Carthage, together with three 
of Augustine's intimate friends, Bishops Alypius, 
Evodius and Possidius, of whom the last became 
Augustine's biographer. 

In this important letter on Pelagian ideas Augustine 
quotes the maxim which was to him peculiarly abhorrent : 
" God made us men, we made ourselves righteous." It 
would be impossible to conceive a maxim more irrecon- 
cilable with Augustine's experience. The effect of such 
teaching was to render a Saviour superfluous. It made 
human nature self-sufficient and independent of the 
Grace of God. 

Augustine understands that Pelagius has supporters 
in Rome. They think that he does not really hold such 

1 Letter 176. 



150 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

opinions. They appeal to the fact of his acquittal by 
the Bishops in the Council of Diospolis. Augustine 
explains that this acquittal was due to the fact that 
Pelagius employed the term "Grace" in one sense and 
his judges in another. Pelagius meant by " Grace " the 
endowment by which we are human. The Bishops 
meant by " Grace " the gifts whereby we are Christians. 

Augustine suggests that Pelagius should be summoned 
to Rome and carefully examined on the sense which he 
attaches to the term " Grace." If he means that whereby 
men are divinely assisted to avoid sin and lead a holy 
life, then let him be acquitted. 

But if he holds that " Grace " is the same as free will, 
or forgiveness, or moral commandments, then he is 
leaving out precisely those gifts which constitute Grace ; 
the power to overcome temptation which is derived from 
the Ascended Christ. The prayer " Lead us not into 
temptation " is not a prayer that we may be granted the 
faculties which are natural to us as men. Nor is it a 
prayer that we may be forgiven. We have already 
prayed for that when we say " forgive us our trespasses." 
It is a prayer that we may be enabled to do that which 
is commanded. 

The obvious distinction between Law and Grace is 
that the former commands and the latter enables. 

Augustine sends Innocent a sample of Pelagian 
writings. It is the document which he answered in 
his treatise concerning Nature and Grace. He sends 
the Pope a copy of both ; marking the passages which 
he wants Innocent to read, in order not to be burden- 
some. If Pelagius disowns authorship of the work which 
has been ascribed to him, that is no matter. Augustine 
will not press it. Only let Pelagius anathematise its 
contents. 

The letter closes with a deferential assurance that the 
writers do not dream of adding anything to Innocent's 
amplitude of knowledge. The writers have explained 
their position in order to be reassured by the Pope's reply. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 151 

The Synod of Diospolis had of course acquitted 
Pelagius under a total misapprehension of his meaning. 
But their acquittal naturally promoted his influence and 
set the Catholic Bishops in grave perplexity. For 
Pelagius naturally flourished in their faces the decision 
of Diospolis as a certificate of his orthodoxy. 

The indefatigable Bishop of Hippo wrote to John, 
Bishop of Jerusalem, 1 assuring him that he and his 
colleagues had been deceived. The disciples of Pelagius 
had brought one of their master's writings to Augustine. 
In that book Pelagius had employed the term "Grace" 
simply as an equivalent for " Nature " ; and had con- 
tended vehemently that men are able to realise the ideal 
by the unassisted power of their own free will. How 
was it possible, Augustine asks, to harmonise this theory 
with the Apostolic cry : " O wretched man that I am ! 
who shall deliver me ? " And why should Christ have 
prayed for S. Peter that his faith fail not if stability is in 
the power of our own will without any help from God ? 

Augustine is anxious to avoid prolixity, chiefly because 
he writes in Latin and his words will require to be 
interpreted in Greek. But Augustine sends a copy of 
Pelagius's own book for the Bishop to see. Also he sends 
his own book on Nature and Grace written in reply to it. 
He entreats Bishop John to teach Pelagius the true 
faith. He suggests some questions which the Bishops 
in Palestine should put to this erring mind. He requests 
that a copy of the Acts of the Synod of Diospolis should 
be sent to Africa. This is on behalf of the African 
Bishops in general. Nothing has reached them as yet 
but a fragment circulated by Pelagius himself. They 
are most anxious to possess a complete account of the 
whole Synod. 

Innocent sent replies to the letters 2 which he had 
received from the Council of Carthage, the Council of 
Milevis, and the Five Bishops. 

1 Letter 179, A.D. 416. 2 Letters 181, 182, 183. 



152 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

First comes Innocent's reply to the Council of Car- 
thage. Innocent speaks in lofty terms of the dignity of 
his See, and highly approves the conduct of the Bishops 
at Carthage in referring to his judgment. He commends 
them for knowing what is due to the Apostolic See. 1 
For the Apostolic See is the final and completing 
endorsement of what is done elsewhere. 2 

This assertion of the claims of his See is really the 
principal part of Innocent's letter. He goes on at some 
length indeed to speak of the Pelagian contradiction to 
the doctrine of Grace. 3 He quotes the Psalmist's words: 
" Lord, be Thou my helper, leave me not neither forsake 
me, O God of my salvation" (Ps. xxvii. 9). He declares 
that the entire Psalter proclaims the necessity of Divine 
support. He represents the Christian doctrine as main- 
taining that through the cleansing of the New Regenera- 
tion God purges away in the laver of Baptism all past 
sin, and places the baptised in a condition which makes 
further progress possible ; but that God does not refuse 
His Grace in the future. There must be daily remedies 
for the reparation of post-baptismal sin. 

Innocent adds that it is unnecessary for him to say 
more, since the Bishops have said everything already. 

Accordingly he reaches his conclusion. Whosoever 
assents to the opinion that we have no need of the 

1 Scientes quid Apostolicae Sedi, cum omnes hoc loco positi 
ipsum sequi desideremus apostolurrr, debeatur, a quo ipse episco- 
patus et tota auctoritas nominis hujus emersit. 

2 Quern sequentes, tarn mala damnare novimus quam probare 
laudanda. Vel id vero quid patrum instituta sacerdotali custodi- 
entes officio non censetis esse calcanda, quod illi non humana, sed 
divina decrevere sententia, ut quidquid quamvis in disjunctis 
remotisque provinciis ageretur, non prius ducerent finiendum, nisi 
ad hujus Sedis notitiam perveniret : ut tota hujus auctoritate justa 
qua fuerit pronuntiatio firmaretur, indeque sumerent caeterae 
Ecclesiae (velut de natali suo fonte aquas cunctae procederent, et 
per diversas totius mundi regiones puri latices capitis incorrupt! 
manarent) quid pmeciperent, quos abluerent, quos velut caeno 
inemundabili sordidatos mundis digna corporibus unda vitaret. 

3 Letter 181, 6. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 153 

Divine assistance (adjutorium) is an enemy of the 
Catholic Faith, and unworthy of our Communion. 
Such persons must be severed from the healthy Body 
until such time as he recants. 

Innocent in replying to the Council of Carthage 
mentions by name each Bishop present. In replying to 
the Council of Milevis 1 he mentions two Bishops only 
and addresses the Synod collectively. 

In this letter Innocent applies to himself what S. Paul 
had claimed, the care of all the Churches ; commends 
the Council for consulting the Apostolic See as to what 
opinion ought to be maintained. He sees that the 
Bishops understand that responses to these inquiries are 
always sent through all the provinces from the Apostolic 
fount. Especially in matters of faith all his brothers 
and fellow-bishops should refer to Peter, that is to the 
author of their name and dignity. 

After this introduction Innocent turns to the errors 01 
Pelagius and his follower Celestius, both of whom he 
mentions by name. Innocent applies to them the words 
of the Psalmist (Hymnidicus) : " Lo this is the man that 
took not God for his strength." To say that eternal life 
can be obtained by infants unbaptised 2 is " perfatuum." 
" For except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and 
drink His Blood ye have no life in you." This cannot be 
without Regeneration. 

Wherefore Pelagius and Celestius are by Apostolic 
authority 3 to be deprived of ecclesiastical communion 
until they recover. 

The letter is dated in the Consulship of Honorius and 
Constantius. 

To the five Bishops, Aurelius of Carthage, Alypius ot 
Thagaste, Augustine of Hippo, Evodius of Uzala, and 
Possidius of Calama, Innocent sent a separate reply : 4 a 
noteworthy tribute to their importance in the Pelagian 
dispute. 

1 Letter 182. 2 Letter 182, 5. 

3 Letter 182, 6. 4 Letter 183, A.D. 417. 



154 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

i 

This letter is more confidential. 1 Innocent does not 
know whether there are any followers of Pelagius in 
Rome. If they exist they have concealed themselves ; 
and it is difficult to ascertain in so large a community. 

Innocent has received certain documents, Acts of a 
Council, which some laymen have sent him. According 
to these documents Pelagius has been acquitted. But 
Innocent has his misgivings about the reality of all this. 
The internal evidence of the document seems to betray 
evasiveness. He hopes that there has been a genuine 
conversion. 

In his letter to Peter and Abraham 2 Augustine says 
that baptised infants are to be regarded as believers. 
[This subject had already been discussed in Letter 98, 
see p. 290.] We have seen that Innocent in Letter 182 
(p. 153), taught the necessity both of Baptism and Com- 
munion for salvation. Augustine says much the same 
in his treatise on the Forgiveness of Sin (Book I. 34). 
He tells us that Punic Christians called Baptism, Salva- 
tion, and the Sacrament of Christ's Body, Life. He 
regards it as an Apostolic tradition that without parti- 
cipation in Baptism and the Table of the Lord there 
is no way of entrance into eternal life. Thus, Scripture 
says, " He saved us by the Washing of Regeneration." 
Accordingly, unless infants are admitted by the divinely 
instituted Sacrament into the number of believers they 
will remain in the darkness. 3 

Here, in Letter 184 B, Augustine does not shrink from 
the tremendous negative side of this question. 4 He does 
not only say that infants if baptised are saved and are 
believers ; but he proceeds to add that, if unbaptised, 
they are unbelievers and are condemned. He held, 
indeed, that their condemnation will be " minima pcena, 
non tamen nulla." 5 He asserts that there will be degrees 

1 Letter 183, 2. 2 Letter 184 B, 2. 

3 Works, Tom. X. pp. 214-215; cf. Book III 2, #. p. 287). 

4 Letter 184 B, 2. 

5 De Peccat. Remis. i. 21, in damnatione omnium mitissima. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 155 

of future penalty ; basing this statement on the New 
Testament principle that it shall be more tolerable for 
one city than for another in the final account. But he 
maintains that there is no final third position between 
being saved and being lost ; of, as he puts it, between 
regnum and supplicium. Nothing can deliver but the 
Grace of God. And that Grace Augustine here, as else- 
where, tied to the outward sign so inseparably that not 
Christ Himself could extend His Grace beyond it. 

Augustine regards all human individuals as conceived 
in sin. 1 The Virgin Birth excepted Christ from this 
inheritance. [Cf. Letter 202 B, 20. No soul except 
that of the one Mediator escaped contracting from 
Adam Original Sin, or was loosed without regener- 
ation. Augustine puts this doctrine of the Virgin 
Birth more plainly elsewhere : " What was more pure 
than the Virgin's womb, whose flesh although ' de pec- 
cati propagine venit, nori tamen de peccati propagine con- 
cepit ' ? " (Literal Interpretation of Genesis, Book X. 32. 
Works, Tom. III. 431). "Christ took the visible sub- 
stance of the flesh from the flesh of the Virgin. The 
principle of this Conception came not from the side of 
man but far otherwise and from above" (ib. 35, p. 434)-] 
Whatever is conceived in the ordinary course of nature 
requires to be born again. Carnal generation cannot 
dispense with spiritual regeneration. 2 

Augustine goes on to speak of the books which he 
has now completed of the work on The City of God. 
He has now got as far as Book XIV. The first five books 
are designed to refute those who advocated Polytheism 
as a source of temporal advantages. The next five 
apply to those who advocated Polytheism as a means of 
future blessedness. In this section comes his answer 
to Pagan philosophies. If his correspondents will read 
the later books they will find answers to their inquiries. 

Some most important particulars about the Pelagian 

1 Letter 184 B,4. 2 Letter 184. 



156 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

controversy are given in the letter l addressed by Bishops 
Alypius and Augustine to Paulinus, Bishop of Nola. 
This is the letter which says that Pelagius was of 
British extraction : a fact which other writers have 
endorsed in forms more expressive than courteous. 
Thus, Prosper calls Pelagius the British snake, and 
Jerome, with his customary forcefulness, describes him 
as stuffed with Scottish porridge : " Scotorum pultibus 
prsegravatus." 2 

A copy of one of Pelagius's writings had been sent by 
some of his admirers to Augustine. The Bishop there- 
upon wrote a reply (the Treatise on Nature and Grace] , 
without mentioning Pelagius by name. That was writ- 
ten two years before the present letter. Augustine had 
reasons for omitting to name Pelagius. The Bishop 
had been favourably impressed by Pelagius's character, 
and had sent him a courteous note, 3 written in 413, 
which certainly did not commit its writer to very much, 
least of all to any endorsement of its recipient's pecu- 
liarities. It was extremely brief, remarkably so for 
Augustine, who scarcely knew how to write short notes. 
It only contained some hundred words in all. But 
Pelagius converted it to his purposes. It was much to 
be able to produce a kindly letter from the great leader 
of African religious thought. Augustine felt it necessary 
when writing his treatise on the acquittal of Pelagius 
by the Palestine Synod to explain what his letter 
to Pelagius was intended to convey. (See De Gestis 
Pelagii, 50-5 3, where this letter is reproduced. Works, 

X. 510.) ; 

In the present letter to Paulinus, Augustine explains 
that he had previously written against Pelagian errors 
without mentioning their advocate, because he hoped 
that Pelagius might be recovered by this indirect refuta- 
tion and so a scandal might be avoided. 

Augustine adds that reports of the two Councils of 

1 Letter 186, A.D. 417- 2 Ct. p 140. 

3 Letter 146. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 157 

Carthage l and Milevis had been sent to the Apostolic 
See before the Ecclesiastical Acts of the Province of 
Palestine, in which Pelagius was acquitted, had reached 
Africa. The reference of course is to the Synod of 
Diospolis or Lydda. Augustine also refers to his own 
letter to Innocent, and adds that the Pope had replied 
as was right and becoming for an occupant of the 
Apostolic See. 

Augustine urges that Pelagius should be advised 2 to 
consider whether his acceptance by God was a reward of 
his merits ; whether he first sought God or God first 
sought him ; whether God did not care to seek and to 
save that which was lost. For if Pelagius sought God 
first it could only be as one who had no goodness of his 
own. If Pelagius believes in One Who justifies the 
evil, what else could he be but evil before he was 
justified ? 

Augustine dwells much in this letter 3 on the differ- 
ences between moral commands and power to obey. 
It is the distinction which he has so magnificently 
explained in his great treatise on The Spirit and the 
Letter. The Law commands us what to do. But it is 
the Spirit which enables us to do it. Unless the Spirit 
of God infuses grace and strength to fulfil it, the letter 
of the Law condemns us for our failure to obey. 

Here, as ever, Augustine reiterates : 4 What hast thou 
that thou didst not receive? If the Pelagian answers, 
My faith : Augustine replies, Faith is the gift of God. 
According as He hath given to every man the measure 
of faith. Human merit does not precede Divine Grace. 
But Grace when given may merit to be increased. 

When questioned on the problem of Predestina- 
tion 5 why out of the same mass God should make 
one for honour and another for dishonour Augustine 
admits that it is insoluble. The judgments of God are 

1 Letter 186, 2. 2 Letter 186, 6. 

3 Letter 186, 9. 4 Letter 186, 10. 

5 Letter 186, 12. 



158 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

inscrutable, but they are not unjust. For in Augustine's 
opinion God had a perfect right to select ; l to remit 
in one case and not in another. We note here, as 
constantly during the last period of the Pelagian dis- 
cussions, that Augustine conceives of God as power 
rather than as love. But he considers that his teaching 
is in keeping with the Apostolic maxim, 2 " Whom He 
wills He pities, and whom He wills He hardens." The 
right of the potter over the clay appears as the last 
word, not in a selection to privilege on earth, but to 
eternal fate hereafter. And the objection is to be 
silenced with the language of the Apostle, " Who art 
thou that repliest against God?" 3 Thus no one is 
justified for his merits, nor hardened without deserving 
it. And there is no unrighteousness with God. 

As for Pelagius himself, Augustine says, 4 that he 
appears to have pronounced an anathema at the 
episcopal trial in Palestine against those who held that 
the sin of Adam only injured himself and not the human 
race. He also anathematised the assertion that infants 
dying unbaptised obtained eternal life. He could not 
escape being condemned unless he had done this. But 
in that case, what is the inference ? Clearly no one is 
condemned without sin. Clearly also infants have no 
actual sin of their own. Consequently it must be origi- 
nal sin which is the cause of their exclusion. Grant 
the premises, and it is all extremely logical. 

The propositions which Pelagius was compelled to 
anathematise in the Council in Palestine 5 included the 
following : 

That Adam would have died in any case, whether 

he sinned or not ; 
That Adam's sin injured himself only and not the 

human race ; 

1 Letter 186, 16. 2 Letter 1 86, 17. 

3 Letter 186, 20. 4 Letter 186, 27. 

6 Letter 186, 32. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 159 

That infants are now born in the same condition as 

A clam before his fall ; 
That it is not true that in Adam all die nor that in 

Christ's Resurrection all rise ; 
That infants dying unbaptised have eternal life ; 
That Grace is not given to aid us in separate acts, 

but consists in free will or instruction or doctrine. 
That Grace is given according to merits. 

Accordingly those who accept the anathemas of Pelagius l 
are committed to the contraries of their propositions ; 
in other words, to the faith of the Catholic Church. 
Augustine proceeds, therefore, to formulate the contrary 
propositions. 

But in spite of admissions made before the Palestine 
Synod, 2 in order to escape being condemned, Pelagius 
had in subsequent writings spoken in terms which 
virtually left no room for grace in the Catholic sense 
of it. He *had not hesitated, for instance, to say that 
we could do by free will what we could do more easily 
by grace. It was that word "more easily" which 
Augustine resisted with all his force. To say that we 
can do right more easily by grace is to say that we can 
do right without grace : which is absolutely unapostolic 3 
The Apostolic doctrine is, " I, yet not I, but the grace 
of God which was with me." The Scriptural principle 
is, " Except the Lord build the house, their labour is 
but lost that build it." It is not that it is harder for 
them to build it, but simply that without grace their 
efforts to build it are in vain. 

So Augustine condenses the whole subject into one 
of his strongest utterances. 

Human nature, even if it had remained in the integrity 
in which it was created, 4 could no way serve its Creator 
without His aid. If, then, without the grace of God it 

1 Letter 186, 33. 2 Letter 186, 34. 

* Letter 186, 36. 4 Letter 186, 37. 



160 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

could not keep what it had received, how could it 
without God's grace restore what it had lost? 

Augustine supports his own conclusion with a passage 
borrowed from one of Paulinus's own letters : J a passage 
thoroughly congenial to Augustine's whole mind and 
experience, expressing the conflicts in human weakness 
and the powerlessness of unaided beings to achieve 
their destiny. " I am ashamed to describe what I am. 
I dare not describe what I am not. I hate what T am, 
and I am not what I love." 

Concerning the origin of the soul Christian thought 
was greatly exercised at the beginning of the fifth 
century. Bishop Optatus had been writing letters about 
it. They were not addressed to Augustine, but he had 
read them. He sends Bishop Optatus a reply. 2 He is 
away from Hippo at the Mauritanian city of Caesarea, 
whither he has been sent on some mission by Pope 
Zosimus. 

Augustine assures Bishop Optatus that he has never 
ventured to express a definite decision on the question, 
whether at every birth a soul is created or is transmitted 
like the body. After all, if the origin of the soul is 
unknown, there is no danger so long as redemption is 
understood. What he knows on Apostolic authority 
is that in Adam all die, and that no one is delivered 
except through Christ. Just men were saved before 
Christ came 3 through their belief in His coming. Thus 
S. Peter speaking of the yoke " which neither our fathers 
nor we were able to bear," goes on to say, " but we 
believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the 
Lord Jesus, in like manner as they" (Acts xv. 10, n). 
The true worshippers of God, whether before the Incar- 
nation, or since the Incarnation, lived or live only by 
faith in the Incarnation of Christ in Whom is the fullness 
of grace. 4 

1 Letter 186, 40. 2 Letter 190, A.D. 418. 

3 Letter 190, 6. 4 Letter 190, 8. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 161 

Augustine thereupon is led to discuss the doctrine of 
Piedestination: 1 he applies the principle alike to the 
lost and to the saved. 

Then he reaches the problem of the Origin of the 
Soul. 2 Bishop Optatus had clearly taught the Creationist 
theory. Augustine asks him how that theory can be 
reconciled with the need of redemption on the part of 
infants? If the soul of the infant is newly created, how 
can it be affected by Original Sin ? And if it is not 
so affected, how can it require to be redeemed ? If 
Optatus can explain this, Augustine would be grateful 
for the information. 

Traducianism is readily reconciled with the doctrine 
of Original Sin. Creationism is not. That is what 
Augustine feels. But he will not dogmatise. 

What he is certain must be rejected is the opinion of 
Tertullian, 3 which materialises the soul by regarding it 
as a product of the body, and makes God the Creator 
only of the latter. 

Elsewhere Augustine says that for Tertullian the 
incorporeal was the unreal. He was, therefore, com- 
pelled to think the soul to be corporeal. Otherwise it 
seemed to evaporate into nothingness. For the same 
reason he ascribed body to the Deity, although his 
acuteness could not fail to see that this involved him in 
difficulties. 4 

But as to the soul's origin Augustine confesses that 
he cannot decide. 5 No man should be ashamed to 
confess his ignorance of what he does not know, lest 
while he falsely professes knowledge he never deserves 
to know. When a matter in its very nature difficult 
surpasses our capacities, and Scripture assists us with 
nothing plain, it is only presumption if we attempt to 
define. Nothing conclusive about the origin of the soul 6 

1 Letter 190, 9. 2 Letter 190, 13. 

3 Letter 190, 14 (cf. Tertull. cont. Praxeam 7). 

4 De Genesi ad Litteram X. 41. Works, III. 437. 

5 Letter 190, 16. 6 Letter 190, 17. 
L 



162 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

can be found in Scripture. 1 When Adam said, " This is 
bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh," he did not add, 
" and soul of my soul." 

Optatus mentions in his letter a book which he has 
written on the subject. 2 Augustine would be glad to 
see it. A very learned man across the sea, he means 
S. Jerome, referred people to Augustine on this problem. 
Jerome inclined to the Traducianist theory, and affirmed 
that the Western Church was accustomed to take that 
view. This was why Augustine wrote to Jerome. 

Augustine is cautious about this book of his. 3 It is 
the work of an inquirer not of a teacher. He is waiting 
for Jerome's reply. Meanwhile he will not define 
anything. 

As to Pelagianism, Augustine warns Optatus of its 
insidiousness. It has been condemned by two occu- 
pants of the Apostolic See : Pope Innocent and Pope 
Zosimus. Augustine quotes the Papal letters. In their 
words the Catholic faith is plain. No Christian may 
doubt of it. 

But, whether the problem of the soul's origin can be 
solved or not, what is certain is that it is a creation of 
God, and that God is not the author of sin, and that the 
Baptism of Infants is not an empty form. 

Certainly also the soul of the Mediator contracted 
nothing evil by transmission from Adam. Augustine 
connects this exemption from original sin with the fact 
of the Virgin Birth. (On the Virgin Birth, see Letter 137 
among the letters on Paganism, pp. 55, 56.) 

Here then is Augustine's reply. It does not show the 
knowledge which Optatus desires, but it is prompted by 
profound regard. 

Augustine's vigilance with regard to heretical ten- 
dencies was incessant. He seems to know at once 
where important ecclesiastics begin to vacillate. Sixtus, 

1 Letter 190, 18. 2 Letter 190, 20. 

3 Letter 190, 21. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 163 

priest of the Roman Church, afterwards Pope, is carefully 
kept in touch by the Bishop of Hippo, 1 who sends him 
letters by the acolyte Albinus. Bishop Alypius also 
writes to him. Sixtus also writes to Bishop Aurelius 
of Carthage by another acolyte named Leo. It is 
thought that this Leo was no other than Leo the Great, 
who succeeded Sixtus as Pope in 440. Augustine 
encourages Sixtus to defend the doctrine of grace 
against its opponents. But Augustine does not conceal 
his misgivings. Sixtus has had the reputation of be- 
friending heresy. Augustine would rouse him to alert- 
ness. Sixtus should realise that there is a suspicious 
silence on the part of many persons who cherish the 
heresy which they dare not utter. They must be 
instructed. It is impossible to know whether they are 
recovered unless silence about what is false is converted 
into open defence of what is true. Sixtus must realise 
the dangers of this taciturnity. 

A far longer 'letter followed. It extended to forty- 
seven paragraphs. 2 This letter is sent to Sixtus by 
Albinus the acolyte, who brought Augustine the letters 
from Rome. Augustine repeats the unfavourable rumour 
which has reached him that Sixtus had befriended the 
enemies of Christian grace. On the other hand, he 
hears that Sixtus has openly anathematised this heresy, 
and the Roman priest's letter to Aurelius, although 
short, was against it. Augustine thankfully recognises 
that Sixtus's letters now breathe the faith of the Roman 
Church. 

The Bishop then proceeds to strengthen Sixtus by 
a lengthy reply to Pelagian criticisms on the doctrine 
of grace. 

One criticism against the Augustinian theory of Pre- 
destination 3 was that in a case where all were equally 
at fault, to liberate one and to punish another would be 
unjust. 

1 Letter 191. 2 Letter 194. 3 Letter 194.. 5. 



1 64 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Augustine's reply is curious. He asks whether it 
would be unjust to punish all ? Let us then whom 
God has not punished make our thanksgiving. 1 Then 
Augustine propounds the tremendous proposition that 
if every man were delivered, the just retribution on sin 
would not be. realised. If no man weie delivered the 
power of grace would not be known. 

This proposition the Bishop conceived to be justified 
by S. Paul's metaphor of the Clay and the Potter. But, 
like S. Paul, he falls back on the fact of our ignorance. 
How inscrutable are His judgments, and His ways past 
finding out. 2 Also, he adds, without however reconciling 
the statement with his proposition, that "all the ways of 
the Lord are mercy and truth." 

The Pelagians attempted to solve the problem by 
asserting that grace is given in response to human merit. 
But this contradicts S. Paul's challenge: "Who hath 
first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto 
him again ? For of Him and through Him and unto 
Him are all things" (Rom. xi. 35, 36). It contradicts 
also the teaching that "we are justified freely by His 
grace." It contradicts the very conception of grace. 3 
For what is grace if it is not freely given, independently 
of merits, apart from human deservings? If grace is 
not a gratuitous gift, it is a debt and not grace 
at all. 

Augustine here reminds Sixtus that Pelagius himself 
was compelled, verbally at least, to anathematise the 
proposition that grace is the reward of merit, in the 
Palestinian Synod of Diospolis. Otherwise he could 
not have escaped condemnation. 

The fact is that the Pelagians identify 4 grace with 
the natural endowments with which we were created. 
Let that confusion be absolutely repudiated by Chris- 
tians, says Augustine. For the grace which the Apostle 

1 Letter 194, 5. 2 Letter 194, 6. 

3 Letter 194, 7. 4 Letter 194, 8. 






LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 165 

inculcates is not the gift which made us men, but the 
gift which justified us when we were evil men. 

Well, then, say the Pelagians, grace means forgiveness 
of sins. 1 But forgiveness is preceded by merit. There 
is the merit of faith. But faith is itself a gift. " Accord- 
ing as God hath given to every man the measure of 
faith" (Rom. xii. 3). If God's works are done by men, 
they are a product of faith. They cannot be done 
without it. For all which is not of faith is sin. 

Among men who hear the Christian message 2 by no 
means all have faith. Why one believes and another 
does not, when both alike hear the same, is among the 
inscrutable mysteries. What is clear is, that on whom 
He wills He has mercy. It is inscrutable, but not 
therefore unjust. 

Moreover forgiveness is not enough. 3 The Holy Spirit 
must inhabit the house which He has cleansed. And 
that Spirit bloweth where it listeth. Moreover, love 
towards God is not produced in us by ourselves, but by 
the Holy Spirit. 

The gratuitous character of this gift of faith is shown 
in Christ's own statement : 4 " No man can come unto 
Me except the Father Who hath sent Me draw him" 
(cf. John vi. 44 and 65). 

It is then impossible to account for any gifts of grace 
by preceding merit on the part of the recipient. 5 Augus- 
tine is never weary of asking, " What hast thou that thou 
didst not receive?" (i Cor. iv. 7). 

If men say that faith preceded grace, then we must 
ask what merit preceded the gift of faith ? 

If men say that prayer preceded grace, 6 and that 
prayer has merit, then we must reply that our prayer is 
worthless unless accompanied by the Spirit. "It is not 
ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh 
in you " (Matt. x. 20). Augustine explains that this 

1 Letter 194, 9. 2 Letter 194, 10. 

3 Letter 194, II. 4 Letter 194, 12. 

5 Letter 194, 14. 6 Letter 194, 16. 



166 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

does not mean that we do nothing. It expresses the 
co-operation of the Spirit with our prayers, so that He 
is said to do what He enables us to do. 

Thus there is all the difference between the man in 
whom 1 the Spirit does not dwell, and the man in whom 
He does dwell. The former he enables to become 
faithful, the latter to continue faithful. 

Thus there is no merit in man prior to grace. Grace 
is the creative cause of all human deserving. Accord- 
ingly Augustine sums up the doctrine of grace in the 
celebrated sentence, " When God crowns our merits He 
will crown nothing else than His own gifts." 2 

Augustine is well aware that in response to all this 
argument the Pelagian will say : 3 Well, then, if we do 
ill, it is no fault of ours. For we have not been granted 
grace. 

Augustine cannot tolerate this excuse. We cannot 
escape responsibility. Men might know much more 
concerning God than they are inclined to know. S. Paul 
says that they are without excuse (Rom. i. 20). Men 
have no ground to say, We have not heard and there- 
fore we have not believed. Ignorance on the part of 
those who do not desire to know is unquestionably sin : 4 
on the part of those who cannot know it is a consequence 
of sin. Neither have any excuse. Their condemnation 
is just. 

What Sixtus thought of this awful severity we are left 
to imagine. But when Sixtus is represented as a half- 
hearted defender of the doctrine of grace 5 we must not 
forget the form in which Augustine presented that 
doctrine to him. It is possible to be perfectly orthodox 
in the Church's doctrine of grace without assenting to 
the Augustinian deductions. 

Augustine proceeds to support his conclusions 6 from 
the case of infants dying unbaptised. Here he considers 

1 Letter 194, 18. - Letter 194, 19. 

3 Letter 194, 22. * Letter 194, 27. 

5 e.g. by Duchesne. 6 Letter 194, 31. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 167 

the Pelagian theory of merit is shattered to pieces. 
There can be no merit in infancy. Now, according to 
Augustine, the teaching of Scripture and the faith of the 
Church 1 concur that there is no admission for infants into 
the Kingdom if they die unbaptised. From this position 
the great writer saw no possible escape. He descants 
on the strange anomalies involved. But what it proves 
to. his mind is that God is no accepter of persons, and 
that grace is not the reward of antecedent merits. 
He can only repeat once more that God's ways are 
inscrutable. 

Then Augustine identifies selection to privileges on 
earth (as in the case of Jacob and Esau) with determination 
of eternal destinies. 2 

The Pelagian solution of this problem was just as 
desperate. 3 They did not deny the exclusion from 
Heaven of infants dying unbaptised. But they hazarded 
the proposition that they were allowed to die and so 
remain excluded because God foresaw the evil they would 
commit if He allowed them to live. 

To which Augustine made the inevitable retort : 4 Why 
in that case does not God kill off all infants who are 
baptised and live to turn out badly ? 

Augustine's position in the controversy was recognised 
by the chiefs of the State as well as of the Church. 

The Emperors Honorius and Theodosius sent a copy 
of their decree 5 against Pelagians to Aurelius, Bishop of 
Carthage, and to Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. 

Augustine's letter to the priest Sixtus led to difficulties. 
It was appreciated by its recipient, but it caused per- 
plexity to others. It happened that Florus, one of the 
monks of Adrumetum, was on a visit to Uzala, his native 
place, where Augustine's friend Evodius was Bishop. 
And there, probably in Evodius's possession, Florus 
found a copy of Augustine's letter to Sixtus. Florus 

1 Letter 194, 32. 2 Letter 194, 34. 

3 Letter 194, 41, 4 Letter 194, 42. 

5 Letter 201. 



168 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

transcribed it, and sent his transcription to the Monastery 
at Adrumetum, where it created much trouble. If Pelagius 
insisted on human freedom to the exclusion of grace, it 
was possible on the other side to lay such emphasis on 
grace that no room was left for the freedom of the 
human will. This was the conclusion drawn by certain 
monks at Adrumetum. It seemed to them that the 
doctrine of grace involved a denial that the will was free. 
Apparently grace did everything. Man was reduced to 
a mere instrument under Divine activity. The monks 
who held this view were in the minority. The majority 
held that the will was assisted by grace, and distinguished 
between being assisted and being coerced. But the 
peace of the Monastery was broken by the difficult 
propositions contained in Augustine's letter to Sixtus. 

News of this dispute in the Monastery of Adrumetum 
was brought to Augustine by Cresconius and Felix, two 
monks of that community. His letter to Sixtus had 
been misunderstood. 1 Augustine, therefore, sent a letter 
to the Abbot Valentinus and his monks explaining 
that the true doctrine was neither with those who 
laid exclusve stress on free will nor with those who laid 
exclusive stress on grace. 

Taking the fact that Christ did not come to condemn 
the world but to save it (John iii. 17), Augustine asks, 
" How could the world be saved if there is no such 
thing as grace ? " and " How could it be judged if there is 
no such thing as free will ? " 

He explains that his letter to Sixtus, presbyter of the 
Roman Church, was designed to refute those who assert 
that grace is given according to human merit. That 
theory leads a man to glory not in the Lord but in him- 
self. It is most false. Augustine writes with indignant 
emphasis, with deep conviction. 

He would like to send various documents 2 to the 
Abbot of Adrumetum, but the two monks are in a hurry 

1 Letter 214, A.D. 426. 2 Letter 214, 5. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 169 

to get home by Easter. They have not brought any 
letter from their Abbot. But Augustine does not doubt 
their genuine character, as they are obviously simple- 
minded persons. 

Augustine has ascertained from conversation with them 
that all the trouble arose from a certain individual in the 
Community. The Bishop would greatly like to see that 
man, and presses the Abbot to send him to Hippo. 
Either the monk does not understand Augustine's book 
or else is misrepresented by others. 

Meanwhile, if men cannot understand the relation of 
freedom l and grace, let them at any rate believe in the 
existence of both. 

It would seem that after all, in spite of their desire to 
return to Adrumetum for the Easter Festival, the monks 
were induced to remain at Hippo. 2 For Augustine 
wrote again to the Abbot Valentinus explaining that he 
has retained them in order to give them further in- 
struction in the meaning of the Pelagian disputes. He 
sends them a work on grace and free will, which he has 
written for their instruction. 

The book on Grace and Free Will 3 is an endeavour 
to set in true proportion human self-determination and 
Divine aid. Augustine says that he has written much 
against those who laid the stress so exclusively on the 
human will that they left no room for Divine co-oper- 
ation and grace. But in reaction from this exclusiveness 
some have gone to the opposite extreme. They are 
defending the doctrine of grace in such a manner as 
to leave no room for the freedom of the human will. 
Understanding that this latter extreme exists in the 
Community (congregation) of Adrumetum, Augustine 
now proceeds to balance these two aspects of the truth. 

It has now become necessary to insist on the reality of 
free will. 4 This is implied in every Divine command ; 

1 Letter 2 1 4, 7. - Letter 2 15, A.D. 426. 

3 Works, Tom. X. p. 1232. 4 Letter 215, 2. 



170 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

for command would be meaningless if there were no 
power of choice. Human responsibility is everywhere 
assumed in Scripture. Augustine collects numerous ex- 
amples of prohibition. There is a monotonous reiteration 
of the words " do not do this or that." He gives a whole 
page of instances. 

But the strongest insistence on human independence 
and self-decision 1 must be balanced by the absolute 
necessity of Divine Grace. 2 Scripture testimonies to 
grace are as obvious as those to free will. Self-control, 
for example, is a gift of God (Wisd. viii. 21). Christ 
pleads for Peter lest his faith should fail. 3 , Pelagius, 
when residing in the province of Palestine, which con- 
tains the city of Jerusalem, dared not tell the Bishop 
that grace is given according to our merits. For he 
knew that he could not escape condemnation if he did, 
that theory being utterly foreign to Catholic doctrine, 
and hostile to the very nature of the Grace of Christ. 
Accordingly he anathematised that proposition. Never- 
theless he continues to teach it in books which he has 
written since that Council. 4 Now Christ taught: " No 
man can come to me except it be given him by my 
Father" (John vi. 66). S. Paul said he was not worthy 
to be called an apostle 5 because he persecuted the 
Church of God. Yet he obtained grace. Not on 
account of his merits but in spite of them. 

And here Augustine repeats his maxim that when He 
gives a human being eternal life 6 "God crowns His own 
gifts and not man's merits." Our sufficiency is of God 
not of ourselves. 7 S Paul said " I obtained mercy that 
I might be faithful." He did not say " I obtained mercy 
because I had been faithful." His faithfulness was not 
the cause of the Divine Mercy but the consequence. He 
could not have been faithful unless it were for that gift 
of God. Thus good works are the results of Grace. 8 

1 Works, Tom. X. p. 1234. 2 Ib. p. 1235. 

3 Ib. p. 1237. 4 Ib. p. 1237. 5 Ib. p. 1239. 

6 Ib. p. 1241. 7 Ib. p. 1242. 8 Ib. p. 1243. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 171 

Nothing can be more perverse than the Pelagian 1 
identification of grace with Divine commands and in- 
structions. 2 Moral law condemns us because it orders 
us to do what it gives us power to fulfil. This is the 
constant theme of Augustine's teaching : nowhere 
brought out more brilliantly than in the great treatise 
on The Spirit and the Letter. He bids the monks of 
Adrumetum to study Cyprian's book on the Lord's 
Prayer. 3 No man of course stood higher in African 
Church esteem. 

As usual, there is in this treatise of Augustine a 
profusion of Scripture references. The profusion of 
quotation may seem excessive, because bewildering in 
its multiplicity. Selected passages few and more fully 
expounded might have been more effective. But the 
great writer's mind is full, and his knowledge of Scrip- 
ture very extensive. Old Testament and New alike are 
laid under contribution. Here is one from Ezekiel. 4 
In xviii. 31 we read "make you a new heart and a new 
spirit." There the stress is on the human will. In 
xxxvi. 26 we read " a new heart will I give you, and a 
new spirit will I put within you." There the stress is on 
the Grace of God. Augustine asks, " Why does He Who 
says ' make you a new heart ' say also ' a new heart 
will I give you ' ? Why does He command if He Him- 
self will give ? Why does He give if man is to make it 
for himself? " Augustine answers : " Because God gives 
what He commands when He enables us to do what He 
commands us." Thus Grace and Free Will are set in true 
proportion. The passage is a reminder of the famous 
saying, " Give what Thou commandest and command 
what Thou wilt." It is not only a reminder but an 
expansion and explanation. 

But, objected the Pelagian, 5 God would not command 
what He knew man could not perform. They think 

1 Ib. p. 1246. 2 Ib. p. 1248. 3 Jb. 1249. 

4 Ib. p. 1252. 5 Ib. p. 1253. 



172 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

they have said something very convincing here, replies 
Augustine. But the fact is, God commands what He 
knows man cannot perform in order to teach us what we 
are to seek from Him. 

All real obedience to God depends on love. 1 And 
love is a gift from Heaven. 

Augustine assures Valentinus and the monks of his 
Community 2 that a careful study of his book on Grace 
and Free Will may prevent the rise of further disputes. 
He sends copies of the letters sent to Pope Innocent of 
the Provincial Council of Carthage and the Council of 
the Province of Numidia, and by the five Bishops, as well 
as the Pope's three replies. Also the letter sent to Pope 
Zosimus and the Pope's reply to the Bishops of the 
world. Also there have been decisions passed against 
Pelagianism in the Plenary Council of all Africa. [This 
was held at Carthage in 418 under Aurelius of Carthage 
and included mqre than 200 Bishops.] 

He supports the Catholic doctrine of grace against the 
Pelagians by appeal to Cyprian on the Lord's Prayer, 
who explains the petition " Lead us not into temptation " 
to imply a misgiving of the power of the human will. 

On receiving these letters Abbot Valentinus replied 3 
to Augustine in profoundly deferential language, which 
scarcely, however, conceals the Superior's annoyance 
with his monks. He compares himself to Elijah wrap- 
ping his face in his mantle when confronted with the 
glory of the Lord. He is ashamed of the rusticity of 
his brethren. He must confess the facts. Brother Felix 
brought back Augustine's letter to Sixtus and without 
informing the Abbot had read it to his illiterate com- 
panions. Hence all this trouble. The Community was 
divided, and the Abbot still kept in ignorance, until 
Brother Florus returned from Carthage and informed 
the Abbot that he had copied Augustine's letter and 

1 Works, Tom. X. p. 1254 ff. 2 Letter 215, A.D. 426. 

3 Letter 216. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 173 

sent it to the Monastery by Brother Felix. Thereupon 
the Abbot determined to send to Bishop Evodius 
asking him to explain Augustine's meaning. The 
Abbot feels that good will come out of evil, just as 
the doubts of S. Thomas resulted in the more confirm- 
ation of the Church. Valentinus sends the originator 
of these disputes to Augustine for instruction as the 
Bishop had requested. He begs the Bishop to pray 
that the devil may be expelled from the Community. 

In his conversations with the misguided monk Augus- 
tine ascertained that the controversy in the Monastery 
of Adrumetum had developed on further lines. When 
the Brothers who laid exclusive stress on human free 
will were instructed that their theory must be supple- 
mented by the doctrine of grace, and that it was God 
that worketh in them both to will and to do ; they 
replied that, if that was the case, it was unreasonable 
to rebuke and correct those who failed to do right. 
For their failure is not their fault. It is due to the 
absence of grace. If God has not yet given the power 
to obey His commands there is no sense in correcting 
what is a misfortune but not a sin. All that is reason- 
able t do for a person so situated is to pray that the 
grace may be given. 

This perverse inference 1 emanating from the Mon- 
astery of Adrumetum led Augustine to write them 
his treatise on Correction and Grace. 

If it is God that worketh in us both to will and to 
do, 2 why preach and give instruction? said the inde- 
pendent of Adrumetum. Augustine replied, Men must 
be shown what the ideal of conduct is. 

Well then, said the monk, instruct us by all means. 
But you have no right to correct us if we fail to comply 
with instruction. Failure is due to the fact that we 
have not yet received God's Grace. Pray for us, if you 
like. But that is all that you can rightly do. 3 Whereto 

1 Works, X. pp. 1281. 2 Id. p. 1284. 

J*7,p. 1285. 



174 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Augustine answered, You ought to be corrected for 
the very reason that you would avoid correction. You 
prefer your deformity. Correction should drive you 
to pray for yourself that grace may be given. To 
allow instruction 1 and refuse correction is illogical. 
If you refuse the latter you might as reasonably refuse 
the former also. For since instruction might come 
direct from God without human intermediary, as it 
did to S. Paul at his conversion, you might refuse to 
accept instruction from the Apostle. You might object, 
He Who instructed you directly is able to instruct us 
directly also. We wait for immediate illumination from 
Heaven. But no Christian will venture on such a 
demand. And if the believer is willing to receive 
instruction through men, consistency requires him to 
be willing also to receive correction through men. 2 

Moreover, asked Augustine, will you really venture 
to say that you have not received God's Grace ? The 
monk shrank from this Divine challenge. He drew a 
distinction. I have received faith, he answered, but 
not perseverance. 3 

That distinction led Augustine off at once into 
a whole disquisition on the grace to persevere. It led 
him into an uncompromising insistence on the formid- 
able doctrine of Predestination. 

These monks of Adrumetum had probably not the 
faintest notion what they were bringing on themselves, 
and indeed upon the theology of the subsequent period, 
by that plea that they had not received the grace of 
perseverance. 4 Augustine acknowledged the distinction 
between grace to begin and grace to persevere. He 
admitted that it was to his mind an unfathomable 
mystery that God should give regeneration and faith 
and love to certain human beings, and yet not give 
them grace to persevere unto the end. All he can say 

1 Works, X. 8, p. 1286. 2 Ibt 8j p I286> 

3 Ib. p. 1288. 4 Ib. 1 8, p. 1294. 






LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 175 

is that God's ways are past finding out. There is an 
undeniable distinction between the called and the 
chosen. It is a solemn warning against over-confidence 
and human arrogance. The Psalmist who sang " I said 
in my prosperity I shall never be moved " was compelled 
to add : l 

"Thou didst hide thy face from me and I was 
troubled." No prudent man who thinks of this will 
refuse correction. 

Then comes again, and yet more uncompromisingly 
asserted, the tremendous doctrine of Predestination. 2 
There is a certain number of souls predestined to the 
Kingdom of God. That number can be neither dimin- 
ished nor increased. The strongest use is made here 
of Scripture passages. Thus the text " Hold fast that 
which thou hast that no man take thy crown " is 
represented as implying the existence of a candidate 
for salvation whose chance depends on another man's 
failure. 

But Augustine is profoundly convinced 3 that there 
is no room for assurance of our own salvation. The 
moral is, " Be not high-minded but fear." Who of all 
the multitudes of believers can affirm, so long as he is in 
this mortal life, that he is among the number of the 
predestined : predestined, that is, to life ? This inse- 
curity has a real use. It is an incentive to exertion. 
Augustine even thinks that sons of perdition are per- 
mitted to be mingled for a time among those who will 
persevere in order to deepen the solemn insecurity of 
redemption. 4 

The practical conclusion is that no sensible man 5 
will either utilise the theory of correction as an argument 
against grace, nor the theory of grace as an argument 
against correction. 

But Augustine cannot allow that the words 6 "Who 

1 Works, X. 24, p. 1300. 2 Ib. 39, p. 

3 Ib. 40, p. 1311. 4 Ib. p. 1312. 

5 Ib. 43, p. 1314- 6 Ib. 44, P- 



1 76 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

will have all men to be saved" mean that all are 
predestined to eternal life. Here as in many other 
passages of his writings that great sentence is forced 
to agree with his theory of Predestination. 

Until quite recently this was all that was known 
about the objections raised to Augustine's doctrine by 
the monks of Adrumetum. Recently, however, two 
other letters bearing upon the dispute have been dis- 
covered by Dom Morin. 1 We have seen that Abbot 
Valentinus, being distracted and alarmed by the oppo- 
sition between his monks and the great leader of African 
religious thought, sent a despatch to Augustine's 
friend, Bishop Evodius, to consult him and seek his 
advice. 

Evodius replied in a letter, first published in 1896, 
in which he insisted that the writings of the doctors 
of the Church must be read "cum pietate non cum 
contentione." No one ought to be surprised if there 
are problems concerning free will, or grace, or the 
Divine determinations, which he does not understand. 
Let him believe that God is righteous, and what he 
cannot understand in the present life let him keep for 
the next. By all means let the monks read the great 
teachers of the Church : but when they fail to under- 
stand let them not instantly begin to reproach. Let 
them pray for intelligence. God, says Evodius, gives 
grace not according to our merits ; whom He wills 
He pities by His goodness ; and whom He wills He 
hardens by a just judgment. It is, adds the writer, 
beyond human comprehension. Meanwhile it would 
be presumption and pride for us insignificant individuals 
to blame the writings of these great men : above all 
if we are reluctant to accept the teaching of a Plenary 
-Council on the matter. That would be a "temeraria 
praesumptio " ; thinking it knows what it does not, and 
destitute of humility to learn. Those who refuse 

1 See Revue Benedictine, 1896, pp. 481-486. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 177 

submission to the decrees of the Church deserve expul- 
sion and anathema. 

This was written in 417. It is not remarkable that 
it failed to restore the monks to harmony. Abbot 
Valcntinus wrote for help in various directions. Among 
others he appealed to Januarius, a priest. 

Januarius's letter was discovered by Dom Morin and 
published in 1901. It is a long letter, addressed to 
Abbot Valentinus, insisting that the servant of God 
should not strive and must be teachable. Januarius 
rejects the proposition that it is for man to take the 
initiative and for God to complete. Scripture declares 
that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything 
as of ourselves. Let men learn from the Apostles, and 
cease to contend. S. Paul ascribes both the beginning 
and the completion of all good works to God. He 
Who hath begun a good work in you will perform it. 

Those who raise the objection, If all is God's what 
then is ours ? must be answered that we have nothing 
but falsehood and sin. Hence the insistence on fear 
and trembling in the injunction to work out your own 
salvation, for it is God that worketh in you. Januarius 
is a thorough disciple of Augustine, and echoes Augus- 
tine's explanation of the text, "Who will have all men 
to be saved." It does not really mean "all," but refers 
only to all those whom He wills to be saved. Whom 
He wills He hardens. It is the Clay and the Potter. 

If the monks are able and willing to receive this, let 
them receive it. But if they cannot be convinced, let 
them humbly believe on the authority of Scripture ; 
avoiding contentions, and ceasing to contradict the 
truth. Otherwise they will imperil their faith. There 
are many things in the Catholic Faith which must be 
objects of faith rather than of comprehension. What 
learned and distinguished Fathers and Doctors of the 
Church have taught in their writings should be rever- 
ently regarded and received. The pious reader will 
rejoice where he can understand : and where he cannot 
M 



1 78 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

understand will not quarrel, but accept provisionally, 
until such time as God shall grant him understanding. 

Januarius then proceeds to give Abbot Valentinus 
the benefit of his confidential advice. In future the 
Abbot should be careful to see what books are given 
to monks of limited intelligence. Their reading ought 
to be determined in future by the Abbot's authority. 
Indiscriminate study of a codex or a book by the 
unqualified is certain to lead to difficulties. Let any 
of the Community read the Scriptures freely. The 
caution given applies only to other books. 

Januarius has one further piece of advice to give. 
No casual visitor in future should be allowed to teach 
the monks. There were too many people about who 
desired to be teachers of the law, yet neither understand 
what they say nor whereof they affirm. 

What was the sequel at Adrumetum is unknown. 

Another letter, 1 addressed to Vitalis of Carthage, 
contains one of the clearest summaries of Catholic 
principles concerning the doctrine of grace to be found 
in Augustine's writings. Vitalis had been teaching 
that the first beginnings of faith originate in ourselves 
and are not a gift of God. Augustine contends that 
this proposition is irreconcilable with the Apostolic 
teaching, that it is God that worketh in you both to 
will and to do (Phil. ii. 13). Vitalis understood this to 
refer to Divine instruction, directing and informing us 
what we ought to do. 

According to this identification of grace with instruc- 
tion, 2 replies Augustine, we ought not to pray that 
people may believe the Gospel, but only that they may 
hear it. But this is contrary to the practice of the 
Church. You hear God's priest at the Altar ("sacer- 
dotem Dei ad altare ") exhorting the people to pray that 
God would convert to faith those who do not believe. 

Pelagianism supposed itself to be defending the free- 

1 Letter 217, A. D. 427. 2 Letter 217, 2. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 179 

dom of the human will. 1 But, says Augustine, we must 
not support the freedom of the will by opposing the 
source from which it is made free. It is grace by which 
we are liberated from the tendency to sin. To oppose 
grace is therefore to keep the will enslaved. Instead 
of liberum arbitrium we only have arbitrium captivum. 
It is God alone who delivers us from the power of 
darkness. And he that glories must not glory in man, 
nor in himself, but in the Lord. 

The Mediator enters the strong man's house ; 2 that 
is, the power which holds the human race enslaved, and 
binds him. But that is a work of grace and not of nature. 

Thus the grace of God is not a synonym for free 
will, 3 or for instruction, "sicut pelagiana perversitas 
desipit." It is power given to the will for separate 
acts. " No man cometh unto me, except it is given him 
by my Father." 4 Thus what we have to pray for is the 
strengthening of the will, the gift to the unbelieving of 
power to believe, 5 and of perseverance to those who 
already believe. 

Of course there are problems in the doctrine of grace, 6 
some of which Augustine confesses himself unable to 
solve. Why do some receive grace and persevere for 
a time and yet live long enough to fall away, when they 
might have been seemingly removed by an early death 
before evil had changed them ? Let each investigate 
according to his capacity. If he finds the solution 
Augustine will hold it with him, provided it does not 
deviate from the rule of faith. But whatever happens 
let us hold the Catholic Faith. 

Since, then, by the mercy of Christ we are Catholic 
Christians, says Augustine, 7 we know the following 
propositions to be true. He proceeds to enumerate 
twelve in reply to Pelagianism. 



1 Letter 217, 8. 2 Letter 217, n 

3 Letter 217, 12. 4 Letter 217, 13. 

5 Letter 217, 14. 6 Letter 217, 15. 

7 Letter 217, 16. 



i8o THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

1. We know t^at our condition here does not depend 
on merits acquired in a previous existence, but that the 
race has contracted the contagium mortis, and can only 
be saved by being born again by grace in Christ. 

2. We know that the grace of God is not given, either 
to infants or to adults, according to merit. 

3. We know that grace is given to aid us in individual 
actions. 

4. We know that grace is not given to all ; that where 
it is given it is not given according to the merits or the 
will of the recipient. Witness the case of infants. 

5. We know that grace is given by the gratuitous 
mercy of God. 

6. We know that when grace is withheld, it is with- 
held by the just judgment of God. 

7. We know that we shall all stand before the judg- 
ment seat of Christ, to be judged according to the deeds 
actually committed in the body, and not according to 
deeds which we should have committed if our lives had 
been prolonged. 

8. We know that even infants will receive according 
to what they have done through the body, whether 
good or evil. But this cannot apply to their personal 
actions, but to the faith of their sponsors who promised 
in their behalf, and through whom they are included 
amjng the believing. But this must apply, according 
to Augustine, negatively as well as positively. The 
unbaptised are the unbelieving. And he that believeth 
not is condemned. 

9. We know that they are happy who die in the 
Lord. 

10. We know that they who sincerely believe in the 
Lord do so by their own will and free choice. 

11. We know that we do rightly to pray for the 
conversion of those who do not believe. 

12. We know that it is right to thank God for those 
who believe. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 181 

4 

If Vitalis assents to- these twelve propositions he will 
be holding the Catholic Faith concerning Grace. 

But Augustine feels that his Predestinarianism will 
present difficulties to his correspondent. There is the 
text that God will have all men to be saved (i Tim. 
ii. 4). Augustine labours to make this agree with the 
Predestination of the elect alone. 1 He takes the words 
to mean that all men who are saved are saved because 
God wills their salvation. Yet, in Augustine's view, 
God wills that many shall not be saved (" tarn multos 
nolit salvos fieri"). 

There is very much more in this important letter. 2 
The Conversion of S. Paul is appealed to as a supreme 
example of grace producing faith. Stress is laid on 
the words " and they glorified God in me." That was 
the Church's recognition of the power of grace. 

Again Augustine insists 3 on the evidence of the 
Church's prayers for the conversion of the unbelieving. 
Incidentally he not only speaks of hearing God's priest 
at His Altar exhorting the people to pray, but speaks 
of the priest praying audibly (" clara voce orantem ") that 
God would bring the incredulous to believe. Augustine 
mentions also the response of the people, their Amen 
to the priest's petitions. The fifth-century Eucharistic 
Prayers were audible to the congregation. 

As the closing years of Augustine's dogmatic activity 
set in complaints increased concerning his extreme 
Predestinarian opinions. The opposition came from 
his own adherents and disciples, who revolted from his 
later conclusions. The difficulties presented by the 
Augustinian view were felt profoundly in the Gallican 
Church and in particular at Marseilles. 4 Two of Augus- 
tine's devoted followers, Prosper of Aquitaine and Hilary 
of Aries, both wrote to Augustine on the difficulties felt 
by Catholics in his theory of Predestination. 

1 Letter 217. 2 Letter 217, 24. 

3 Letter 217, 26. 4 Letters 225 and 226. 



1 82 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Prosper told Augustine, deferentially but frankly, that 
many of the servants of Christ at Marseilles considered 
that his theory of the purpose of God according to 
election was contrary to the opinion of the Fathers x 
and the mind of the Church. They were willing to 
suppose that this criticism of theirs was due to mis- 
apprehension on their part rather than to erroneous 
teaching on his. But they had lately read his work 
on Correction and Grace, and the reading of it only 
increased their objections. 

Here follows a profession of the faith of the Church 
at Marseilles. They believed that salvation is not by 
works but by regeneration through the Grace of God. 
What they could not credit was that any human being 
exists whom God does not will to save. They main- 
tained, on the contrary, that the propitiation offered 
by Christ is inclusive of every human being, and that 
whosoever willed to come to faith and Baptism was 
capable of being saved. Thus they held that no man 
need despair of attaining eternal life. The doctrine of 
arbitrary election or rejection, the destination of one 
human being to life and another to perdition was, in 
their opinion, fatal in its moral effects: for it taught 
that no labour could save the rejected and no indolence 
exclude the elected. Thus Augustine's theory of Predes- 
tination was nothing less than fatalism and necessity. 
They agreed that no one could enter into the Kingdom 
of God 2 except by the Sacrament of Regeneration, but 
they affirmed that if any person was lost, the fault was 
his own. For God repelled no man from life but de- 
sired that all men should be saved and should come to 
the knowledge of the truth. As to infants who died 
unbaptised, their theory was that this was to be ac- 
counted for by the Divine foreknowledge of the godless 
lives these children would have led had they been 
allowed to mature. The essential point with the Church- 

1 Letter 225, 2 2 Letter 225. 



LETTERS ON THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE 183 

men of Marseilles was that God places no obstacle in 
the way of the salvation of any man. - They do not 
believe that the number of the elect can neither be 
diminished nor increased. 

Prosper confesses that he is not able to solve their 
difficulties. Many of the persons holding these opinions 
are more spiritual than himself. Some are his ecclesi- 
astical superiors. 

Prosper's letter was supported by another from Hilary, 1 
much to the same effect ; only adding quotations from 
Augustine's own letter written some twenty years before 
in reply to Pagan criticism on the Christian Religion 
(see Letter 102). Augustine had there maintained that 
Christ willed to appear to men and His doctrine to be 
proclaimed when and where He knew that men would 
believe in Him. Elsewhere, again, Augustine had 
taught that God decreed to give the Holy Spirit to 
those who, He foresaw, would believe (Exposition of 
Romans). 

Hilary informed Augustine that a quotation which 
the Bishop had made from the Book of Wisdom was 
set aside by the Churchmen at Marseilles on the ground 
that this writing is not among the number of the 
canonical books. 2 

Augustine was further reminded that in one of his 
very early writings 3 (that on Free Will) he had expressed 
himself with caution and uncertainty with regard to the 
fate of infants. These things could not but have their 
effect on that considerable element of believers who are 
led to change their opinions by the authority of dis- 
tinguished names. Catholics in the Gallican Church 
were complaining that Augustine had disturbed the* 
peace of the Church. What possible need could exist 
for unsettling the minds of swarms of simple people 
by intruding these doubtful disputations. The Catholic 
Faith had been defended without these theories for 

1 Letter 226. 'Ibid. 3 Letter 226, 8. 



184 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

many years, by many writers : in fact, by Augustine 
himself. 

Hilary lays these considerations before the Bishop 
of Hippo. Hilary is evidently impressed by the extent 
and the strength of the opposition to Augustine's 
theories. Augustine will know what is the proper 
course to take. Meanwhile he asks for some more 
of Augustine's writings, copies of which have not yet 
reached him. He is anxious that Augustine should not 
suppose that he identifies himself with these critics. 
He is simply a reporter of their criticisms. 

The sequel is not to be found among Augustine's 
letters, but in the Treatises on The Predestination of the 
Saints, and on The Gift of Perseverance. 



CHAPTER VI 

LETTERS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION 

THE successor to S. Ambrose at Milan was the priest 
Simplician. Readers of Augustine's Confessions will 
remember that he is mentioned there. 1 Augustine 
corresponded with him from Africa, 2 and wrote to him 
in 397, which was the year of Ambrose's death. Simpli- 
cian was not a man of great learning but of deep 
spirituality. Simplician sought instruction from Augus- 
tine, who wrote a treatise in reply to his questions. 
And Augustine on his side highly valued Simplician's 
approval of his works ; and even expressed his esteem 
in terms not a little embarrassing to Simplician's 
humility : " When what I write pleases you, I know 
to Whom it is pleasing : for I know Who it is Who 
dwells within you." 

Quite a number of Augustine's correspondents treat 
him as if he were a man of leisure with no occupation 
except to answer their inquiries. They did not hesitate 
to send him strings of questions, any one of which 
required almost a treatise for an answer. 3 A certain 
person named Honoratus, not yet baptised, asked 
Augustine to reply to the following five questions. He 
wanted to know, first, What was the meaning of the cry 
from the Cross. Secondly, What S. Paul meant when 
he wrote "that he being rooted and grounded in love 
may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the 
length and breadth and height and depth." Thirdly, 

1 Confessions, VIII. i, 3 ; cf. De Civitate Dei, X. 29. 

2 Letter 37. 3 Letter 140, A.D. 412. 

185 



1 86 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

he wanted an explanation of the parable of the Wise and 
Foolish Virgins. Fourthly, he asked to be told what 
was meant by the outer darkness. Fifthly, he inquired 
how are we to understand the text " The Word was 
made flesh." To these is added a sixth question, What 
is in the New Testament signified by Grace? 

Augustine with exemplary patience replied to all 
these inquiries, and at very considerable length. His 
letter became a treatise. Paragraph after paragraph 
flowed on until the number of sections reached the 
figure of eighty-five. The letter to Honoratus is a book in 
itself. It is entitled On the Grace of the New Testament. 

i. Augustine takes first the question on the prelude 
to the Gospel of S. John, 1 and gives a lengthy exposi- 
tion. Incidentally he explains that " born of a woman " 
does not imply the Virgin Birth. Dwelling on the 
distinction between S. John Baptist and Christ he sets 
together Christ's words about him, that he was a burning 
and a shining light, and the Fourth Evangelist's words, 
" he was not that light." The Baptist was a lucerna, a 
lamp ; but a lucerna requires to be kindled and is liable 
to be extinguished. 2 He was the " lumen illuminatum " 
to be contrasted with the " lumen verum." The difference 
between other human beings and Christ as sons of God 
lies in the term Adoption. 3 We are made by grace what 
we were not by nature, whereas Christ is essentially 
and naturally God's Son. What the Fourth Evangelist 
teaches is the personal Word of God made flesh and 
dwelling in us. Since the Son of God by participation 
in the flesh is made Son of Man, faith can credit the 
proposition that men may by participation in the Word 
be made sons of Gocl. 

We therefore, the changeable, are changed into 

something higher by the reception of the Word. 4 But 

* the Word, being unchangeable, is not deteriorated by 

1 Letter 140, 6. 2 Letter 140, 8. 

3 Letter 140, 10. 4 Letter 140, 12. 



LETTERS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION 187 

His reception of the flesh and reasonable soul. Yes, 
He took a reasonable soul as well as a human body. 
The Apollinarists are mistaken. And, taking human 
nature, He subjected Himself to human humiliations. 
And here Augustine warns his reader to realise that the 
Person Who thus is both God and Man, is one. Other- 
wise instead of a Trinity you would introduce a 
Quaternity. But in the Incarnation there is no increase 
in the number of the Persons. " For just as there is no 
increase in the number of persons when the flesh is 
united to the soul to make one man, so neither is the 
number of persons increased when man is united with 
the Word, to make one Christ." l 

2. This leads Augustine to consider 2 the meaning of 
the cry from the Cross. In a very interesting exposi- 
tion he reminds Honoratus of a passage in Psalm Ixxii., 
where the singer confesses that problems were insolu- 
ble until he went into the Sanctuary of God ; that 
is, until they were viewed under the guidance of thq 
enlightenment bestowed by the Spirit. 

This cry of desolation from the Cross 3 " My God, my 
God, why hast thou forsaken me? " is to be understood 
as Christ in self-identity with mankind, giving utterance 
to the Voice of our infirmities. For the old man was 
crucified together with Him, and He bore our griefs 
and carried our sorrows. It is Christ representing the 
Church. 4 Just as afterwards He identifies Himself with 
the suffering inflicted on His Church, when He said : 
" Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me ?" 

Augustine further claims that the opening words of 
Psalm xxii., which our Lord uttered upon the Cross, are 
not to be separated from the whole contents of the 
Psalm. The Bishop feels that part of the Psalm is 
literally appropriate to Christ, and part of it is not. 5 

1 Letter 140, 12. 2 Letter 140, 13. 3 Letter 140, 14. 

4 Hsec ex persona sui corporis Christus dicit, quod est Ecclesia. 
Letter 140, 18. 

5 Letter 140, 31. 



1 88 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Hence he allegorises much, and applies to Christ as 
representing the Church what seemed to be inappropriate 
as applied to Christ in person. Thus the verses 
25 and 26, 1 

" My praise is of Thee in the great congregation : 
My vows will I perform in the sight of them that 

fear Him. 
The poor shall eat and be satisfied : " 

is in Augustine's view a reference, first, to the Sacrifice 
of the Body of Christ in the Sacrament of the Faithful ; 
and secondly, to Eucharist reception. 

3. The outer darkness may be understood in two 
senses. 2 It is the present condition of souls which have 
not yet received light and grace. But this is a state 
which may be reversed. Outer darkness may signify 
also the final exclusion ubi correctionis locus non erit. 
God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. But he 
that hateth his brother is in darkness. 

4. The passage in Ephesians on the length and 
breadth and height and depth is mystically explained 
by Augustine by reference to the dimensions of the 
Cross. 3 

5. Here follows an exposition 4 of the parable of the 
Wise and Foolish Virgins. It is an illustration of the 
changeful human soul which can only find its blessedness 
in the unchanging good ; and which cannot be healed 
by itself, but only by the unmerited mercy of its Creator. 
The answer, " Go ye rather to those that sell, and buy for 
yourselves," is derisive. The lamps lighted signify good 
works : as when the Lord said " Let your light so shine 
before men." 5 The lamps gone out signify failure to 
persevere. 6 The sleep, which wise and foolish alike 
experienced, is death. The awakening in the night is 
the Resurrection. 

1 Letter 140, 61. 2 Letter 140, 54. 

3 Letter 140, 63. 4 Letter 140, 74. 

5 Letter 140, 75. 6 Letter 140, 76. 



LETTERS ON f BIBLICAL EXPOSITION 189 

6. To these Augustine himself adds finally the 
question concerning the Grace of the New Testament. 
It is that which comes to us through the Incarnation 
and gives us power to become sons of God. He would 
wish to say much on this. For this Grace has its 
opponents, who desire to ascribe their goodness to 
themselves and not to God. 1 Augustine mentions no 
names. But he acknowledges the excellence of the 
people Who oppose the doctrine of Grace. They are 
not persons whom you will easily despise. They live a 
life of self-restraint. They are praiseworthy for their 
good works. They are orthodox on the doctrine of 
the Godhead : quite unlike the Manichaeans. But they 
are ignorant of the Divine righteousness, and they seek 
to establish their own. They are foolish virgins. They 
do not carry the knowledge of the Grace of God in their 
hearts. They do not know Whose gift their self- 
restraint really is. They do not give thanks for it. 
Their foolish heart is darkened. But they are by no 
means to be despaired of so lorrg as their life may last. 

Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, 2 asked a series of questions 
on Biblical exposition. In this case both sides of the 
correspondence are preserved. The questions are partly 
on passages in the Psalms. (i) For instance, the 
passage which is rendered in our Authorised Version, 

" Slay them not, lest my people forget it ; 
But scatter them abroad among the people, and put 
them down, O Lord our defence," 

is regarded by Paulinus as addressed by Jesus Christ 
to the Father in reference to the Jews. Paulinus saw 
the fulfilment of the passage in the dispersion of the 
Jews, without temple and without sacrifice, among all 
the nations of the earth. But he has misgivings about 
the text, for his Version reads : 

" Slay them not lest they should forget Thy law." 
1 Letter 140, 83. 2 Letter 121. 



IQO THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

And this seems to him unintelligible. (2) Paulinus 
also desired Augustine to define the difference between 
Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers, 
mentioned in Eph. iv. II (p. 533). (3) Also to be 
told the difference between the prayers called inter- 
cessions in i Tim. ii. I, and other kinds of prayer 
(P- 534)- (4) Also to know the meaning of the difficult 
passage in Col. ii. 18, about voluntary humility -and 
worshipping of angels (p. 535). (5) Also concerning 
the words of Simeon to the Blessed Virgin Mary : 
" A sword shall pierce through thine own soul also, 
that the thought of many hearts may be revealed." 
Did this refer to Mary's maternal grief when she saw 
the Crucifixion ? 

These were among the questions which the Bishop 
of Nola propounded to Augustine. Paulinus's letter 
is believed to have been written about A.D. 410. 
Augustine's reply is dated apparently four years later, 
if the Benedictine editors are right. 1 Augustine's 
letters familiarise us with late arrivals, with missing 
documents, and interrupted correspondence. But this 
is one of the worst examples. 

Augustine replies to the whole number of Paulinus's 
inquiries. We follow here only the selected instances. 
He calls Paulinus his fellow-bishop, describes another 
of the clergy as his fellow-presbyter, and yet another 
as his fellow-deacon. 

1. The passage in the Psalms, "Slay them not, lest 
they forget Thy law," Augustine understands as a 
prediction that the Jews when conquered and dispersed 
would continue in their ancient law, so that the witness 
of the Scripture should remain among them everywhere 
in the world. Elsewhere Augustine calls the Jews the 
librarians of the Church ; as retaining the books which 
the Church alone fulfils. 

2. On the list of ministries in Eph. iv., Augustine 

1 Letter 149. 



LETTERS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION 191 

thinks that Pastors and Teachers do not denote 
different offices, but are synonymous. 

3. He has much to say on the different kinds of 
prayer, especially as intercessions. He notes that the 
Greek word svrev^si^ which we translate intercessions, 
is variously rendered in the Latin version by interpellare 
or postulare. Our Lord makes intercession for us 
(Rom. viii. 34). Augustine understood this to mean 
making requests to the Father. 

S. Paul's order is supplications, prayers, intercessions, 
thanksgivings. Augustine thinks that " supplications " 
is the right name for those prayers which precede the 
Consecration in the Eucharist ; while " the prayers " 
is the right name when the Consecration is effected 
and the distribution takes place. That this is the right 
meaning of the term "prayers" is, he thinks, implied 
in the Greek word used. For the word nooosv^ 
denotes a vow or dedication. Now all things offered 
to God are dedicated to Him, above all the Oblation 
of the Holy Altar. In that sacrament our self-dedica- 
tion is proclaimed, when we vow to remain in Christ, 
that is in the bond of the Body of Christ. The 
Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Union. For the 
Bread is One, and we being many are one Body. 1 

Then the interpolations or intercessions or requests 
are made when the people are blessed. For then the 
priests act as advocates. 

Finally the thanksgivings are the prayers which 
follow when the Sacrament has been received. 

4. Then as to the different passages in Colossians 
on voluntary humility. Augustine illustrates the term 
from a number of popular Latin expressions. A 
person who aims at being considered wealthy is called 
thelodives ; one whose ambition is to be reputed wise 
is called thelosapiens . According to these analogies, a 
person of voluntary humility or thelohumilis? is the 

1 Letter 149, 16. 2 Letter 149, 27. 



192 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

person who simulates humility, who desires to be re- 
garded as humble-minded. There is in the term the 
notion of unreality and pretentiousness. 

5. On the words of Simeon to Mary, Augustine agrees 
with Paulinus, and encloses another letter which he 
had written on the subject, but which unhappily has 
not survived. Hut the phrase that the thoughts of 
many hearts may be revealed, means that by the 
Passion of our Lord both the motives of the Jews 
and the weakness of the Apostles would be brought 
to light. 

Evodius was one of Augustine's intimate friends. 
They grew up together at Thagaste. Evodius became 
a convert and was baptised at an earlier date than 
Augustine. The two were together in the villa outside 
Milan. 1 Both started on the return journey to Africa, 
and Evodius was present at Ostia when Monica died. 
It was Evodius who took the Psalter in the house of 
mourning, while all responded: 2 

" My song shall be of mercy and judgment : 
Unto Thee, O Lord, will I sing." 3 

Back in Africa, Evodius was ordained and became a 
bishop. His See was Uzala. The two friends kept 
up a correspondence, of which part survives. But many 
years had elapsed. It was now the year 414. 

Bishop Evodius tells his friend Augustine about the 
death of a young private secretary, a deeply religious 
youth, a son of a certain priest ; 4 how he died just 
after signing himself with the sign of the Cross ; how 
they held memorial services for three days at the grave, 
and on the third day offered the Sacrament of 
Redemption. Evodius then relates various dreams of 
devout persons concerning the welfare of the departed. 

These incidents raised various problems in the writer's 

1 Confessions, IX. 17. 2 Psalm ci. 

3 Confessions, IX. 31. 4 Letter 158, A.D. 414. 



LETTERS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION 193 

mind. 1 He wants to know whether the soul when it 
leaves the earthly body continues in a disembodied 
state until the Resurrection, or is meanwhile clothed 
with a body of some kind. He seems to think that 
a disembodied soul could not retain its individuality. 
If the soul resides in some distinct locality, such as 
Abraham's bosom, it must be embodied. 2 He wants 
to know why the soul separated from the earthly solid 
frame should not possess a body of its own. 

Evodius had read in an apocryphal book called the 
Mysteries of Moses, to which however he assigns no 
authority, that when the Lawgiver ascended the Mount 
to die, his body was committed to the earth but another 
body was granted him. Evodius considers that this 
idea is confirmed by the visible appearance of Moses 
at the Transfiguration. -The future Resurrection of the 
body does not exclude the possibility of some inter- 
mediate body. But what the soul's condition is Evodius 
desires to be instructed. 3 What he revolts against is 
the notion that death is a dreamless sleep. 

Pursuing the subject further, Evodius asks whether, 
if the soul possesses after death and before Resurrection 
a body such as he imagines, that body possesses the 
same senses as we have here. Evodius is willing to 
part with all except hearing and sight. 

He thinks that to exist apart from body of some 
kind 4 is a Divine prerogative which cannot be shared 
by men. 

To these inquiries of his " beloved brother and sharer 
in the priestly office," Augustine replied 5 that he sees . 
no reason to believe that the soul departing from this 
earthly body receives another body in the other world 
before the Resurrection. 

As to the visions of the departed or the absent 
Augustine is sure that they are independent of any 

1 Letter 158, 4 and 5. 2 Letter 158, 6. 

3 Letter 158, 7. 4 Letter 158, n. 

5 Letter 159, A.D. 415. 

N 



194 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

embodied manifestation of the object seen. 1 Thus 
Augustine while writing to Evodius contemplates in 
mental vision a very definite image of his friend which, 
however, is not created by Evodius's presence, and of 
which Evodius is not even aware. This would apply 
to visions of the departed. Augustine here refers his 
correspondent to his books on Genesis where this 
subject is carefully considered. 

In the present reply to Evodius, Augustine adds an 
example to illustrate the facts of mental vision apart 
from the physical vision through the senses of the 
body. 2 There was a well-known physician named 
Gennadius, formerly resident in Rome, and now in 
Carthage, who in early life had doubted the soul's 
survival of physical death. But one night he had a 
vision in which a stranger led him where he saw the 
heavenly city and heard the hymn of the blessed. He 
awoke, and regarded it only as a dream. 3 But another 
night he saw his heavenly guide again. He was 
conscious that his bodily eyes were closed in sleep. 
And yet he saw the heavenly vision. He was accord- 
ingly taught that when the bodily eyes shall be 
dispensed with after death, the power of mental vision 
still remains. 

Evodius wrote again to Augustine. 4 His mind is 
much exercised on the relation between Reason and God. 
Reason declares that God ought to exist. Similarly 
Reason declares that the world must exist. Reason 
therefore is prior to the world. Reason thus appears 
as an abstraction which is followed by the actualisation 
of what it postulates. Evodius is therefore puzzled to 
know whether Reason is prior to Deity. God would 
not exist unless Reason existed which taught that God 
ought to be. Neither would Reason exist unless God 
existed. God cannot be without Reason nor Reason 
without God. 

1 Letter 159, 2. 2 Letter 159, 3- 

3 Letter 159, 4. 4 Letter 160, A.D. 414. 



LETTERS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION 195 

Here is Evodius's perplexity, which without more 
ado he leaves Augustine to solve. 

Apparently without waiting for a reply, Evodius 
wrote again. 1 He has been reading some letters which 
Augustine had written to Volusian (Letter 137), and 
to a lady named Italica (Letter 92). The letter to 
Italica was written about A.D. 408. That to Volusian 
in 412. It was now A.D. 414. Volusian had been 
perplexed about the Incarnation, and about the Virgin 
Birth. In the course of his reply Augustine had written 
the sentence, " If an explanation is sought, there will 
be no miracle ; if an example is demanded, there will 
be no uniqueness." Evodius does not see the reason of 
this remark. He thinks it will still be miraculous if a 
reason has been sought, and if an example is demanded ; 
it will still be unique. He means that an illustration 
will not be exactly parallel with that which it illus- 
trates. He gives examples of parthenogenesis in the 
inferior orders of creation. He thinks that Augustine's 
assertion may rather hinder than help the inquirer about 
the Faith. 

To these criticisms Augustine sent a reply 2 with a 
sense of grave responsibility. For his letter will not 
only be read by intelligent friends like Evcdius, but 
also by less educated people, and by unfriendly critics. 
What care such conditions demand ! Now he is already 
fully occupied with other literary labours. Are these 
to be put aside in favour of the newly arrived letter? 
If so, is the newcomer in its turn to be set aside in 
favour of some still later arrival? 

Many of Evodius's questions are already answered 
in works which Augustine has written, but not yet 
published, whether on the Trinity or on Genesis. 
Augustine also" reminds Evodius of their discussions, 
doubtless those held in the villa outside Milan, on the 
quantity of the Soul, and the Freedom of the Will : 

1 Letter 161, A.D. 414. 2 Letter 161, A.D. 415. 



196 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

discussions embodied in Augustine's earlier works. 
Then, again, Evodius has the book on True Religion. 
If Evodius will read that book and reflect upon it, he 
will certainly not regard Reason as prior to Deity. 

Evodius can hardly have forgotten his discussions 
with Augustine outside Milan in which he took so 
important a part. The whole book on The Freedom of 
the Will is nothing else than a dialogue between 
Evodius and Augustine. 

The substance of this dialogue dates from many 
years before. It was held in 388. In the course of it 
there is a discussion on the grounds of belief in the 
existence of God. 1 All being is classified in an as- 
cending scale of value: that which exists, that which 
lives, and that which has intelligence. Augustine asks 
Evodius in the dialogue whether he will give the name 
of God to that which is superior to our intelligence. 
Evodius replies that God must be not only that which is 
superior to our intelligence, but that which has no 
superior to itself 2 (quo nihil superius esse constiterit). 
The reader will be reminded of S. Anselm's definition : 
God is that than which no greater can be conceived. 3 

Augustine proceeds by inquiring whether there is 
any object of thought which is not the exclusive posses- 
sion of this or that individual mind, but the common 
property of all minds alike : or whether there is such 
a thing as objective truth. Evodius replies that 
undoubtedly there is : 4 and he gives arithmetical 
numbers as an illustration. The truths of mathematics 
are the same for every mind. They cannot be other 
than they are. Seven plus three are ten. Under no 
circumstances, nowhere, at no time, can this be other- 
wise. It is an immutable, incorruptible truth. 

Augustine then asks whether the existence of ob- 
jective 5 truth holds good in the moral and spiritual 

1 De Libero Arbitrio, II. u, p. 961. 2 Ibid. 14, p. 964. 

3 " Id quo majus cogitari nequit," Proslogion, ii. 

* De Libero Arbitrio, 20, p. 967. 5 Ibid. 25, p. 970. 



LETTERS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION 197 

spheres. Is there such a thing as Wisdom ? Or does 
every individual have a wisdom of his own ? Evodius 
is perplexed. The ideals of individual men, their con- 
ception of the highest good, differ enormously. It 
looks as if the whole thing were reduced, as we say, to 
opinion and subjectivity. But, replies Augustine, what- 
ever individuals pursue they do so under the impression 
that it is good. Thus if they differ in their idea of what 
is good, they agree in their idea that such a thing as 
good exists. If they differ about the means they agree 
about the end. 1 All men aspire to happiness even if 
they dispute wherein that happiness consists. Now 
this idea is not the property of the individual but is 
common to all. Moreover there are things objectively 
true in the moral sphere. It is always true that inferior 
things are to be subordinated to better ; that the eternal 
is better than the temporal ; that the mind must be 
raised to things incorruptible. These are unchanging 
truths. The principles of wisdom are everywhere the 
same. We do not say that they ought to be. 2 We 
simply say that they are. Seven plus three are ten. 
We cannot say that they ought to be. 

Now this immutable truth is greater than the human 
mind. For we cannot correct it nor alter it. And 
what else is this objective Truth and Wisdom if it is 
not God ? It is what all can embrace and share. It is 
the inspirer of every individual. It transcends the in- 
dividual and can become the common possession of the 
whole race. This objective, unchanging truth is the 
light of all our seeing. 3 If there is anything in exist- 
ence more excellent than this, that more excellent thing 
is God. If there is nothing more excellent than Truth 
then Truth is God. 

If Evodius turned to the treatise on Free Will to 
which Augustine referred him in his letter, this is the 

1 De Libero Arbitrio, II. 28, p. 973. 2 Ibid. 34, p. 977. 

3 Ibid. 39, p. 981. 



i 9 8 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

substance of the answer given there. Augustine here 
contents himself with repeating the statement that we 
do not say that seven plus three ought to be ten, but 
simply that they are. Reason does not create God, but 
only discovers Him. 

It is not quite so easy to see why Augustine also 
referred Evodius to the book on True Religion^ 

As to the criticism which Evodius had sent to 
Augustine's remarks on visions, Augustine invites his 
critics to reconsider the original letter. When the spirit 
leaves the body in death it neither takes the eyes of the 
body with it nor a body constructed out of the earthly 
body. It still possesses the power of sight, but the 
sight is not physical. 2 

Then with regard to Augustine's former statement 
on the Virgin Birth in the letter to Volusian : " If an 
example is demanded, there will be no uniqueness." 
Evodius had criticised this on the ground that in- 
stances of parthenogenesis could be found in the 
inferior orders of Creation. Augustine replies that 
Christ alone is Virgin-born : meaning apparently that 
there is no parallel within the experience of the human 
race. 3 Then again with regard to Augustine's state- 
ment that "if an explanation is sought there will be no 
miracle," the writer now adds that everything has its 
cause. But when the cause is unknown to us, and the 
reason of a thing is concealed, we call it miracle. The 
Virgin Birth is a miracle not because it has no explana- 
tion but because the explanation is concealed from us. 

Augustine assures Evodius that a man of his insight 
requires no more than these hints. The letter has 
already reached a length which suggests that the writer 
has forgotten his other occupations. Meanwhile will 
Evodius send another copy of a previous letter which 
cannot be answered because it has been mislaid. 

1 Letter i62, 3. 2 Ibid. 

3 Letter 162, 7. 



LETTERS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION 199 

Evodius wrote again. 1 He desired an explanation of 
the passage in i Pet. iii. 18-21, on Christ preaching to 
the spirits in prison. 

Augustine sent a long and elaborate reply. 2 Here, 
as constantly, the great writer confesses his own un- 
certainty. He is himself in much perplexity on the 
subject. He would be glad to be instructed. His 
difficulty is this. 3 If Christ after His Passion went and 
preached to spirits in Hell, why were the unbelieving of 
the age of Noah the only objects of His Mercy ? 

That our Lord descended into hell (apud inferos) 
Augustine thinks no one but an infidel will deny. 4 

As to the souls who were delivered, Augustine would 
rejoice to think that 5 Christ emptied hell and that all 
without exception were delivered. He thinks sym- 
pathetically of the great Pagan poets and literary men, 
praiseworthy in their lives, noble in many moral ways, 
faithful in life and true in death, always excepting the 
falsity of their religion. Augustine is torn between 
conflicting thoughts. His heart goes one way. His 
theory of predestination another. He would desire to 
see them " free from the powers of hell, were not the 
verdict of human feeling different from that of the 
justice of the Creator." 

Was it, then, not all, but only some of the souls in 
hell that Christ delivered ? 

Augustine says 6 that according to the almost unan- 
imous tradition of the Church it was believed that 
Adam was delivered. This tradition had great authority 
although it could not be supported from any definite 
Scripture statement. 

" But seeing that plain scriptural testimonies make 
mention 7 of hell and its pains, no reason can be 
alleged for believing that He Who is the Saviour went 
thither, except that He might save from its pains ; but 

1 Letter 163, A.D. 414. 2 Letter 164, A.D. 414. 

3 Letter 164, 2. 4 Letter 164, 3. 5 Letter 164, 4. 

6 Letter 164, 3. 7 Letter 164, 8. 



200 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

whether He did save all whom He found held in them, 
or some whom He judged worthy of the favour, I still 
ask : that He was, however, in hell, and that He con- 
ferred this benefit on persons subjected to those pains, I 
do not doubt. Wherefore, I have not yet found what 
benefit He, when He descended into hell, conferred 
upon those righteous ones who were in Abraham's 
bosom, from whom I see that, so far as regarded the 
beatific presence of His Godhead, He never withdrew 
Himself; since even on that very day on which He 
died, He promised that the thief should be with Him in 
Paradise at the time when He was about to descend to 
loose the pains of hell. Most certainly, therefore, He 
was, before that time, both in Paradise and in the 
bosom of Abraham in His beatific Wisdom, and in 
hell in His condemning power ; for since the Godhead 
is confined by no limits, where is He not present ? At 
the same time, however, so far as regarded the created 
nature, in assuming which at a certain point of time, 
He, while continuing to be God, became man, that is to 
say, so far as regarded His soul, He was in hell : this is 
plainly declared in those words of Scripture, which were 
both sent before in prophecy and fully expounded by 
apostolical interpretation : * Thou wilt not leave my 
soul in hell.'" 1 

Augustine's critical mind saw further problems in the 
exposition of this passage in S. Peter. 2 Some interpreters 
held that the persons delivered by our Lord's preaching 
in Hades were those who had never heard the Gospel 
on earth, and had never been granted an opportunity to 
believe. Well then, said Augustine, the same plea is 
available for those who since Christ's Resurrection died 
without even hearing the Gospel preached. 3 But 
Augustine was unable to accept this plea for their in- 
clusion within Redemption. His arguments are : First 
that the possibility of redemption in the other world 

1 Letter 164, 8. 2 Letter 164, 12. 3 Letter 164, 13. 



LETTERS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION 201 

would lead to indifference to conversion here on earth. 
And secondly, that it would be a reason against preach- 
ing the Gospel to the Pagan world. 

On these grounds Augustine propounds another in- 
terpretation. 1 The spirits in prison may denote the 
unbelieving here on earth. Christ's going to preach to 
them may refer to His appeals prior to His incarnation. 2 
Thus in the time of Noah Christ did virtually preach to 
the souls in prison, i.e. send His warnings to the un- 
converted here on earth. 3 He came to them in the 
Spirit although not in the flesh. 

Augustine throws this out as possible. 4 If this ex- 
position does not satisfy, let the reader apply the 
passage to an actual preaching of Christ to spirits in 
hell. Only let him try to solve Augustine's diffi- 
culties. 

As for the problem of visions of God by the bodily 
senses, it must be deferred for a lengthier discussion. 

One of Augustine's correspondents, Dardanus, a high 
official in Gaul, was much exercised in understanding 
the word from the Cross : " To-day shalt thou be with 
Me in Paradise." 5 If Christ said He would be in Para- 
dise, how can we believe that He is in Heaven ? Does 
it mean that Paradise is a part of Heaven ? Or is it a 
reference to God's ubiquity ? 

To this the Bishop replied in his book on the 
Presence of God. 

Augustine in reply distinguishes. Christ is either 
speaking as Man or else as God. 6 If the former, Para- 
dise is not to be regarded as part of Heaven, for the 
soul of Christ went down to the lower world (inferno). 
Paradise, therefore, is situated in the lower world, to 
which Christ went in order to deliver those who ought 
to be delivered. In the lower world Christ did not 
only visit the penal part but also those who were in 

1 Letter 164, 15. 2 Letter 164, -r6. 

3 Letter 164, 17. 4 Letter 164, 22. 

5 Letter 187, to Dardanus, A.D. 417. 6 Letter 187, 5. 



202 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Abraham's bosom. It seems to Augustine probable that 
Abraham's bosom is a synonym for Paradise. 1 

If, however, Christ is here speaking as God the 
meaning is simpler. For Christ as God is everywhere. 
Thus He is present with the blessed wherever they 
may be. 2 

But the Man Christ Jesus is now in Heaven. 3 His 
human nature does not possess ubiquity. In His 
humanity He is not everywhere diffused. Care must be 
taken while insisting on His Divinity not to detract 
from the truth of His humanity. (" Cavendum est enim 
ne ita divinitatem astruamus hominis, ut veritatem 
corporis auferamus.") 

Augustine also points out the danger of miscon- 
ceiving the omnipresence or ubiquity of God. God is, 
we say, everywhere diffused. He fills Heaven and 
earth. But this universal presence must not be under- 
stood in a material sense. It is not a case of extension 
through space. We cannot say that God is partly- 
present in one place and partly in another, like a 
material substance. But He is wholly present wherever 
He is present. Present in His whole being, 4 whether in 
earth or in Heaven (in seipso ubique totus). 

Nevertheless this universal presence of God is differ- 
ent from His indwelling in human souls. For He does 
not dwell in all. He is everywhere, by the presence of 
His Divinity, but not by the grace of indwelling. 5 And 
as God does not dwell in all, neither does He dwell 
equally in all in whom He ^dwells. 6 There are degrees 
of Divine indwelling in the human soul. 

This Divine indwelling may begin in infancy. 7 Thus 
we say that the Holy Spirit dwells in baptised infants 
although they are unconscious of the fact. God is said 
to dwell in them because He is influencing them within, 8 
to make them His temples. And this rebirth of water 

1 Letter 187, 6. 2 Letter 187, 7. 3 Letter 187, 10. 

4 Letter 187, 14. 5 Letter 187, 16. 6 Letter 187, 17 
7 Letter 187, 26. 8 Letter 187, 27. 



LETTERS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION 203 

and of the Spirit confers upon the baptised the forgiveness 
of all sins. It is the Sacrament of our Regeneration. 

Among expressions to notice in this letter are that 
the Eucharist is called a sacrifice and reference is made 
to the Liturgy ( 21). The Rule of Faith is also men- 
tioned as that to which all within the Church must 
adhere ( 29). And Baptism is called the Sacrament of 
our Regeneration ( 30), 

One of Augustine's correspondents wrote him a letter l 
concerning the end of the world. The writer main- 
tained that while it was not possible to determine the 
day and the hour, there were, nevertheless, certain signs 
by which it would be possible to recognise when the 
end was near. The writer had been meditating on 
Jerusalem being trodden down by the Gentiles until the 
time of the Gentiles should be fulfilled. He had 
thought on the signs in the sun and the moon and the 
stars, and on the earth distress of nations, and men's 
hearts failing them for fear. There had been some 
alarming incidents in the course of nature. He had 
been reading also Jerome's exposition of the words in 
Daniel, and was perplexed by the abomination of deso- 
lation. So he confides in Augustine what he thinks, 
hoping to hear some instruction in reply. 

Augustine's replies give the impression of a man al- 
ready absorbed in studies, breaking off from his labours 
to answer an inquirer out of the fullness of his mind. 
And as he answers, thoughts crowd in upon him. 
Precedents, authorities, scripture expositions, one after 
another are poured out from an apparently inexhaustible 
treasury of resources, until the fountain became a river 
and the river became a sea. 

In the present case there issues a masterly treatise, 2 
of more than fifty sections, on the end of the world. 

Augustine begins by commending the zeal with which 

1 Letter 198. 2 Letter 199. 



204 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

his correspondent writes on the Advent of Christ ; 
dwells on the danger of reliance on the thought that the 
Lord delays His coming; points out the true religious 
attitude of desire to appear before the presence of God ; 
and emphasises our ignorance of the times, as an 
incentive to watchfulness. For the individual human 
being the end of the world is the day when he dies. If 
Christ said that it was not for His Apostles to know the 
date of the last day, it would be presumption on our 
part to define it. 

Augustine's correspondent had referred to the 
passages in Daniel 1 about the Son of Man coming with 
the clouds of Heaven. Augustine requests him to 
explain in unambiguous language precisely what this 
means, and how it can be reconciled with our Lord's 
own declaration that it is not for us to know the times 
or the seasons. Appeal is made to S. Paul's dis- 
couragement 2 of expectations of a speedy return of 
Christ. The Gospel words, " of that day and that hour 
knoweth no man," must not be understood to imply the 
possibility of knowing the year or the decade or the 
century, as Augustine imagined his correspondent to 
suppose. 3 A thousand years are to God as a single 
day. 4 The language of Daniel cannot contradict the 
warning of Christ about our ignorance of the final day. 5 
It was disputed whether the words in Daniel refer to 
Christ's first coming or to His second or to both. 6 Un- 
doubtedly every day brings us nearer to His coming. 7 
But what the interval is it is not for us to know. S. Paul 
said the night is departing, the day is at hand. And yet 
how many years have elapsed ! Nevertheless what he 
said is true. 

There is again much to reflect on in the expression 
"the last days." "In the last days grievous times 

1 Letter 199, 13. 2 Letter 199, 15. 

3 Letter 199, 1 6. 4 Letter 199, 17. 

5 Letter 199, 19. 6 Letter 199, 21. 

7 Letter 199, 22. 



LETTERS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION 205 

shall come" (2 Tim. iii. i). "In the last days I will 
pour forth of my Spirit" (Acts ii. 17). That phrase, 
"last days," appears to haunt the writer. 1 If the period 
of Whitsuntide was the " last days " what are we to 
say of the present ? The novissima hora advances until 
the days come which will be novissimorum novissimi. 

There is the coming of Christ through the Church 
in which He never ceases coming until the end. 2 

Augustine is clear that much of the Evangelist's 
description of the last days 3 refers to the fall of Jeru- 
salem and not to the end of the world. The abomina- 
tion of desolation refers to the former not to the latter. 
The shortenings of the days refers to the calamities at 
Jerusalem. 

But here Augustine insists that passages on the end 
of the world are open to an allegorical rather than a 
literal interpretation. 4 " He that is on the housetop 
let him not descend into his house " may well be under- 
stood as a warning against returning from a spiritual to 
a carnal manner of life. And the reference to the sun 
being darkened was never more truly fulfilled than when 
the Light of the World was hanging from the Tree. 5 

Augustine's correspondent held that the end of the 
world 6 must be near because the signs were being 
fulfilled. Men's hearts were failing them for fear, and 
in anticipation of things which were coming on the earth. 
For no single portion of the earth was free from 
affliction and tribulation. Augustine is not convinced 
by this. For did not S. Paul teach that when they 
are saying " Peace and safety then sudden destruction 
cometh"? (r Tim. v. 3). It is questionable, therefore, 
whether the tribulation mentioned does not mean 
experience in store for the Church rather than the 
world. It may be that precisely when the world is 
in a state of peace and security that the sudden 

1 Letter 199, 24. 2 Letter 199, 25. 

3 Letter 199, 28 and 29. 4 Letter 199, 32. 

5 Letter 199, 34. 6 Letter 199, 36. 



2o6 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

destruction may come upon it. But at the time at 
which Augustine was writing both Church and World 
were suffering tribulation and nowhere could any one 
speak of peace and security. 

The time when the sun shall not give its light is alle- 
gorically the time when the Church's influence shall not 
be felt ; and the stars will fall from heaven when those 
who shone in moral excellence collapse and fail in time 
of trial and temptation, in times when the strongest of 
the faithful will be shaken. 1 

The end must be not when a selection only of these 
indications is accomplished, 2 but when the entire series 
is complete. Meanwhile Christ is perpetually coming in 
His Church. 

Moreover the end will be when the Gospel has been 
universally proclaimed. 3 Augustine's correspondent 
supposes that this had already happened in the Apo- 
stolic age. Augustine cannot think this opinion correct. 
There are many African peoples who have not yet 
heard of the Christian Faith. 4 Now it is not only the 
Roman Empire but all nations to whom the Gospel is 
to be preached. The dominion of Christ is to extend 
from sea to sea and from the river unto the world's end 
(Ps. Ixxii. 8). " All nations whom Thou hast made shall 
come and worship Thee, O Lord" (Ps. Ixxxvi. 9). 

The words, "Ye shall be my witnesses . . . unto the 
ends of the earth," no more apply to the Apostles only 
than the words, " I am with you always unto the end of 
the world." Both utterances apply to the Church. 5 

Thus, says Augustine, drawing his lengthy disquisition 
to a close, 6 I have told you what I think. Error is to 
be avoided so far as human power permits. What is 
certain is that whether it be soon or late our Lord will 
come. Meanwhile no man is in error so long as he is 
aware of his ignorance, but only while he thinks he 

1 Letter 199, 39. 2 Letter 199, 45. 

3 Letter 199, 46. 4 Letter 199, 47. 

5 Letter 199, 49. 6 Letter 199, 52. 









LETTERS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION 207 

knows what he does not. On the subject of the Advent 
of Christ, the real evil is where men act irreligiously on 
the ground that the Lord delays His coming. Setting 
that instance of the bad servant aside, Augustine says 
that the good servants who look for their Lord's coming 
watchfully are of three kinds. One believes that our 
Lord will come soon. A second that His coming will 
not be yet. The third confesses his ignorance. All 
these are consistent with belief. For all alike love His 
coming. The first says, Let us watch and pray for His 
coming will be soon. 1 The second, Let us watch and 
pray, for even if His coming be delayed, our life is short 
and insecure. The third says, Let us watch and pray, 
for life is short and uncertain and we know not when 
the Lord will come. Now, since the Gospel says, 
" Watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is " 
(Mark xiii. 33), what else does this third maintain than 
precisely what the Gospel teaches ? The only difference 
between the first kind and the last is, that the last admits 
that he does not know. If the first is right, the others 
will rejoice. If the second, then there is the risk that 
those who believed the first may lose heart on finding 
that it is not true, and so cease to believe in the Advent 
altogether. Thus the first holds the more desirable belief, 
the second holds the more safe, and the third combines 
the more desirable with the more safe, for he goes astray 
with neither of them, since he neither affirms nor denies. 
In an important letter to Consentius, 2 Augustine dis- 
cusses the doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body. 
Consentius asked whether the Lord's Body now possesses 
bones and blood and the lineaments of the flesh. Augus- 
tine replies that he believes the Lord's Body to be now 
in heaven as it was on earth at the time of the Ascen- 
sion. He assumes that the Resurrection appearances of 
Christ to the disciples represent exactly the Resurrection 
state. He quotes the Lucan report: "Flesh and bones 

1 Letter 199, 53. 2 Letter 205, A.D. 420. 



208 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

as ye see me have." And the passage : " Shall so come 
as ye have seen Him go." Thus Christ's Body in heaven 
is as it was in the appearances during the great Forty 
Days. 

At the same time this substantial identity and identity 
in appearance is consistent with considerable change. 
The Divine power can remove from the nature of the 
body what qualities He pleases and add others. Thus 
the necessity of food and hunger will disappear, but the 
power of taking food will remain. Corruptibility will 
vanish, but the physical features will remain. 

As to the text, " flesh and blood cannot inherit the 
Kingdom of God," Augustine does not interpret the 
words as a reference to works of the flesh. For moral 
problems are not the subject with which the Apostle is 
dealing. It means the corruption of the flesh. 

When S. Paul says, "Thou sowest not that body 
which shall be," he does not mean to deny substantial 
identity between the present body and that of the 
Resurrection. Wheat is always the product of wheat. 
What he means is, that if God adds to the bare grain 
that which was not previously in it, much more can He 
restore that which was in the body of man. 1 

Augustine is quite clear that a spiritual body does 
not mean a body transmuted into spirit. 2 Man, who 
consists of body and spirit, will not become all spirit. 
The Apostle did not say, It is sown a body, it is raised a 
spirit. He said, It is sown an animal body, it is raised 
a spiritual body. 

Now as the animal body is not soul but body, so the 
spiritual body is not spirit but body. The Resurrection 
Body of Christ was certainly a spiritual body. But it 
was body not spirit. Witness the invitation, " Handle 
me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye 
see me have." The flesh of Christ was already a spiritual 
body. But it was not spirit : it was body. 3 

Letter 205, 6. 2 Letter 205, 10. 3 Ibid. 



LETTERS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION 209 

When S. Paul says that " flesh and blood cannot 
inherit the Kingdom of God," he means that the corrup- 
tion of mortality cannot be transferred to the future 
life. 1 

Thus it can be said that the flesh can inherit the 
Kingdom of Heaven and that flesh cannot inherit. 2 
The one assertion is true in the sense of substance, the 
other in the sense of corruption. 

It appears that thoughtful minds were being greatly 
exercised on the difficulty of reconciling 3 Christian 
morals with ordinary social and political standards of 
life. Men were asking then, as since, how is it possible 
to reconcile the Christian ideal of patient endurance with 
the political ideal of retaliation. Augustine suggests 
that the Pagan ideals commended a willingness on the 
part of statesmen to overlook an injury ; that a State is 
by its very constitution a multitude of individuals united 
in mutual concord ; 4 that the intention in patiently 
submitting to the loss of worldly advantage is to show 
the superiority of faith and righteousness, thereby 
appealing to the offender's better nature, and overcom- 
ing evil with good. Augustine points out that the 
precept on submission to violence 5 is intended to sug- 
gest what is the right inward spirit rather than what is 
the appropriate outward action. For Christ Himself 
when smitten did not turn the other cheek to the smiter, 
but expostulated with the aggressor's injustice. Thus 
in this instance our Lord did not fulfil the letter of His 
own precept. But the spirit which guided Him is re- 
vealed in the prayer on the Cross, " Father, forgive them, 
for they know not what they do." Neither did S. Paul 
obey the letter of Christ's precept when struck by an 
attendant in the high priest's court. Augustine did not 
consider that there was anything inconsistent with the 

1 Letter 205, 13. z Letter 205, 16. 

3 Letter 138. For the earlier part of this letter see chapter on 
the Eucharist. 

4 Letter I38, 10. 5 Letter 138, 13. 

o 



210 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Christian temper in the Apostle's indignant " God shall 
smite thee, thou whited wall." He also thought that 
the Apostle's apology for his language was pure sarcasm, 
since it was impossible for so instructed a person not to 
realise that the presiding personage was the high priest. 

Moral indignation is right, 1 and severity of correction 
is right ; and both are compatible with the Christian 
disposition. 

Christianity does not absolutely prohibit war. 2 The 
advice to the soldiers in the Gospel was not to throw 
away their weapons, but to do violence to no man, and 
to be content witli their pay. But to tell a man to be 
content with his pay implies approval of his profession. 

It is observable that Augustine in another letter 
pleaded with the same statesman to mitigate the 
penalties incurred by the fanatical and violent Donatists. 3 

No reader of Augustine's letters will fail to appreciate 
the note of caution and carefulness, the restraint im- 
posed by consciousness of the individual theologian's 
liability to error, which for the most part pervades his 
replies to his correspondents. As his reputation in- 
creased he became an oracle to some whom he considered 
unwise admirers. Consequently he puts thoughts for- 
ward tentatively and expressly asks for criticism and if 
need be correction. On one occasion he was led to 
express his dislike for Cicero's commendatory language 
about a man who never uttered what he had reason to 
recall. 4 Augustine held that this was more likely to be 
true of a perfect fool than of a perfectly wise man. He 
vastly preferred the Horatian warning : the word once 
spoken can never be recalled. It was that sense of 
responsibility for his utterances, he tells us, which led 
him to keep back several of his works from publication, 
especially his writings on Genesis and on the Holy 
Trinity. 5 So again he is anxious about his writings on 

1 Letter 138, 14. 2 Letter 138, 15. 

3 Letter 139. 4 Letter 143, 3. 5 Letter 143, 4 



LETTERS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION 211 

Free Will. They have passed into many hands and 
cannot be called in for correction. But if readers will 
point out errors to Augustine he will be grateful ; x for 
if the books cannot be corrected, the author may. On 
certain points he had carefully refrained from dogmatis- 
ing. Thus, whether the individual soul is derived by 
transmission from the first man, as the body is, or 
whether each soul is a new creation, he has not ventured 
to determine. The subject is most mysterious, and he 
is bound to confess his ignorance. If any one can inform 
him from reason or from Scripture what is the truth 
about this, he will be grateful. He insists on these two 
sources of knowledge. 

" For if reason be found contradicting the authority of 
the Divine Scriptures, it only deceives by a semblance 
of truth, however acute it be, for its deductions cannot 
in that case be true. On the other hand, if, against the 
most manifest and reliable testimony of reason, anything 
be set up claiming to have the authority of the Holy 
Scriptures, he who does this does it through a misappre- 
hension of what he has read, and is setting up against 
the truth not the real meaning of Scripture, which he 
has failed to discover, but an opinion of his own ; he 
alleges not what he ha^s found in the Scriptures, but 
what he has found in himself as their interpreter." 2 

In order to complete Augustine's teaching on the 
state of the Departed it may be well here to add a 
summary of his teaching given elsewhere in a work 
composed for the instruction of Bishop Paulinus. 
Although it is not included among Augustine's letters 
yet it is a letter after all : the distinction between 
letters and treatises being in Augustine's case almost 
impossible, since the one constantly tended to pass into 
the other. 

Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, wrote to ask Augustine 
whether he considered that burial at the chapel of a 

1 Letter 143, 7. Cunningham's translation. 2 Ibid. 



2i2 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

martyr was an advantage to the dead. The question 
gave Augustine an opportunity of recording his thoughts 
on relation to the Departed in the short and very 
interesting treatise on Care for the Dead. 1 Paulinus 
held that the religious instincts which prompted men 
to care for the departed, and more especially the fact 
that the Universal Church offered supplications for 
them, could not be without significance ; on the other 
hand this seemed hard to reconcile with the Apostolic 
words : " We must all stand before the judgment seat 
of Christ, that each one may receive according to the 
things done in the body, whether good or bad." 2 This 
Apostolic declaration warns that everything to profit 
us after death must be done before death comes ; not 
afterwards, when it is the time to receive according to 
things done in the body. 

The solution of the problem Augustine finds in the 
principle that the departed can only be aided by the 
Church 3 if they have made themselves susceptible of 
such aid by their life when on earth. Thus their being 
aided by the Church's intercessions does not contradict 
their requital for things done in the body, but forms 
part of it. The divisions of the Departed are accord- 
ingly three : those who are tco saintly to need the 
Church's intercessions ; those who are too evil to be 
benefited by them ; and those of an intermediate type, 
whose conduct when on earth makes them susceptible 
of such aid. The type of behaviour on earth determines 
such susceptibility. If no merit is acquired in this life 
it is vain to expect it afterwards. Thus the Church 
is right in her practice of intercession for the Departed, 
and yet every man is judged according to his works. 

This answer, Augustine considers, might suffice. 
The contradiction is solved. 4 But the importance of 
the relation between Dead and Living leads him to 

1 De Cura pro mortuis gerenda, written about A.D. 421. Works, 
Gaume's Edition, VI. 865888. 

2 2 Cor. v. 10. 3 De Cura, 2. 4 Letter 143, 3. 



LETTERS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION 213 

further and fuller reflections. The Books of the Macca- 
bees speak of sacrifices offered for the Departed ; but 
even if this were never read of. in the Ancient Scrip- 
tures, the practice of the Universal Church, which in 
this point is luminously clear, possesses no small 
authority. In the priest's prayers at the Altar there 
is a commendation of the dead. But on the question 
whether the locality of burial affects the condition of 
the soul of the dead person, Augustine appeals to senti- 
ments already expressed in the work on the City of 
God. 1 Care for the burial of the dead is rather a 
consideration to the living than an advantage to the 
departed. To which he now adds that in no case 
should intercessions for the souls of the dead be 
neglected. The Universal Church herself discharges 
this office for those who have no near relatives to plead 
for them. 2 If this intercession be ignored he cannot 
think that the corpse's proximity to sacred places can 
aid the departed soul. 3 But a faithful mother's desire 
for her son to be buried in the church of a Martyr, 
surely implied a belief that the Martyr's merits would 
help his soul ; which belief was in itself a sort of inter- 
cession, and that would aid, if anything can. But yet 
Augustine would plainly deprecate concern for mere 
physical proximity to the relics of a saint. 4 The 
scattering of Martyrs' ashes on the Rhone, which 
Eusebius records, would never have been permitted by 
Providence if thereby any loss accrued to the dead. 
Christ answered this beforehand when He said, " Fear 
not them that kill the body, but after that have no more 
that they can do." Human sentiment indeed might 
be thereby distressed by anticipation : 5 which explains, 
Augustine thinks, the Old Testament menace : " Thy 
body shall not come into the sepulchres of thy fathers." 
But if we think in accordance with the Gospel, we rest 

1 Letter 143, 4. 2 Letter 143, 6. 

Letter 143, 7- 4 Letter 143, 8. 6 Letter 143, 9. 



214 



THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 



assured that the locality in which the body lies cannot 
affect the soul. Augustine refers here l to stories of the 
dead appearing to the living in dreams and pleading for 
burial. He is not convinced that such apparitions are 
consciously created by the dead, since the living appear 
also to us in dreams, and yet are quite unconscious that 
they appear. Augustine quotes a case from personal 
experience. Eulogius, a pupil of his at Carthage, told 
him that when preparing to lecture on Cicero he came 
upon a passage which he could not understand. But in 
the night in a dream Augustine himself appeared and 
gave the explanation. " It was not myself/' says Augus- 
tine. " It was my image unconsciously to myself. For I 
was at Milan, between us lay the sea." Augustine's in- 
ference is that visions of the Departed do not necessarily 
involve their personal intervention, since similar visions 
of the living are experienced apart from their conscious 
activity. His solution is, that such visions are the 
products of some heavenly agency. 2 If the souls of the 
departed were present in the affairs of the living and 
can speak to us in dreams Augustine is certain that his 
mother who had followed him over seas and land on 
earth would certainly not have failed to appear to him. 
He cannot credit that the happier conditions of the 
other world have rendered the Departed forgetful of 
this, and that she should neglect to comfort her sorrow- 
ing son, whom she never could bear to see in distress. 
To Augustine's mind the Psalmist's thought is applicable 
here : " When my father and my mother forsake me the 
Lord taketh me up." 3 And if a departed mother does 
not present herself to us again, still less can others of 
the dead know what we do or what we endure. " Thou 
art our Father though Abraham be ignorant of us and 
Israel recognises us not." Hence the promise: "Thou 
shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace ; and thine 
eyes shall not see the evil which I will bring upon this 

1 Letter 143, 12. 2 Letter 143, 16. 3 Psalm xxvi. ia 



LETTERS ON BIBLICAL EXPOSITION 215 

place." 1 There, then, are the spirits of the dead where 
they do not see what is done or experienced in this life 
by mankind. The parable of Dives and Lazarus is not 
in contradiction with this. The rich man remembers 
his brethren on earth ; but he is not said to be 
acquainted with their state. Just as we pray for the 
dead without a knowledge of their condition. 2 Augus- 
tine nevertheless suggests that each fresh accession to 
the other world would bring increase of information ; 
if what they are permitted to remember they are also 
permitted to impart. Angels also, if permitted, may do 
the same. 

The appearance of the departed Samuel to King Saul 
and his prediction of Saul's future may, 3 or may not, 
involve an actual appearance of the dead, but have been 
caused by other means. The Book Ecclesiasticus says 
of Samuel that 4 "after his death he prophesied." 
Augustine is aware that some may think this uncon- 
vincing, since the Book is not contained in the Hebrew 
Canon of Scripture. In any case this objection will 
not hold of the Evangelical manifestations of Moses and 
Elijah. 

How it is that the departed, 5 although ignorant of the 
condition of the living, do nevertheless answer their 
petitions? Augustine acknowledges that he cannot 
explain. Religious experience affirms that the departed 
saints do answer petitions. And this experience 
Augustine respects. Perhaps it is that they possess a 
modified ubiquity ; perhaps they pray generally for the 
living in ignorance of their actual state, as we do for the 
Departed ; and the Almighty, Who is everywhere present, 
hears their prayers and answers as He pleases. But the 
question is, Augustine confesses, beyond his powers. 
He would rather inquire of those who know. 

1 2 Kings xxii. 20. z De Cura, 18. 

3 cf. Augustine's reply to Simplician 2, 4 : " De diversis ques- 
tionibus." 

4 Ecclus. xlvi. 20. 5 De Cura, 19 and 20. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN AUGUSTINE AND 
JEROME 

IT would be possible to group together Augustine's 
letters to various other persons besides Jerome. For 
example, Paulinus of Nola. But the series with Jerome 
is by far the most celebrated, and possesses a distinct 
importance of its own. 

The subjects discussed are 

1. The. translation of Scripture from the Original 
instead of from the Greek. The importance of a Version 
already in possession. Bishop Lightfoot's use of the 
correspondence at the time of the discussion on our 
Revised Version will be remembered. 

2. The dispute between S. Peter and S. Paul recorded 
in Galatians. 1 

3. The question of the Origin of the Soul. This 
subject became inevitable when the Pelagian Controversy 
raised discussion on Original Sin. 

The correspondence between Augustine and Jerome 
throws considerable light on the characters of the two 
great men who were in many ways so deeply contrasted. 
It seems that the two never saw one another. This is 
a little curious. For Augustine went to Rome in 383 
and remained there until he left for Milan in 385, while 
Jerome was resident in Rome from 381 to 385. And if 
Augustine was obscure at the time, most certainly 

1 For modern accounts of the discussion between Augustine and 
Jerome on this subject see Mohler : Gesammelte Schriften und 
Aufsatze, 1839, pp. 1-18; Zahii in Neue Kirchliche Zeitschrift, 
1894, p. 435 ; Dufey in the Revue du Clerge fran^ais, 1901, pp. 
141-9. 

216 



LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 217 

Jerome was not. No name roused more attention and 
opposition than his. It is, therefore, strange that 
Augustine never saw him. On the other hand, Augus- 
tine's interests during those years were not in the 
direction of the Church. Yet it is strange that so alert 
a mind was unconscious of the perfect fury which 
Jerome's sermons and writings roused in the religious 
circles of the capital. But movements within the 
Church do not always greatly affect the world. 

This correspondence was extended over twenty-one 
years. 

In the first letter l which he wrote to Jerome, probably 
in 394, Augustine lays stress on the fact that they had 
never met ; but adds that he has a good idea of Jerome's 
appearance, since Alypius had paid Jerome a visit and 
had reported to Augustine his impressions. He informs 
Jerome that Alypius, now a Bishop, is his most 
intimate friend ; and that if they are two in body, they 
are one in mind. Augustine calls Jerome his fellow- 
presbyter, although it is quite possible that this letter 
was written after the writer had been consecrated 
Bishop. Fellow- presbyter is Augustine's usual description 
of Jerome (see Letters 67 and 71) ; also of other priests 
after his own consecration. 

Augustine's purpose in writing is to give Jerome some 
advice on the direction which his studies were taking, 2 
and to criticise one of his interpretations. Augustine 
was anxious that Jerome should confine his attention 
to the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew 
Scriptures and should not concern himself with trans- 
lating direct from the Hebrew into Latin. The Bishop 
considered that very high authority must be allowed to 
the Greek translators. He notes that subsequent trans- 
lators are unable to agree. His inference is that it is 
not credible that any further light can be discovered. 
With regard to the differences between more recent 

1 Letter 28. 2 Letter 28, 2. 



2i8 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

translations he puts to Jerome the following dilemma : 
Either these passages are obscure or else they are clear. 
If they are obscure, Jerome is as likely to misunderstand 
them as the other translators. If they are clear, it is not 
likely that the Septuagint translators misunderstood. 

The other subject in Jerome's writings which exercises 
the Bishop's mind is the explanation given by the critic 
of the famous dispute in Galatians between S. Paul and 
S. Peter. 

The interpretation of this passage had a curious history 
before Augustine's time. Two opinions on S. Peter's 
conduct had existed. One was that he failed in moral 
courage, and vacillated once more as he did at the trial 
of his Master. Among the early supporters of this 
interpretation was S. Cyprian. (Letter 71.) The other 
opinion was that such inconsistency was unlikely on the 
part of one who supported S. Paul at the Council of 
Jerusalem. A decided reluctance prevailed to ascribe 
such vacillations to one so distinguished. Accordingly 
a totally different construction was placed upon the 
scene. One of the greatest exponents of this second 
interpretation was S. John Chrysostom. 

S. John Chrysostom observed that many readers of 
Galatians imagine that S. Paul accused S. Peter of 
dissimulation. But, said Chrysostom, this opinion 
comes of superficial reading. Peter is a person whose 
very name suggests immovableness, 1 and whose faith 
was not likely to fail. Chrysostom accordingly main- 
tained that the two Apostles arranged the scene at 
Antioch beforehand. "I withstood him to the face" 
means, in Chrysostom's opinion, " I withstood him in 
appearance, but not in reality." And " because he was 
blameable " means not blamed by S. Paul, but blamed 
by the Gentile converts who were offended at his 
aloofness. If the contention between the two Apostles 
had been a real one, Chrysostom is sure they would 

1 Works, Edition Gaume, Tom. X. 815, 816. 



LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 219 

have held it privately, for fear of scandalising the 
believers. The whole scene, then, was a diplomatic 
arrangement. The Jewish converts would not have 
listened to criticism from S. Paul. S. Peter, therefore, 
pretended to take their side, and allowed S. Paul to 
criticise him for his conduct. S. Peter offered no reply 
to S. Paul's reproaches, so that when the Jewish converts 
found that their chief had no defence to make, they 
themselves would be compelled to fall into line with 
S. Paul's instructions. This was certainly subtle. But 
the interpretation inflicted appalling violence on the 
text. And it seems extraordinary that Chrysostom 
should have performed so perverse a feat of exegesis. 

Yet this interpretation was widely prevalent both before 
Chrysostom's time and afterwards. It was traced to 
Origen and was supported by distinguished writers. 
S. Jerome read Chrysostom's explanation and adopted it. 

Jerome's explanation of the incident at Antioch was 
that 1 S. Peter, who was well aware of the indifference 
of Jewish observances, and showed it by associating for 
a while with the Gentile converts, withdrew from the 
Gentiles simply out of diplomatic desire to win the Jews. 
He, therefore, pretended a zeal for Jewish observances 
which he did not really feel. In Jerome's opinion this 
attitude of S. Peter led S. Paul, who saw through the 
older Apostle's motive, but saw also that it was en- 
dangering the doctrine of Christian Grace, to counteract 
S. Peter's diplomacy by pretending to denounce him. 
Thus S. Paul, the experienced controversialist, adopted 
a new and original method of refuting the Jewish 
excluslveness. Jerome explains that if any one supposes 
S. Paul to have really intended to rebuke S. Peter he is 
mistaken. For that would put S. Paul in contradiction 
with his own statement that to the Jews he became as 
a Jew in order to win the Jews ; and in contradiction 
also with the fact that he allowed Timothy to be 

1 Jerome's Works. Edit. Vallarsi. Verona 1737. Tom. VII. 405. 



220 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

circumcised. Thus, as Jerome put it, S. Paul met 
dissimulation by dissimulation ; a pretence of observing 
the Law by a pretence of rebuke. Biblical instances of 
dissimulation, urged Jerome, could be found in Jehu's 
treatment of the worshippers of Baal. And indeed 
dissimulation may be justified where it tends to spiritual 
advantage. 

Jerome mentions that certain writers maintained that 
the Peter named in this incident was not the Apostle 
but some other individual otherwise unknown. This 
was apparently suggested to protect the Apostle from 
the criticism of Porphyry, who charged him with having 
erred. Jerome dismisses this view as incredible. The 
invention of another Peter in order to exclude the 
belief that Peter erred is a desperate expedient. 

S. Paul then artfully simulated an indignation with 
S. Peter which he did not feel, while in reality he 
corrected the Jewish adherents through rebukes osten- 
sibly addressed to S. Peter. If any person is not 
satisfied with this interpretation, says Jerome, let him 
explain how S. Paul could condemn in another what he 
practised himself. 

This exposition by Jerome is more than Augustine 
can endure. 1 In his opinion it is exceedingly serious. 
For if an Apostle may officially advocate what he 
believes to be false, the whole foundation of faith in 
their utterances is undermined. This theory of the 
fabrication of an officiosum mendacium is, in Augustine's 
opinion, simply fatal to the belief in the veracity of Holy 
Scripture. He is sure that there can be no room in 
Apostolic utterances for piously intended falsehoods. 2 
He points out the Apostle's earnest and solemn insist- 
ence on the duty of truth. This was S. Paul's express 
declaration in regard to the doctrine of the Resurrection. 
Nothing could exceed his horror at being found false 
witness concerning God. 

1 Letter 28, 3. 2 Letter^S, 4, 



LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 221 

Augustine pictures S. Paul's feelings if any one were to 
urge : " Why are you so shocked by this falsehood, when 
the thing which you have said, even if it were false, 
tends very greatly to the glory of God ? " This pro- 
motion of edification at the expense of sincerity and 
truth would be to S. Paul simply abhorrent. Augustine 
is sure of that. 

If this maxim of concealing truth in the interests of 
expediency be once admitted, one result will be that 
individuals believe one portion of Apostolic teaching 
and reject another. If Jerome maintains this theory 
he is bound to lay down rules by which it will be 
possible to ascertain when false statements are per- 
missible and when they are not. 1 

Jerome wrote to Augustine before the letter from 
Africa reached him. He sent one letter in 396 by 
subdeacon Asterius and another in 397 by the priest 
Praesidius. 2 The purpose of the former was to con- 
gratulate Augustine on his consecration ; of the latter to 
commend Praesidius to his notice, and to salute Alypius. 
Jerome in his Monastery at Bethlehem is much troubled 
by the disturbed condition of the outer world. 

Augustine replied to these letters rather dissatisfied 
with Jerome's brevity. 3 The Bishop a second time 
criticises Jerome's opinion that S. Paul's opposition to 
S. Peter at Antioch was diplomatic and not genuine. 
S. Paul's emphatic protest, " Now the things that I write 
unto you behold before God I lie not," is to Augustine 
conclusive proof that the writer did not simulate an 
unreal grievance against S. Peter's behaviour. This 
conclusion is still further confirmed by S. Paul's own 
words, "When I saw that they walked not uprightly 
according to the truth of the Gospel." 4 If S. Peter was 
after all walking uprightly then S. Paul's assertion is 
false. And if what he says in this place is false, how 



Letter 28, 5. 2 Letter 39. 

Letter 40, A.D. 397. 4 Letter 40, 3. 



222 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE. 

are we to know when he is telling us what is true ? 
That question will be answered according to individual 
inclination and preference. 

Jerome does not need to be informed l that the words 
" to the Jews I became a Jew that I might gain the 
Jews" (i Cor. ix. 20) refer to sympathy, not to dissimu- 
lation. S. Paul did not criticise S. Peter for observing 
the Jewish tradition but for compelling the Gentiles to 
Judaize. 2 

Augustine therefore calls on Jerome to retract ; to 
sing a Palinode. 3 

Augustine further observes that he had previously 
written to Jerome on this subject. But he is aware that 
the letter could not have reached Palestine as the bearer 
was unable to complete his journey. That was appar- 
ently two years before (see Letter 28). 

Some correspondence had already taken place between 
Augustine and Jerome 4 on the writings of Origen. 
These letters appear to have been lost. But from the 
allusion on the present occasion Augustine was evidently 
keenly conscious alike of the value and of the dangers "of 
Origen's writings. He must have said as much to 
Jerome. Jerome, who had committed himself to an 
enthusiastic approval of Origen, which he afterwards 
found inconvenient, was now particularly sensitive of his 
own reputation for orthodoxy, and appears to have 
replied with the rather obvious remark that in ecclesias- 
tical writers we must commend what is orthodox and 
condemn what is heretical. Augustine answers that he 
hardly required this piece of information. What he does 
require to know is definitely the precise subjects upon 
which Origen deviated from the truth. He suggests 
that Jerome's work on ecclesiastical writers would be 
greatly improved if he were to add to his notice of 
heretics a statement of their theories which the Catholic 

1 Letter 40, 4. z Letter 40, 5. 

3 Letter 40, 7. 4 Letter 40, 9. 



LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 223 

Church has condemned. Indeed, if Jerome would write 
a small book on heresies to be avoided, he would confer 
great service on those who are unable to read Greek. 

Unfortunately, Augustine's letter of criticism on 
Jerome's expositions, instead of reaching Jerome, reached 
other people first. When Jerome heard about it he 
wrote 1 complaining that Augustine is reported to have 
written a book against him and to have sent it to Rome. 
Augustine replied that he had not written a book against 
him, but had only criticised some of Jerome's expositions 
in correspondence. The distinction between a book and 
a letter is in Augustine's case somewhat subtle, as his 
letters quite frequently assumed the proportion of a 
treatise. 

Jerome replied to this that Augustine's criticisms upon 
him 2 have now arrived, and he finds that the Bishop 
invites him to retract his exposition. Jerome says that 
he is not such a fool as to be hurt by Augustine's inter- 
pretations. But he advises the younger man not to 
challenge his senior in the field of Scripture exposition. 3 
Jerome is old and his work is done. Let Augustine 
leave him in peace. 4 None the less an old ox can give 
an ugly kick sometimes. 

But Augustine felt it impossible to act on this advice. 5 
For Jerome was engaged in labours which the Bishop 
strongly disapproved. He was translating the Old 
Testament from the Hebrew instead of from the Greek. 
Accordingly Augustine wrote again in the following 
year. The difficulties of correspondence in those days 
were immense. Augustine had already sent a letter to 
Jerome by a priest travelling to Syria. But the priest 
was delayed in order to be consecrated Bishop, and 
shortly after died. So the letter was now entrusted to 
another messenger. 

In the present letter Augustine takes Jerome to task 

1 Letter 67. 2 Letter 68, ? A.D. 402. 3 Letter 68, 2. 

4 Letter 68, A.D. 402. 5 Letter 71, A.D. 403. 



224 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

for translating the Book of Job from the Hebrew. 1 
They already possess a translation from the Greek. 
Jerome would be much better occupied in interpreting 
the Greek and Canonical Scriptures. For if his render- 
ing of the Hebrew comes into use in Churches, the idea 
will prevail that the Latin Churches differ from the 
Greek Churches. 2 Augustine cites a case where 
Jerome's Version of the Book of Jonah from the Hebrew 
was introduced, and created such opposition among the 
people that the Bishop had to apply to the Jews to know 
whether Jerome's Latin or the older Latin represented 
the Original. Even then the Bishop was forced either 
to withdraw Jerome's rendering or else to lose his 
congregation. 3 

Augustine, therefore, strongly advises Jerome to base 
his translations on the Greek of the LXX and not upon 
the Hebrew. 

It was now seven years since Augustine's first letter 4 
on the incident at Antioch. Jerome now in 403 or 404 
replied remarking that Augustine was constantly writing 
letters to him, and requesting an answer to a certain 
document which has at last reached him. But Jerome 
professes himself unable to understand why a document 
intended for himself should be circulated in Italy and in 
Rome, while no copy came to the person for whom it 
was intended. A copy was found by a deacon, Brother 
Sysinius, five years ago not in Augustine's possession, 
not in Africa, but in an island of the Adriatic. 

Some of his friends, who abound in Jerusalem and the 
Holy Places, are suggesting that Augustine is making 
all this fuss simply from motives of vainglory and 
ambition. Jerome has no wish to oppose a Bishop of 
his own communion ; more especially since some of the 
remarks in Augustine's letter appear to him no better 
than heretical. Either let Augustine send an unmistak- 

1 Letter 71, 3. 2 Letter 71, 4. 

3 Letter 71, 5. 4 Letter 72, ? A.D. 403 or 404. 



LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 225 

ably genuine signed letter, or let him cease to worry an 
old man in his cell. But if he wants to show his ability 
let him find some youthful competitor fit to meet a 
Bishop. There are plenty of such people in Rome. 
The Veteran Jerome will applaud Augustine's victories. 
Like Barzillai of Gilead, the charms of David's court 
can possess no attractions for Jerome. He willingly 
relinquishes all the pleasures of youth to his son. 

The recluse observes that Augustine had denied the 
charge of having written a book against Jerome. 1 How 
is it, then, that Italy possesses what Augustine has not 
written ? And why ask Jerome to reply to what you 
deny that you wrote ? Jerome is particularly exasperated 
by being invited to retract his opinions. It is not 
becoming for one who from early manhood to old age 
has toiled with his brethren in a small religious house to 
write anything against a Bishop of his own communion. 

After all, he does not know much of Augustine's 
writings, except the Soliloquies and the Commentaries 
on the Psalms. It would not be hard to show how 
far these diverge from the Greek interpreters. With 
which Parthian shot he takes farewell of one whom 
he calls " my son in years, my father in ecclesiastical 
position." 

It was not easy to reply in suitable terms to such a 
letter as this. 2 Augustine .was evidently dismayed by the 
rude and savage temper of the learned old recluse, and did 
his best to soothe and conciliate. He has sent Jerome 
a copy of the incriminated document by one of his 
deacons, and hopes that by this time it will be in 
Jerome's hands. The letter which Jerome has written 
contains evidences alike of benevolence and vexation. 
Augustine did not mean to give ofTence. Nothing could 
be further from his intention. But since his letter has 
had that effect, the good Bishop asks Jerome's forgive- 
ness. Augustine then quotes from Jerome's angry epistle 

1 Letter 72, 4. 2 Letter 73, A,D. 404. 

p 



26 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

a passage in which the old priest condescended to a 
more kindly tone, and expressed the wish that he and 
Augustine might meet. " Yes, indeed," echoes the 
Bishop. " It is distance which makes these difficulties. 
I wrote likewise concerning the passage in Galatians 
when I was a Juvenis, and now, lo ! I am already Sener, 
and I have received no reply." He wishes he could pay 
Jerome a visit. Since that is impossible, he contem- 
plates sending one of his sons in order to obtain 
instruction from Jerome. For Augustine has not and 
cannot hope to have, the knowledge of Scripture which 
Jerome possesses. Whatever capacities he may possess 
for study have to be entirely devoted to the instruction 
of his people. His ecclesiastical occupations preclude 
any further research. 

Then he touches upon a very delicate matter indeed. 
It was notorious that Jerome and Rufinus, formerly the 
greatest of friends, were now the bitterest of enemies. 
Augustine had been reading Jerome's own published 
utterances about it. And he can only say, Woe to 
the world because of offences! And because iniquity 
abounds the love of many shall wax cold. What man 
will not now fear to find in his dearest friend a future 
foe, if Jerome and Rufinus can be enemies. Augustine 
becomes deeply earnest over this. He was profoundly 
moved that two men intimately united in continuous 
study of the Sacred Writings, separated from secular 
pursuits, unencumbered by worldly affairs, living to- 
gether in the very land which Christ's sacred feet had 
trod ; the very land where He said, "Peace I leave with 
you, My peace I give unto you," being also men mature 
in age, and dwelling habitually on heavenly themes, 
should deal in terms of virulent antagonism. " Truly," 
exclaims the Bishop, " man's life on earth is a period of 
trial. If I could anywhere meet you both, I would 
throw myself at your feet, and there weeping till I 
could weep no more, I would appeal with all the 
eloquence of love, first to each of you for his own sake, 



LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 227 

then to each of you for each other's sake and for the 
sake of other men, above all for the weak brethren for 
whom Christ died, whose salvation is imperilled : you 
who occupy a position so conspicuous on the world's 
platform : I would beseech not to publish bitter words 
which, after the quarrel is ended, you will not be able 
to withdraw, and which you will fear to read for fear of 
rousing evil passions again." : 

Augustine then acknowledges that some of Jerome's 
utterances had terrified him. He could not forget the 
facts while reading Jerome's letter to himself. 

If mutual inquiry and discussion between Augustine 
and Jerome can be conducted without bitterness, be it 
so. But if neither can criticise the other's writings 
without loss of charity, let discussion cease and charity 
be pursued. Let us only pursue knowledge which 
puffeth up so long as no injury is done to love which 
edifies. 

To appreciate this reference in Augustine's letter to 
the quarrel between Jerome and Rufinus the whole x story 
should be read in Duchesne, Histoire A ncienne de TEglise, 
Tom. III. pp. 38-68. Ed. 1910. Here it may be sufficient 
to say the dispute between the two aged students was 
about the heretical tendencies of Origen. Until the 
year 392 Jerome had freely translated Origen's works 
and had spoken very highly in commending them. 
However, about that date, through the bustling activi- 
ties of that inveterate heresy-hunter Epiphanius, Pales- 
tine became torn into two ferocious camps of friends 
and opponents of Origen. 

Then Rufinus, Jerome's friend, who was at that time 
visiting Rome, produced a version of Origen's great 
work De Principiis, carefully omitting, however, from 
his translation all Origen's unorthodox opinions, on the 
ground that these had been interpolated by his enemies. 
Rufinus went so far as to identify Jerome's name with 

1 Letter 73. 



228 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

his own version. Jerome's friends in Rome thereupon 
stirred up the old recluse of Bethlehem to dissociate 
himself from Rufinus and his translations. Jerome ac- 
cordingly published a complete translation of Origen's 
work containing all the incriminating theories which 
Rufinus had discreetly omitted. Thereupon Rome 
moved itself, and issued a condemnation of Origen, 
prohibiting his works. Then Rufinus published a self- 
defence. Jerome, particularly sensitive for his reputation 
for orthodoxy, fell on Rufinus with all the unscrupulous- 
ness and ferocity of which he was capable in his worst 
moments. It was Jerome's unrestrained abuse and 
bitterness which scandalised all who knew him, and 
called forth, among other letters, Augustine's remon- 
strances. Rufinus withdrew into silence. Ten years 
later he died. But even then the ancient fury revived, 
and Jerome in the most unedifying and deplorable 
terms gloated over his friend's decease. The scorpion 
had expired : the grunter was now dead : and Jerome 
was delighted. 

There was certainly need of more than ordinary diplo- 
matic caution in conducting a theological discussion 
with a student of this disposition. 

By way of precaution against giving further offence 
Augustine submitted his letters to the criticism of Bishop 
Praesidius, asking him to correct it, if he saw anything 
defective either in its substance or its form. 1 

Before this fourth letter from Augustine had reached 
Bethlehem, Jerome had written his reply to Augustine's 
criticism on the dispute at Antioch between S. Paul and 
S. Peter. 2 Jerome says that three letters, or rather small 
treatises, have arrived from Augustine. Then he cau- 
tiously leaves a way to evade the statements contained 
in his own reply, by saying that he is compelled to 
write hastily, since the carrier leaves in three days. 
None the less he writes a very careful answer. His 

1 Letter 74. z Letter 75, A.D. 404. 



LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 229 

bitterness has subsided. He is now sure that Augustine 
desires the victory of truth, that he is not seeking his 
own glory, but Christ's ; he is contending with a peaceful 
mind. 

Then, as to his Commentary on the Epistle to the 
Galatians, and Augustine's opinion that the dispute 
between the two Apostles was not simulated but genu- 
ine, Jerome explains that he had expressly stated in the 
preface to this work that he had made a collection of 
the comments of other interpreters. He had followed 
the Commentaries of Origen. Then he quoted Didy- 
mus the Blind ; also Apollinaris of Laodicea, who, 
however, has since forsaken the Church ; also Alex- 
ander, a former heretic ; Eusebius also, of Emesa ; l 
Theodore, too, of Heracleum ; last, but not least, there 
was John Chrysostom, who recently, in pontifical dig- 
nity, was ruling the Church at Constantinople 2 and 
who followed the interpretation given by Origen. This 
is an imposing array of eminent expositors, thinks 
Jerome. " If you reproach me for being in error, allow 
me to be in error with such men as these." 

So much, then, for the authority of his interpretation. 
Now for the interpretation itself. Jerome insisted that 
long before S. Paul's supposed opposition to him at 
Antioch, S. Peter was well aware that the Law was not 
to be imposed on adherents of the Gospel. Indeed, in 
Jerome's opinion S. Peter was the author of the decision 
in the Council of Jerusalem. Jerome further calls at- 
tention to the high value which S. Paul ascribes to 
S. Peter's authority. Did not S. Paul declare that after 
three years he went to Jerusalem 3 to see Peter and 
abode with him fifteen days? And again: "Fourteen 
years after I went up again to Jerusalem . . . and I 
went up by revelation, and communicated unto them 
that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but 
privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any 

1 Letter 75, 4. 2 Letter 75, 6. 3 Gal. i. 18. 



230 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

means I should run, or had run, in vain." 1 This passage 
shows, says Jerome, that S. Paul had no security in 
preaching the Gospel unless he was strengthened by 
the opinion of Peter and those who were with him. 2 

In the case under dispute Jerome maintains that 
Peter's belief was orthodox, but that he was led by fear 
of the Judaisers to dissimulate his real belief. He was 
afraid that the Jews, whose Apostle he was, should re- 
volt from the faith of Christ in consequence of the 
Gentile neglect of Mosaic observances. 

Now, argued Jerome, S. Paul did precisely the same 
thing. 3 For he circumcised Timothy. And why ? Be- 
cause of the Jews who were in that place. Let S. Paul 
therefore excuse in S. Peter the very thing which he did 
himself. So again with S. Paul's vow at Cenchrea. So 
again with his conformity to Jewish customs in the 
Temple. 4 

Therefore, said Jerome, both S. Paul and S. Peter pro- 
fessed a mere external conformity to Judaism through 
fear of the Jews. 5 

It was not an " officiosum mendacium " in the Apostles 
Peter and Paul. 6 Jerome resents the idea. It was an 
" honesta dispensatio." It showed the prudence of both. 
But Jerome makes it plain that what commended this 
interpretation to himself was that it protected S. Peter 
from the disdainful criticism of such men as Porphyrius, 
as well as that it protected S. Paul from the charge of 
having rebuked in another the very line he himself had 
on other occasions adopted. 

Jerome then proceeded to criticise Augustine's expo- 
sition. 7 Augustine held that S. Paul's conduct was 
prompted by sympathy, not by fear, when he says that 
to the Jews he became as a Jew in order that he might 
gain the Jews. This was genuine compassion, not dis- 

1 Gal. ii. 1-2. 2 Letter 75, 8. 

3 Letter 75, 9. 4 Letter 75, 10. 

5 Letter 75, n, 6 Ibid. 
7 Letter 75, 12. 



LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 231 

simulation. He acted like a physician to a sick person. 
He humoured them. S. Paul had been a Jew. If he 
was now a Christian he would still adhere to Jewish 
observances as an Apostle, in order to show there was 
nothing hurtful in them so long as a man did not place 
his hope of salvation in them. 

S. Peter would not have been in error in permitting 
Jewish converts to retain their previous rites. His error 
consisted in forcing these things on the Gentiles : in 
compelling the Gentiles to Judaise. 

Jerome cannot tolerate Augustine's exposition. 1 The 
opinion that a converted Jew might retain his former 
practices, would justify every sect of semi-Jewish 
character: Ebionites, Nazarenes, etc. ; in fact, all those 
communions which attempt to be both Jews and Chris- 
tians, and succeed in being neither Christians nor Jews. 

How could S. Paul, Jerome asks indignantly, retain 
the sacraments of the Jews after his conversion to 
Christ? 2 Did not S. Paul say that if a man was cir- 
cumcised Christ would profit him nothing? Did he not 
say, " If ye are led by the Spirit ye are not under the 
law ? " You are a Bishop, a Master in the Church of 
Christ, says Jerome ; prove the reality of your explana- 
tion by accepting a Jewish convert who has his son 
circumcised and keeps the Sabbath. Then you will 
know that it is harder to justify your own explanation 
than to find fault with that of other people. 3 

Jerome pursued the subject with hard mechanical 
distinctions. 4 Augustine said these Jewish rites were 
not necessary to salvation. Jerome answered : If they 
do not bring salvation why are they observed ? Either, 
adds Jerome, a thing is good or else it is bad. There 
is no middle state of moral indifference. These legal 
observances must be either one or the other. You say 
they are good. I say they are bad. 



Letter 75, 13. 2 Letter 75, 14. 

Letter 75, 15. 4 Letter 75, 16. 



232 THE LETTERS 'OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Then, relapsing into one of his moods of excruciat- 
ingly bad taste, 1 Jerome sarcastically requests Augustine 
not to rouse against him the clamour of the ignorant 
little congregation who venerate Augustine as a Bishop, 
and when they hear him orating in church accord him 
the honour due to his ministry. Only let Augustine 
leave the half-decrepit old man alone, and find other 
people to instruct or reprove. Seas and lands lie 
between them. So great is the distance that the sound 
of Augustine's voice can seldom reach so far. And if 
Augustine does write letters they reach Italy and Rome 
sooner than the person to whom they should have been 
directed. 

Augustine here displayed greater critical insight than 
Jerome. The Bishop appreciated better than the priest 
what was permissible and natural in a period of tran- 
sition from the Old Dispensation to the New. Jerome's 
challenge to the Bishop, to allow Jewish observances 
at Hippo in the fifth century which S. Paul thought 
expedient to allow in the first century, shows a lack 
of historical imagination ; a rigorous application of 
expediency without regard to altered circumstances. 

After this reply to Augustine's criticism on the ex- 
position of Galatians, Jerome turns to the Bishop's 
remonstrance with him for translating the Scriptures 
direct from the Hebrew. 

Augustine had thrown his argument into the form 
of a syllogism. 2 Either the passages which the Greek 
translators have rendered were obscure or they were 
obvious. If they were obscure Jerome is as likely to 
be mistaken as they were. If obvious, the Greek 
translators could not have been mistaken. 

Jerome replies with another example of the same 
syllogism. Either the Scriptures which the ancient 
expositors have interpreted were obscure or they were 
obvious. If the former, why does Augustine presume 

1 Letter 75, 18. 2 Letter 76, 20. 



LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 233 

to think he can explain them any better? If the latter, 
Augustine's expositions are superfluous. Jerome adds 
a formidable list of earlier expositors of the Psalms. 
Yet in spite of this impressive array of authorities on 
the Psalms, Augustine did not hesitate to add another 
exposition which, as Jerome has already reminded the 
author, he had read. Let Augustine allow other persons 
the same freedom which he has exercised for himself. 
All that Jerome has done is to let men know what 
the Hebrew original contains. If they had rather not 
know, nothing compels them. 1 

As to the case cited by Augustine of the Bishop who 
introduced Jerome's version of Jonah and had to with- 
draw it rather than lose his congregation : that could 
not alter the fact that the version was a faithful repro- 
duction of the original. If any Jews disputed it, that 
only betrayed their malice or their ignorance. 

On this note of imperturbable confidence the letter 
closes ; not, however, without another disdainful expres- 
sion, as of one bored to distraction by the ignorance of 
his contemporaries. Jerome begs Augustine to let an 
old man rest. Let the young man, set in pontifical dig- 
nity, teach the crowds. As for Jerome, it is enough 
for him to whisper to one poor reader in the corner of 
a monastery. 

It would scarcely be a matter for surprise if corre- 
spondence ceased, or was, at least, temporarily interrupted 
after such letters as these. But Jerome wrote again. 
It is quite possible that he did not realise the exas- 
perating nature of his bitter and disdainful language. 2 
As a matter of fact, he wrote again to Augustine in the 
following year (405) ; this time in a far gentler spirit, 
even asking to be remembered to one of Augustine's 
friends and disciples, Bishop Alypius, but ending with 
an unfortunate expression about playing in the fields 
of Scripture. 

1 Letter 75, 22. 2 Letter 81, A.D 404 



234 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

To this letter Augustine replied, 1 harping, also most 
unfortunately, on Jerome's closing word. Augustine 
takes the word prosaically. He fails to see that the appar- 
ently frivolous expression may cover deep earnestness : 

" Looking below light speech we utter 
When frothy spume and frequent sputter 
Prove that the soul's depths boil in earnest." 

There is a curious lack of humour in Augustine's 
remark that he is prepared for serious study not for 
play. And he takes occasion to inform Jerome of his 
profound conviction that no writer of the Canonical 
Scriptures has committed any error in his writing. If 
Augustine encounters any passage which seems con- 
trary to the truth, then either the text is defective or 
the translator misrepresents the original, or else the 
reader has misunderstood the meaning. Doubtless 
Jerome would not desire his writings to be treated 
with the deference due to the prophetic and apostolic 
Scriptures. 

"Now," argues Augustine, "if I am bound in virtue 
of your own life and character 2 to believe that you 
have not written insincerely, much more am I bound to 
maintain that the Apostle Paul believed what he wrote 
when he speaks of Peter not walking rightly according 
to the truth of the Gospel. Of whose sincerity can I 
be sure if not of the sincerity of S. Paul? More espe- 
cially is this the case where the Apostle has prefaced 
his utterances with the solemn declaration : * The things 
which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.' 

" If any one maintains that it is better to believe that 
the Apostle Paul 3 wrote something which is not true 
than that the Apostle Peter did something which is not 
right, this would be equivalent to saying that it is better 
to believe that the Gospel relates what is false than to 

1 Letter 82, A.D. 405. 2 Letter 82, 4. 

3 Letter 82, 5. 



LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 235 

believe that S. Peter denied his Master. Thus reluct- 
ance to believe that an exemplary and distinguished 
person was occasionally to blame, leads men to bring 
the whole of the Sacred Scriptures into suspicion." 

This treatment of Scripture is, in Augustine's opinion, 1 
worse than what is done by the Manichaeans. For while 
they indeed reject statements of Scripture, they do so 
not on the ground that the apostolic statements are 
erroneous but on the ground that the text has been 
corrupted. It is quite another matter, and immeasur- 
ably more serious, to charge the Apostles with affirming 
what is false. 

Jerome says it is incredible that S. Paul rebuked 
S. Peter for doing the very thing which he did himself. 2 
Augustine replies : " I am not now inquiring what 
S. Paul did, but what S. Paul wrote. If S. Peter 
acted rightly, then S. Paul has written what is false ; 
but if what S. Paul wrote is true, then it is true that 
S. Peter was not then acting in accordance with the 
truth of the Gospel. 

Augustine maintains that S. Peter acted as he did 
with a view to compel the Gentiles to live as Jews. 3 
Now there is no parallel between this and the conduct 
of S. Paul in the case of Timothy, or in his conformity 
to Jewish observances at Jerusalem on S. James's advice. 

S. Paul's occasional conformity to Jewish observances 
was intended to refute the Jewish suspicion that he 
regarded such observances as deadly. 4 

If the Council of Jerusalem had already taken place, 5 
then it was already decreed that no man should force 
the Gentiles to Judaise. If, as Augustine himself 
believed, the discussion between S. Paul and S. Peter 
occurred before that Council met, none the less was 
S. Paul anxious that S. Peter should openly profess 
what he inwardly believed, for both Apostles really 

1 Letter 82, 6. 2 Letter 82, 7. 

3 Letter 82, 8. 4 Letter 82, 9. 

5 Letter 82, 10. 



236 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

agreed in principles. S. Paul was not teaching S. Peter 
what the faith was, but only rebuking his dissimulation 
in forcing the Gentiles to act as Jews. 

Augustine can see no reason, in spite of Jerome's 1 
authority, why the Jewish observances are not to be 
placed among things indifferent rather than among 
those that are intrinsically good or intrinsically bad. 
This was his own opinion, for instance, with regard to 
fasting on the Sabbath. It was a thing indifferent. 
Observances which were not to be imposed on the 
Gentile convert were not necessarily to be forbidden 
to the convert from Israel. 

" But why may I not say regarding those institutions 2 
of the old economy, that they are neither good nor bad : 
not good since men are not by them justified, they 
having been only shadows predicting the grace by which 
we are justified ; and not bad since they were divinely 
appointed as suitable both to the time and to the people ? 
... I would esteem it a favour to be informed by your 
Sincerity, whether any saint, coming from the East to 
Rome, would be guilty of dissimulation if he fasted on 
the seventh day of each week, excepting the Saturday 
before Easter. For if we say that it is wrong to fast on 
the seventh day, we shall condemn not only the Church 
of Rome, but also many other Churches, both neighbour- 
ing and more remote, in which the same custom con- 
tinues to be observed . If on the other hand we pronounce 
it wrong not to fast on the seventh day, how great is 
our presumption in censuring so many Churches in the 
East, and by far the greater part of the Christian world ! 
Or do you prefer to say of this practice, that it is a thing 
indifferent in itself, but commendable in him who con- 
forms with it, not as a dissembler, but from a seemly 
desire for the fellowship and deference for the feelings of 
others ? No precept, however, concerning this practice 
is given to Christians in the Canonical Books. How 

1 Letter 82, 10. 2 Letter 82, 14. 



LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 237 

much more then may I shrink from pronouncing that to 
be bad whicl^ I cannot deny to be of Divine institution : 
this fact being admitted by me in the exercise of the 
same faith by which I know that not through these 
observances, but by the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ 
I am justified." 1 

Accordingly Augustine contends 2 that the Old Testa- 
ment regulations of ceremonial were predictions of the 
Christian realities. On the advent of the realities the 
former remained only to be studied but not to be any 
longer observed. They were tolerated for a time, but 
were not to be enforced for fear of being understood to 
be conditions of salvation. S. Peter's fault consisted in 
pretending to accept this view, which he did not really 
hold. Consequently S. Paul correctly criticised him 
for not walking uprightly according to the truth of 
the Gospel. There was no dissimulation in S. Paul's 
conduct. He was perfectly frank. He could permit 
the occasional observance of the Jewish ceremonies, but 
he never imposed them as necessary. 

But the time for such toleration of Jewish ceremonies 3 
was long since past, and S. Paul's occasional permission 
of them could no longer in Augustine's opinion be 
followed in the fifth century. 

The case of S. Peter and S. Paul 4 raises the question 
whether it is permissible to speak falsely on the ground 
of expediency. Is it at any time a Christian man's duty 
to say what is false ? Augustine refers to S. Matt. v. 37, 
S. James v.12, Psalm v. 6. Is it not required in stewards 
that a man be found faithful ? 

Accordingly the true interpretation of the incident 5 
is that S. Paul spoke with entire sincerity. " And Peter 
himself received, with the holy and loving humility 
which became him, the rebuke which Paul, in the 
interests of truth, and with the boldness of love admin- 
istered." Therein Peter left to those who came after 

1 Cunningham's translation, I. 327. 2 Letter 82, 15. 

3 Letter 82, 17. * Letter 82, 21. 5 Letter 82, 22. 



238 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

him an example, that, if at any time they deviated from 
the right path, they should not think it beneath them to 
accept correction from their juniors. On that occasion, 
therefore, Paul was to be praised for upright courage, 
and Peter for holy humility. 

Jerome had defended his opinion x by appeal to the 
authority of seven other expositors. He had asked to 
be allowed to remain in error in the company of such 
distinguished people. But Augustine shrewdly observes 
that four of these seven are questionable. For the in- 
terpreter of Laodicea has, on Jerome's own admission, 
abandoned the Church ; Alexander is a former heretic, 
also on Jerome's admission ; Didymus and Origen are 
both sharply criticised by Jerome himself, in recent 
writings, and on matters of great importance. Three 
only of his seven remain. And to those three Augus- 
tine opposes three others : Cyprian, Ambrose and S. 
Paul himself. For S. Paul forbids us to ascribe to him 
dissimulation when he says : " The things which I write 
unto you, behold, before God, I lie not." Augustine, 
therefore is not at all overcome by Jerome's appeal to 
authorities. He will not allow Jerome's right to be in 
error with anybody. 

S. Paul's claim that to the Jews he became as a Jew, 2 
and to the Gentiles as a Gentile, was to be understood 
of sympathy and not of dissimulation. Augustine 
explains this at considerable length. 

As to Jerome's severe charge 3 that Augustine had 
sent a book to Rome against him, Augustine replies, 
first, that it was not a book but a letter ; secondly, that 
it was not sent to Rome but to Jerome ; thirdly, that it 
was not against him but only a friendly discussion. As 
to the insinuation which Jerome discovered in the request 
that he would sing a palinode or recant, Augustine 
assures him that nothing could be farther from his 

1 Letter 82, 23. 2 Letter 82, 26. 

3 Letter 82, 33. 



LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 239 

intention. He asks Jerome's forgiveness for a most 
unintentional offence. He humbly requests Jerome to 
correct his mistakes. " For although so far as the titles 
of honour which prevail in the Church are concerned, a 
bishop's rank is above that of a presbyter, nevertheless 
in many things Augustine is inferior to Jerome." 

Augustine acknowledges that Jerome has convinced 
him 1 that it is right to translate the Old Testament 
from the original Hebrew. But he also asks for a copy 
of Jerome's translation from the Greek, of the existence 
of which he was not aware. His only objection to 
having the translation from the Hebrew read in Church 
was lest the revised version should cause disturbance 
among the congregation. 

He is replying here 2 to three of Jerome's letters. He 
promises to take greater precautions in future that his 
letters may not fall into other hands, before reaching 
the reader's to whom they are directed. He pleads 
for perfect frankness of discussion between them. But 
only if this can be done without endangering brotherly 
love. 

Whether S. Jerome replied to Augustine's interpre- 
tation of this incident may be left uncertain. If he did 
so no trace of the reply survives. But what is certain is 
that the old student adopted the Bishop's view. Some 
ten years after this correspondence with Augustine, 
'Jerome wrote his treatise against the Pelagians (A.D. 
415). Commenting on the text that a priest or bishop 
must be blameless, Jerome takes occasion to remark 
that if S. Paul says that S. Peter walked not rightly in 
accordance with the truth of the Gospel, and was so far 
to blame that even Barnabas was carried away by his 
dissimulation, what person can wonder if he is not 
credited with that blamelessness which even the chief of 
the Apostles did not possess ? 3 

1 Letter 82, 34. 2 Letter 82, 36. 

3 Jerome's Works, Vallarsi's Edition, II. 702, Dialogus Con- 
tra Pelagianos, i. 22. 



2 4 o THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

No mention is made of Augustine in this place. But 
at the close of the whole work the Bishop of Hippo is 
mentioned by name and in terms of admiration. 

Augustine repeated his exposition in his treatise 
against Falsehood which was probably published after 
Jerome's death. 

The whole story of this disputed interpretation is 
admirably given in a masterly summary by S. Thomas. 
He points out that between Augustine and Jerome there 
were four differences of opinion as to the incident in 
Galatians. 

1. The first difference was, that Jerome distinguished 
history into two periods : before Christ and afterwards ; 
and held that the Law was beneficial in the former, and 
disastrous in the latter. Augustine,however,distinguished 
three periods : (i) Before Christ; (2) immediately after 
Christ ; and (3) the subsequent ages ; and held that the 
Law was not disastrous in the case of converted Jews in 
the Apostolic Age, and that there was no sin in its 
observance, always provided that they did not place 
their hope of salvation in it. Augustine's reason is, that 
if the Jews on their conversion had been forbidden all 
the Mosaic observances, this prohibition would have set 
the Jewish Law on a level with idolatrous observances. 

2. The second difference between Augustine and 
Jerome concerned the Apostles. Jerome held that the 
Apostles never in reality observed the Law, but simu- 
lated observance in order to avoid giving offence. Thus 
S. Paul's discharging a vow in the Temple, or circum- 
cising Timothy, or conforming with S. James's directions 
as to legal customs, was all done from mere motives 
of diplomacy and expediency and not from a religious 
spirit. Augustine on the contrary held that the Apostles 
sincerely meant what they were doing when they con- 
formed to the Mosaic requirement, only they never 
regarded such observances as in any way necessary to 
salvation. This attitude was justifiable in a period of 
transition. 



LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 241 

3. The third difference between Augustine and Jerome 
concerned the conduct of S. Peter. Jerome held that 
Peter's dissimulation was not a sin because it was not 
prompted by fear but by charity. Augustine held that 
it was a sin although a venial one. For Peter unwisely 
attached himself overmuch to the Jewish side. S. 
Thomas holds that Augustine's argument is stronger 
than that of Jerome. For Jerome indeed adduces 
seven authorities in support of himself. But of these 
authorities four are questionable because the writers 
were addicted to heresy. Whereas Augustine, to Jerome's 
remaining three, produces three others. And Augus- 
tine's three defenders are Ambrose, Cyprian and S. Paul 
himself. For S. Paul said that Peter was to be blamed. 
That judgment cannot be set aside. The opinion of 
Augustine is the truer because it agrees with the Apostle's 
words. 

4. The fourth and last difference between Augustine 
and Jerome is concerned with the action of S. Paul. 
Jerome said that S. Paul did not really rebuke S. Peter, 
but only simulated a rebuke. Thus, according to Jerome, 
there was dissimulation on both sides. Augustine main- 
tained that Peter seriously observed the Law and 
S. Paul seriously rebuked him ; and that S. Peter sinned 
in keeping it because he scandalised the Gentiles, while 
S. Paul did not sin in rebuking him, because no scandal 
was involved in the rebuke. 1 

The question of the Origin of the Soul was much 
debated in the Church of the early fifth century. 
Rufmus, priest of Aquileia, had summarised three dis- 
tinct theories about it while writing on Origen in 398. 
Jerome fell on Rufinus, with extraordinary ferocity and 
scorn, for admitting that he was ignorant which of these 
theories was true. 2 But, while Jerome severely criticised 

1 S. Thomas, Comment, in Galat. Lectio III. Works, Parma 
Edit. T. XIII. 396. 

2 Apol. S. Hieron. adv. Lit. Rufini, ii. 8. Works, I. 497. 

Q 



2 4 2 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

another writer in this spirit, he omitted to say which 
theory he himself maintained. Nevertheless Jerome 
had written elsewhere, on the words of Ecclesiastes : 
" Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and 
the spirit shall return unto God who gave it" (Eccles. 
xii. 7), the following comment: "Hereby they are con- 
vinced of folly who think that souls are transmitted 
together with bodies, and do not come from God but are 
generated from the bodies of their parents." x 

Some years after his controversial attack on Rufinus 
Jerome was requested by persons of distinction in Africa 
to explain the problem of the Origin of the Soul. Marcel- 
linus, Augustine's friend, the same who presided over 
the Donatist Conference in 410, had already tried to 
get the Bishop to solve his difficulties. But Augustine 
confessed himself unprepared. Thereupon Marcellinus 
wrote to Jerome, who replied in 41 2. 2 There were 
several theories concerning this difficult problem of the 
soul's origin. It was questioned whether it descended 
from Heaven, as the Platonists taught and Origen with 
them ; or whether it was part of the substance of God, 
as the Stoics and Manichaeans and the Priscillianists in 
Spain believed ; or whether it was kept in some Divine 
treasury long ago established, which Jerome thinks a 
foolish notion ; or whether it is created for each separate 
body and incorporated within it ; or whether it is trans- 
mitted from parents like the body, as Tertullian, Apol- 
linaris, and the greater part of the Western Church 
believed. 

After enumerating all these perplexing varieties of 
opinion (which might have been far more simply stated, 
for the real problem of the period was whether the soul 
was created or transmitted), Jerome refers his readers 
to his criticisms against Rufinus, and says that he has 
given his own opinion there. But as a matter of fact 

1 Works, III. 493. Vallarsi. Verona, 1755. 

2 Letter 165 among Augustine's ; Letter 126 among Jerome's. 






LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 243 

this is exactly what he has not done. He then advises 
his correspondent to apply to Augustine, " who will give 
you his opinion, or rather mine, in his own words." This 
again was exactly what Augustine would not do : partly 
because his mind was in suspense, and partly because 
he leaned towards Traducianism, since he saw that the 
Creationist theory was hard to reconcile with the doctrine 
of Original Sin. 

Here Jerome left the subject of his letter and went 
on to speak of his troubles and his studies. He had 
been engaged in writing a Commentary on Ezekiel. 
Then came the awful news of the Fall of Rome. Jerome 
was so overwhelmed by the calamity that, according to 
the proverb, he hardly knew his own name. He sat 
long in silence and in tears. Then he roused himself 
to write part of his Commentary. Then came an out- 
break of violence in Palestine and at Bethlehem itself. 
Jerome himself was in danger, but by the mercy of 
Christ he was enabled to escape. If laws are suspended 
in war-time, how much more is the study of Scripture, 
which requires a multitude of books, and silence, and 
uninterrupted calm, and the labours of secretaries? 
However, Jerome has sent a copy of his work to 
Fabiola, from whom Marcellinus can get it if he 
wishes. 

Jerome adds further details in his Commentary on 
Ezekiel. There he relates how the Fall of Rome was 
followed by the appearance of refugees, men and women 
of the highest rank from Rome, reduced to beggary, 
hoping at least to find security from the terrors of 
barbarian invasion in the sacred places of Palestine. 
Jerome was forced by sheer compassion to lay aside his 
studies and weep with those that wept. He must, he 
says, turn Scripture words into deeds, and instead of 
saying holy things attempt to do them. 1 

Augustine was informed by Marcellinus that he had 

1 Preface to Book III. on Ezekiel. Works, Tom. V. 80. 



244 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

received Jerome's reply. And this led Augustine himself 
to write his letter on the subject to Jerome. 

The bearer of Augustine's letter was the historian 
Paul Orosius. 

Paul Orosius, a young priest belonging to the Church 
in Spain, had been sent to Africa to consult Augustine 
on the heresies of the Priscillianists, 1 which at that time 
distressed the Spanish Communion. Augustine was 
impressed by the young priest's earnestness and zeal, 
and sent him on to Jerome at Bethlehem with a 
letter. 

" Behold a religious young man has come to me, 2 by 
name Orosius, who is in the bond of Catholic peace a 
brother, in point of age a son, and in honour a fellow 
presbyter : a man of quick understanding, ready speech 
and burning zeal, desiring to be in the Lord's House a 
vessel rendering useful service in refuting those false 
and pernicious doctrines, through which the souls of 
men in Spain have suffered much more grievous wounds 
than have been afflicted on their bodies by the sword 
of barbarism. For from the remote western coast of 
Spain he has come with eager haste to us, having been 
prompted to do this by the report that from us he could 
learn whatever he wished on the subjects on which he 
desired information. Nor has his coming been altogether 
in vain. In the first place, he has learned not to believe 
all that report affirmed of me ; in the next place, I have 
taught him all I could, and as for the things in which 
I could not teach him, I have told him from whom he 
may learn them, and have exhorted him to go on 
to you." 3 

With this letter of introduction Orosius visited S. 
Jerome at Bethlehem. 

The doctrines concerning the soul 4 which Augustine 
regarded as incontestable were as follows : 

1 cf. S. Leo, Letter 15. 

2 cf. S. Augustine, Letter 166, A.D. 415. 

3 S. Augustine, Letter 166. 4 Letter 166, 3. 



LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 245 

1. The soul is immortal. 

2. The soul is not a part of God. 

3. The soul is immaterial. 

4. The soul is sinful and fallen. 

5. The soul cannot deliver itself. 

6. The soul's salvation depends on our Redeemer. 

7. The soul's redemption can only be secured by 

Baptismal Regeneration. 

These doctrines being regarded as fundamental l and 
beyond dispute, the problem is : Whence has the soul 
contracted guilt of original sin, guilt from which it can 
only be delivered by the sacrament of Christian Grace ? 

Augustine tells Jerome that in his treatise on Free 
will (which appeared in A.D. 395 and had been widely 
circulated), four different opinions were mentioned con- 
cerning the Origin of the Soul 

1. That all other souls are derived from the soul of 

Adam. 

2. That at each birth a new soul is created. 

3. That pre-existing souls are sent into each new 

human body. 

4. That pre-existing souls enter new bodies of their 

own accord. 

Augustine enumerates these four opinions. But in 
reality he reduces them to two : Either the soul is 
transmitted, and exists prior to the body ; or else the 
soul is created simultaneously with the body. The 
two alternative theories are called Traducianism and 
Creationism. 

To appreciate the letter before us and Augustine's 
interest in the problem, it must be remembered that he 
was now in the thick of the Pelagian controversy. The 
problem of Original Sin confronted him. The doctrine 
of Original Sin was obviously greatly affected by the 
question of the Origin of the Soul. If the soul of each 
new child was transmitted from the soul of the primitive 

1 Letter 166, 6. 



246 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

man the share of the race in the losses of Adam was 
intelligible. But if the soul of each new child was newly 
created, then the body alone was inherited but not the 
spiritual nature. How then could a newly created soul 
become contaminated by moral evil with which it was 
in no way whatever connected? Therefore Augustine's 
decided preference was for the theory of Traducianism. 
But he finds that Jerome has in his writings advocated 
Creationist ideas. He discusses the Creationist theory, 
and explains what he conceives to be its strong points 
and also its difficulties. 

Jerome maintained, then, that a new soul is created at 
each human birth. 

If it was objected to this, that at the Creation God 
finished His work and rested, Jerome would refer to 
Christ's words, " My Father worketh hitherto." That 
was what Jerome told Marcellinus (cf. Letter 165). 
Marcellinus had found Augustine unwilling to be dog- 
matic on the subject, and therefore wrote to Jerome 
for something more decided. Jerome, however, referred 
him back to Augustine. Augustine now tells Jerome 
frankly that he is in a state of indecision on this 
problem. 

" You have sent to me scholars, to whom you wish 
me to impart what I have not yet learned myself. 
Teach me, therefore, what I am to teach them ; for 
many urge me vehemently to be a teacher on this 
subject, and to them I confess that of this, as well as 
of many other things, I am ignorant." 

Supposing, then, Creationism to be the true theory, 
can Jerome explain why infants require remission of sin 
in the Sacrament of Christ? Or, if there is no sin in 
them, why are infants who die unbaptised excluded 
from salvation ? That was Augustine's difficulty, created 
by the traditional belief: which was not only the positive 
affirmation that the baptised are saved, but the negative 
affirmation that the unbaptised are lost. How can this 
exclusion from salvation of the infant dying unbaptised 



LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 247 

be harmonised with the justice of God ? That was the 
problem as it struck Augustine and his contemporaries. 
Augustine held (i) that the fate of an infant dying un- 
baptised is perdition, (2) but also that God cannot punish 
the innocent. Consequently he was bound to ask what 
is the proof that Creationism is true. 

Augustine agrees with Jerome 1 that the Creationist 
theory of the soul's origin is by no means refuted from 
the text that God finished His work at the Creation. 
The Creation was the bringing into existence that 
which had none. But the text, " My Father worketh 
hitherto," means that God continues to fashion pre- 
existing material. Thus Genesis and S. John's Gospel 
do not contradict but agree. 2 It is undeniable that God 
continues to make at the present time many things 
which did not exist before. 

Another objection against Creationism 3 was that in 
the case of an illegitimate birth this theory makes God 
create a soul in response to human sin. Jerome's answer 
was that nature need not refuse to mature the wheat 
because the grain was stolen. Augustine commended 
this answer. He felt that the method of Providence was 
constantly out of ill to bring forth good. 

But there are difficulties in the Creationist theory 
which Augustine owns he is unable to solve. 

He was profoundly moved by the sufferings of infants 
in the present life. 4 But he sees that this may turn to 
good account in the parents, whose power of compassion 
may be developed in this way ( 18), and who may be 
chastened through this means \gf*A 13). Faith may 
also leave the problem unsolved in the hands of Provi- 
dence (ib.}. Moreover, who can tell what recompense 
God may reserve in the after life for these afflictions? 
( i8). 5 Augustine quotes from his discussion of this 
subject in his treatise on Free Will. 

1 Letter 166, n. 2 Letter 166, 12. 

3 Letter 166, 15. 4 Letter 166, 16. 

5 Letter 166, 18. 



248 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

All this, however, can only apply to infants who will 
hereafter be saved. 1 It is no answer to the problem of 
those who die unbaptised and will be lost. 2 Now no 
man can be redeemed except in Christ. To say that 
children who depart this life without the Sacrament of 
Baptism shall nevertheless be made alive in Christ, is, in 
Augustine's view, to contradict the Apostolic teaching, 
and to condemn the practice of the Universal Church. 
It was certain that no one could be saved unless made 
alive in Christ. And Augustine saw no possibility of 
their being made alive except through the Sacrament 
of Baptism. He seems to have held not only that the 
Church is tied to observance of Christ's Ordinance and 
cannot confer life except through the Sacrament, but 
also that Christ Himself is so bound to the Sacrament 
as to be unable to confer the gift except through the 
outward means. Grant His premises and his logic is 
irreproachable. And those premises are no doubt what 
Jerome would have granted. 

Thus the difficulties of Creationism remain unsolved. 

This letter to Jerome was followed by another, 3 in 
which Augustine asked to be told what was the mean- 
ing of the passage in S. James ii. 10 : " Whosoever shall 
keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is 
guilty of all." The letter is a lengthy disquisition on 
the idea that virtues must co-exist, and that all sins are 
not of equal gravity. 

These two treatises of Augustine, the one on the 
Origin of the Soul, the other on the Teaching of S. James 
(Letters 166 and 167), arrived safely at Bethlehem. 

Jerome replied in a highly laudatory but curiously 
cautious and reserved epistle, 4 in which he announces 
that Orosius has arrived and has been received in 
accordance with Augustine's request. But they have 
fallen on hard times, wherein silence is better than 
speech. Study is at an end. They are leading a dog's 

1 Letter 166, 20. 2 Letter 166, 21. 

8 Letter 167. 4 Letter 172, A.D. 416. 






LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 249 

life at Bethlehem. It seems as if Jerome, who had 
plenty to say about recent Pelagian movements in^ 
Palestine and the character of Bishop John of Jeru- 
salem, thought it more prudent not to commit himself 
to writing. He preferred to send the news by mes- 
senger when Orosius returned. Jerome has received 
the two treatises which Augustine sent him. They are 
very learned and brilliantly eloquent. But Jerome is 
not able to reply. " Not," says the old student, " that 
he finds anything meriting rebuke in them, but that 
every man has his own opinion." Augustine has pro- 
duced all the available Scripture evidence on the sub- 
ject which he discusses. But Jerome would rather be 
permitted to praise the Bishop's ability. Moreover it 
would never do to let envious people and, above all, 
heretical people, see difference of opinion between 
Augustine and Jerome. Jerome is resolved to be de- 
votedly attached to Augustine, to venerate him, and to 
defend Augustine's utterances as if they were his own. 
Jerome informs Augustine that he has given the Bishop 
an honourable mention in a treatise lately published 
against the Pelagians (Book III. 19). It is urgently 
necessary that Augustine and Jerome should combine 
to drive out this most deadly heresy from the Church. 
Pelagianism is always pretending penitence in order to 
retain the right to teach within the Church. It is afraid 
to be brought out into the light, for fear it should be 
expelled or perish. 

Jerome closes with various salutations, and adds a 
postscript to the effect that he cannot send Augustine 
his critical Latin text of the Old Testament, because 
transcribers familiar with Latin are scarce in Palestine. 

The problem of the Origin of the Soul is discussed 
by Augustine in a letter 1 written to Bishop Optatus 
from Caesarea, in Mauritania, whither he had been sent 
by Pope Zosimus on some business connected with the 
Roman See. 

1 Letter 190, A.D. 418. 



250 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Starting with facts beyond dispute, Augustine says 
that the soul is not body, but spirit; not part of God, 
but created. 

Then he raises the grave problem : Why God created 
souls whose destiny, as He foreknew, would be perdition. 
Augustine here gives expression to his Predestinarian 
theories. If God had only created souls who would be 
redeemed no concrete illustration would have existed 
of the state from which redemption delivered men. 
There would only be illustrated what the redeemed 
enjoyed but not what they escaped. The full benefit of 
Redemption would be concealed from lack of examples. 

Augustine went further than this. He thought that 
the number 1 of the lost would immeasurably exceed 
that of the redeemed. And this belief does not appear 
to have disturbed him. Their destiny was just, and 
God was not concerned about their numbers. 

There was only one way out of damnation, this was 
the Sacrament of the Mediator. 2 

But here the problem of the Origin of the Soul comes 
in. 3 For, as Pelagius argued, if each soul is a separate 
creation, and the body only is derived from Adam, how 
could the soul be condemned by the mere entrance into 
the body? But if the soul is transmitted to the child 
from its parents, how can it be responsible for another 
person's sin ? And how can God, Who forgives our 
actual transgressions, impute to us a sin which we 
personally never committed ? 

Here Augustine speaks with characteristic humility 
and caution. No man must be ashamed to confess his 
ignorance, lest by professing to know what he does not 
know he dooms himself to perpetual ignorance. 4 In 
questions whose inherent obscurity surpasses our powers, 
and where Scripture does not come to our aid, it is only 
rashness for human presumption to define. 

1 Letter 190, n. 2 Letter 190, 13. 

* Letter 190, 14 and 15. 4 Letter 190, 16. 



LETTERS TO ST. JEROME 251 

Nothing certain can be ascertained from Scripture 
concerning the origin of individual souls. 1 Augustine 
refers to his previous correspondence with Jerome, who 
held the Creationist view ; while Traducianism was the 
opinion of the Western Church. 2 

Augustine desires his writing on the subject to be 
taken as the work of an inquirer, not of a teacher. He 
declines to dogmatise. But he is obviously more dis- 
posed to believe that each soul is transmitted rather 
than a fresh creation, since the Traducianist theory 
agrees with the doctrine of Original Sin, and with the 
Pauline doctrine that by man came death, and that in 
Adam all die. 

Meanwhile he falls back on the declaration of Pope 
Zosimus where the Traducian theory is maintained, and 
the doctrine reaffirmed that there is no deliverance 
except through the Mediator, and that deliverance is 
only conferred upon the baptised. 3 

After all, it is better that the problem of the Origin 
of Souls should remain obscure than that God should 
be supposed the author of sin, or that the baptism of 
infants should be regarded as meaningless. 4 

Towards the close of A.D. 419, Jerome wrote to Augus- 
tine 5 another letter, which he sent by the presbyter 
Innocent who was to have carried letters to Africa 
from Palestine the year before, but failed. Jerome 
writes this time in an amiable mood. He is always 
glad, he says, of a reason for writing to Augustine. 
If it were possible he would take the wings of a dove 
and fly to Africa. Alypius and Augustine are to 
accept his congratulations because by their efforts the 
Celestian heresy has been throttled. It has been a 
widespread and deadly poison. Jerorrfe announces the 
death of the lady Eustochia. He speaks with profound 

1 Letter 190, 17. 

2 Letter 190, 20. (See Letters 143, 165, 166.) 

* Letter 190, 23. 4 Letter 190, 24. 

5 Letter 202, A.D. 419. 



252 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

disgust of the miserable Synod of Diospolis (i.e. the 
Palestinian Council, in which the Bishops were misled by 
the plausible profession of the Pelagians). Jerome sends 
greetings from Albina, Pinian and Melania (whose visit 
to Africa in 41 1 had led to the sensational scene in the 
Church at Hippo: see Letter 124). Paula also greets 
him. 

In the year 420 Augustine wrote to Optatus, Bishop 
of Milevis, 1 telling him that the letters sent to Jerome 
cannot be published at present, since there is still hope 
that Jerome may send an explanation of the problems 
concerning the Origin of the Soul. Five years, indeed, 
have elapsed since Augustine wrote to Bethlehem, but 
he has not abandoned hope that an answer may yet 
arrive. He tells Optatus the contents of Jerome's brief 
reply, and points out that there is no refusal to consider 
the subjects set before him. Consequently Augustine 
must wait. He cannot publish his letter yet. To do 
that would give reasonable ground for complaint. 
Jerome might think him actuated by motives of self- 
display, rather than by serious desire to ascertain the 
truth. 

Augustine infers from Jerome's letter that his friend 
does not decline his inquiries ; that he is well-disposed 
towards him ; and was anxious to avoid the appearance 
of public controversy between them. He hopes the 
result will be that his successors will see how brothers 
in affection may dispute on a difficult question and yet 
preserve each other's esteem. Augustine writes with dis- 
cretion. The rugged old student of Bethlehem required 
to be carefully dealt with. 

Meanwhile Augustine has much to say to Optatus. 
For Optatus has been criticising adversely those who 
maintain the Traducianist theory of the soul's origin. 
Augustine frankly owns : " I must admit I have so far 

1 Letter 202 B., p. 1146. (This letter is among Jerome's, 
No. 144 Works, I. 1062.) 



LETTERS TO ST, JEROME 253 

failed to discover how the soul can derive its sin from 
Adam (a truth which it is unlawful to question) and yet 
not itself be derived from Adam. At present I think 
it better to sift the matter further than to dogmatise 
rashly." 

Therefore he would be glad to know what scriptural 
basis Optatus can find for rejecting the Traducian theory. 
If Traducianism is rejected, it becomes necessary to 
explain how a soul is provided for the body. Is it a 
separate creation ? For doubtless Optatus does not 
credit the theory of transmigration, which Origen and 
Priscillian taught, that souls have pre-existed in a former 
world and are placed in the body in accordance with 
their deserving. That theory is refuted by the scripture 
which says that Jacob and Esau before their birth had 
done neither good nor evil. 

If Optatus has scripture testimonies to produce 
against Traducianism would he let Augustine have them ? 
Traducianism does not imply, as Optatus seems to think, 
that God is not the Creator of the soul, any more than 
it does in the case of the body. Optatus admits that 
Traducianism has been held by some of his predecessors. 
Augustine would be glad to know upon what grounds 
they founded their belief. 

Meanwhile of course hesitation and uncertainty are 
justified. It is curious to contrast Augustine here with 
Jerome's reckless and reasonless contempt of Rufinus 
for hesitating between the opposing views. 

Augustine says : <: Now when we have reason to be 
doubtful about a point, we need not doubt that we are 
right in doubting. There is no doubt that we ought 
to doubt things that are doubtful " ( 8). Augustine 
illustrates S. Paul's doubtfulness whether it was in the 
body or out of the body that he was carried up into the 
third heaven. " Why may not I then, so long as I have 
no light, doubt whether my soul came to me by genera- 
tion or unengendered ? Christ said of certain matters, 
' It is not for you to know.' What if Christ, Who 



254 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

knows what is expedient for us, knows this knowledge 
not to be expedient ? " 

Hence, as at present advised, Augustine is unable to 
decide. Meanwhile he restates his own perplexity. It 
is this : " Can a soul derive original sin from a source 
from which it is not itself derived?" ( 10). There is 
Augustine's real interest in the problem of the soul's 
origin : its bearing on the Pelagian Controversy. 

This letter to Optatus was written in 420. This year 
is said to have been the year of Jerome's death. 

Jerome's death removed any need for delay in publish- 
ing Augustine's own letters. The Bishop now freely 
circulated them. 1 

1 See Retract. 11-45. 



CHAPTER VIII 

LETTERS TO WOMEN 

AUGUSTINE'S " Letters to Women " may well be 
grouped together, because they help to illustrate the 
position occupied by women in Church Life at the close 
of the fourth century and beginning of the fifth. 

They were written to Ecdicia, a married woman ; to 
Sapida, a religious ; to Maxima, to Seleuciana, to a 
studious girl, Florentina; to Italica, on the Vision of 
God ; to Melania, a refugee in Africa after the Fall of 
Rome ; to Proba, widow of the Consul ; to Juliana, 
widowed mother of the religious Demetrias ; to Paulina 
on the Vision of God ; to Felicitas, Prioress of a Con- 
vent ; to a religious Community of Women ; to Fabiola. 

There is an impressive letter written by Augustine x 
to Ecdicia, a married woman who had alienated her 
husband. She desired to live with him as a sister and 
not as a wife. To this proposal she had induced him to 
consent. She then insisted on dressing like a widow, or 
in a costume appropriate to one who has no husband at 
all. To this he objected. She went further still, and 
without consulting him gave away his possessions in 
alms to two monks. On discovering what she was 
doing he made some furious remarks on monks, aban- 
doned her, and went to live with another woman. 

She then applied to Augustine. If she expected 
approval of her conduct she was entirely mistaken. He 
tells her that she was wrong in the first instance because 

1 Letter 262. 
255 



256 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

I 

she lived with her husband as a sister and not as a wife, 
while he was reluctant that it should be so. No such 
manner of life is lawful for married persons unless by 
their own mutual consent. Augustine refers her to 
S. Paul's teaching on the duties of the married (in 
i Cor. viii. 1-17), which he insinuates she has either not 
heard or not realised. He maintains that if by mutual 
consent a vow of self-restraint has been taken, it ought, 
being a mutual self-dedication to God, to be kept per- 
severingly. But he only gives this advice on the under- 
standing that consent has been given. Otherwise the 
married woman is absolutely prohibited from registering 
any such determination. 

Augustine then proceeds to deal with the duty of 
humility and obedience in domestic life. She was 
entirely wrong to ofTend her husband in matters of 
dress. She was quite wrong again in giving away his 
possessions in alms to the monks without his know- 
ledge or consent. She has deprived her husband of 
sharing in charitable deeds to which if she had acted 
otherwise she might have gently led him. Augustine 
asks her whether any person's temporal advantage is 
more precious to her than her husband's eternal advan- 
tage. If she had been more considerate, would she not 
rather have postponed her gifts to the poor lest she 
scandalised her husband and caused him to recoil from 
religion ? Let her only think what she would have 
gained if she had gained her husband. Which is the 
greater : to break one's bread to the hungry or to deliver 
a soul from the devil ? 

Augustine contends that a married woman has no 
right to say " I will do what I will with my own." That 
was contrary to S. Peter's teaching (i Pet. iii. 5-6). 

Moreover there was the child to be considered. A 
mother has no ri^ht to give away in charity what would 
become the property of her son. Augustine reminds 
her of the apostolic words : " If any provideth not for 
his own, and especially his own household, he hath 



LETTERS TO WOMEN 257 

denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever " 
(I Tim. v. 8). 

Augustine tries to enable her to realise that it was not 
unnatural that her husband should object to her dressing 
like a widow while he was alive. 

The Bishop concludes by exhorting her very earnestly 
to be humble-minded, to care lest her husband perish, 
to prny for her husband, to write to him and ask his 
forgiveness because she has sinned against him, and to 
promise in future that if he will keep his vow of self- 
restraint, she will serve him in all things. Meantime 
there is no need to tell her that her son is rather in his 
father's control than in hers. 

Sapida was a woman dedicated to the religious life. 1 
When her brother died she sent a tunic which had 
belonged to him as a present to Augustine. 

Augustine accepted it, and writes to say that he is 
wearing it, in deference to Sapida's request ; since she 
says it would be a comfort to her, and he does not wish 
to hurt her feelings. But Augustine never liked people 
to make him presents which would in any way distinguish 
him from other people. 

In one of his sermons 2 he explained his reasons for 
this. Costly robes were sometimes sent him as suitable 
to his episcopal position. " But it is not becoming for 
Augustine," he said, "who is poor, and who is the son 
of poor parents. Would you have men say that in the 
Church I found means to obtain richer clothing than I 
could in my father's house, or in the pursuit of secular 
employment ? That would be a shame to me." 

He went on to tell the congregation that if such gifts 
were sent they would be sold for the benefit of the 
Community. " I assure you that a costly dress makes 
me blush, because it is not in harmony with my 
profession, or with such exhortations as I now give you, 

1 Letter 263. * Sermon 356. 



2 5 S THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

and ill becomes one whose frame is bent, and whose 
locks are whitened, as you see, by age." 

A lady named Maxima wrote to Augustine 1 com- 
plaining that erroneous doctrine was being taught in 
her neighbourhood. The letter does not say where she 
lived. She was apparently presiding over others in a 
religious Community. The erroneous doctrine was 
clearly concerning the Incarnation. Augustine assures 
her that what she holds is true : namely, that the Son of 
God took human nature complete, that is, both a rational 
soul and mortal flesh, without sin. If she possesses any 
writings which contradict this faith Augustine asks her 
to send them to him. False doctrines are frequently 
based on misunderstandings of Scripture. And it is 
most important that the erroneous character of such 
interpretations should be demonstrated. If Maxima 
wishes to possess any of Augustine own writings let her 
send a messenger for copies of them. 

A lady named Seleuciana had encountered a sup- 
porter 2 of the austere Novatianist theory that while the 
repentance of the unbaptised could be accepted by 
the Church, no such concession could be made in the 
case of deadly sins committed after Baptism. This 
follower of Novatian held that S. Peter's penance for his 
denial of Christ was the act of an unbaptised person. 

Augustine replies that it is true that when Peter 
denied our Lord the Apostle had not yet been baptised 
with the Holy Spirit. For our Lord Himself said to 
them after His Resurrection, " Ye shall be baptised with 
the Holy Ghost not many days hence." 

But if we say that the Apostles had not yet been 
baptised with water, we may be encouraging men to dis- 
parage Baptism, which the apostolic practice shows to be 
a deplorable error, since S. Peter expressly ordered Cor- 
nelius, who had received the Holy Spirit, to be baptised. 

1 Letter 264. 2 Letter 265. 



LETTERS TO WOMEN 259 

Augustine accordingly maintains that the case of 
Baptism was similar to that of Circumcision. Both 
became essential only after they were divinely ordained. 
But after that Christ had taught that except a man 
be born of water and of the Holy Spirit he cannot enter 
into the Kingdom of God, it is not necessary to ascertain 
the precise date of an individual's baptism. The very 
fact that persons are within the Body of Christ, that is, 
the Church, and belonging to the Kingdom of Heaven, 
and their very position shows that they are baptised. 
The only exception to this is the case where persons 
overtaken by martyrdom had no opportunity to be 
baptised. In which case their passion is to be considered 
equivalent. But that exception is inapplicable to the 
Apostles. Those who had plenty of time to baptise 
others had time themselves to be baptised. But not 
everything that was transacted is recorded. The 
baptism of S. Paul is recorded. That of the other 
Apostles is not. But that they were baptised ought not 
to be doubted, because it is required by Christ's 
command. 

The disciples were already baptised with the Baptism 
of S. John Baptist. So many think. Or was it not 
the Baptism of Christ which they received ? Augustine 
thinks this more credible. He thinks that Christ Him- 
self baptised the Apostles. He who washed their feet 
would not shrink from this ministration, in order that 
His servants, through whom He baptised others, should 
themselves be baptised. This seems implied in Christ's 
words to S. Peter : " He that is washed needeth not save 
to wash his feet, but is clean every whit" (John xiii. 10). 
To Augustine's mind that shows that S. Peter was 
already baptised. 

When this adherent of Novatian maintains, as 
Seleuciana reports, that the Apostles taught penitence 
not Baptism, he is not ineligible. Penitence is a 
condition of Baptism. But it is necessary for sin after 
Baptism as well as before it. 



260 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

If he means that the Apostles substituted repentance 
for Baptism, and that the repentant were not baptised, 
Augustine is not aware that any Novatianists say so. 
Seleuciana should inquire carefully whether this is being 
maintained. Perhaps the disputer is not a Novatianist 
at all, or only thinks he is. In any case what is certain 
is. that the theory is foreign to the rule of Catholic faith, 
and to the teachings of Christ and His Apostles. 

There is extant a letter from Augustine 1 to a stu- 
dious girl offering to help her in her studies. He had 
corresponded with Florentina's mother and desired to 
encourage the daughter in religious learning. He 
hears that Florentina did not like to write unless the 
Bishop wrote and gave permission. Augustine assures 
her that he will do his best to answer any questions she 
may send him. If the Bishop knows the answer he will 
send it. If he does not know, and the ignorance is not 
detrimental to faith and safety, he will if he can set her 
mind at rest. If it is a matter which he does not know, 
and yet which ought to be known, he will pray for 
enlightenment, that he may not fail her ; and will reply 
in such terms that she may know in matters where 
both are ignorant to whom they both must look for 
understanding. 

A very curious light is thrown on African Church life 2 
in the letters written to Pinian and Melania. Melania was 
heiress of one of the wealthiest houses in Rome, and had 
lived with her husband, Pinian, in one of its finest palaces, 
until the calamitous invasion of the Goths under Alaric 
in 410. Like many others of the Roman aristocracy she 
took refuge in Africa, where also she had large estates. 
Here she sold much of her property and gave away 
lavishly to the Churches and Monasteries and the poor, 
especially in Thagaste, where she lived in religious 
austerity, and where Alypius, Augustine's friend, was 

1 Letter 266. 2 Letter 124, A.D. 411. 



LETTERS TO WOMEN 261 

Bishop. Augustine wrote to Melania and Pinian wel- 
coming them into Africa and excusing himself from 
paying them a visit : advancing years prevented him 
from facing the rigorous winter which his weak and 
sensitive constitution was at no time able to bear. 
Even if that had not been the case his restless and 
turbulent people would not permit his absence. The 
result of this letter was, that Pinian and Melania, together 
with Bishop Alypius, paid a visit to Augustineat Hippo. 
Hereupon followed an extraordinary scene. The 
CathoKcs of Hippo were assembled in Church when 
these distinguished visitors, whose reputation had 
preceded them, entered the building. As soon as they 
were recognised the people shouted to Augustine, calling 
on him to ordain Pinian to the priesthood. It seems 
that Augustine had anticipated the possible rise of some 
such disturbance, for he immediately informed the 
people, as soon as he could make himself heard, that he 
had promised Pinian not to ordain him against his will ; 
adding that if his promise were broken the people might 
have Pinian as their presbyter, but they would no 
longer have Augustine as their bishop. That warning 
subdued the people for a moment. But they soon broke 
out more fiercely than before. Pinian was terrified. 
Augustine feared for -the safety of his visitors. The 
wildness of the African nature was roused. Every 
moment Augustine expected this fanatical outburst 
might end in murder. Augustine stood in helpless 
indecision. He dared not leave the Church for fear of 
danger to his guests. But he was perfectly powerless 
to protect them. Meanwhile the people turned furiously 
on Bishop Alypius, and accused him of frustrating their 
demand through sordid motives, and only because he 
wanted to retain a rich man in his congregation at 
Thagaste. In the midst of this outrageous confusion 
Pinian sent a messenger to Augustine, to say that if he 
was ordained against his will he swore that he would 
depart from Africa. But Augustine had not the 



262 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

courage to tell the people this. He sent no answer, 
and in his perplexity consulted Alypius, who washed his 
hands of the whole affair and replied " Don't ask me." 
Thereupon Augustine obtained silence and informed 
the people. They immediately demanded that Pinian 
should promise that he would reside at Hippo, and that 
if he were ordained at all it should be for that Church. 
To this demand Pinian yielded. With Augustine's con- 
sent he vowed that he would keep this engagement. 
Peace was then restored and the congregation dispersed. 

But peace was not secured beyond the precincts. 
Pinian and Melania and their relatives made serious 
accusations of sordid motives against Augustine's people 
if not against Augustine himself. 

But the most singular part of the incident is Augus- 
tine's defence. 1 He insisted with the utmost solemnity 
that the promise must be kept. He admitted that it 
was made under the influence of fear; none the less 
he appealed to the example of the Pagan Regulus, who 
swore to the Carthaginian that he would rebel, and 
kept his oath, although its fulfilment meant torture 
and death. Augustine quoted the Psalm "he that 
sweareth unto his neighbour and disappointeth him 
not." Augustine urged that unless he and Alypius 
required the fulfilment of this promise they must not 
expect any man to credit their promises any more. 
He insisted that an awful Divine retribution would 
follow on perjury, and prayed that from such tempta- 
tions Providence would deliver them. He allowed no 
weight to the terrorising influence of a fanatical African 
people, although he confessed that at the time he fully 
expected that some one would be murdered before the 
day was done. He repudiated indignantly the sordid 
construction which had been placed upon the conduct 
of his people. 

One of the wealthiest and most distinguished families 
1 Letter 125. 



LETTERS TO WOMEN- 263 

in Rome about the year 400 was the family of Proba. 
She was widow of a Consul. Three of her sons attained 
to consular dignity. Jerome said that this was a 
dignity which hardly any one of her family missed. 1 
The family is commemorated in the poems of Pruden- 
tius. Her husband was baptised when near his death 
and buried near the apse of S. Peter at the Vatican. 2 
Proba was the mother of Juliana, whose daughter 
Demetrias set the example, to the astonishment of 
Rome, of taking the veil early in the fifth century. 
Proba was in correspondence with most of the great 
Churchmen of the time, including Jerome, Chrysostom 
and Augustine. Chrysostom wrote commending to her 
care a priest and deacon who had travelled to Rome. 
This was in 4o6. 3 

But in 410 came the sack of Rome by Alaric. Proba 
and Juliana and Demetrias took flight to Africa. As 
they were setting sail they could see the smoke of the 
burning city. They reached Africa safely, but Heraclian, 
Count of Africa, an avaricious and unscrupulous person, 
extorted a great sum from them before allowing them 
to settle in security. 4 

Jerome has given a graphic description of Demetrias 
professing the religious life. How she dressed herself 
in coarse attire and went to her mother and grand- 
mother and confessed her wjsh to take the veil ; how 
both these religious women wept for gladness. Jerome 
here grows eloquent in the fervour of his approval. 
" Every Church in Africa danced for joy. The news 
reached not only the cities, towns and villages, but 
even the scattered huts. Every island between Africa 
and Italy was full of it ; the glad tidings ran far and 
wide, disliked by none. Then Italy put off her mourn- 
ing, and the ruined walls of Rome resumed in part 

1 Jerome, Letter, 130. 

2 Baronius, A.D. 395, 6. Vol. vi. 163. 

3 Chrysostom, Letter 168. Works, Ed. Gaume, III. 840. 

4 Jerome, Letter 130. 



264 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

their olden splendour; for they believed the full con- 
version of their foster-child to be a sign of God's favour 
towards them." 

Proba being now settled in Africa sought Augustine's 
advice on the subject of prayer. 

Augustine accordingly sent her a letter of spiritual 
direction. 1 

The Letter is divided into two parts : first, concerning 
the person who prays ; secondly, concerning the objects 
for which prayer should be made. 

As concerning the person, 2 Augustine dwells on 
the obstacles to religious life, caused by wealth, of 
which Proba was so conspicuous a possessor. 3 Then 
on the fact that all human life is desolate, whatever 
be its earthly condition, until it finds its real life in 
Christ. Proba must learn to regard all earthly posses- 
sions with indifference, 4 seeking nothing from them but 
bodily health. And this is to be sought because it 
qualifies us to discharge life's work. 

As concerning the object for which prayer should be 
made, 5 Augustine sums this up in the advice to pray 
for a happy life. And if asked what constitutes happi- 
ness, he replies that it does not consist in gratifying 
our own will and desires. (This is one of the subjects 
which Augustine discussed in the villa outside Milan 
in the early days after his Conversion, De beata Vita) 
Here he supports his teaching with a quotation from 
Cicero. 

True happiness consists in possession of all we desire, 6 
provided that we desire nothing but what we ought. 
Desire for the health of those we love is right, but it 
does not constitute happiness. 

May we also desire distinction and power for them ? 7 
Yes, if we desire it in order that they may minister 

1 Letter 130. 2 Letter 130, 2. 

3 Letter 130, 4. * Letter 130, 7. 

5 Letter 130, 9. 6 Letter 130, 11. 
7 Letter 1 30, 1 2. 



LETTERS TO WOMEN 265 

to others. But if we desire it out of pride and arro- 
gance it is disastrous.. He appeals to Prov. xxx. 8-9 
for the superior safety of those whose lot is neither 
wealth nor poverty. 

But the secret of a happy life lies in no external 
possessions, 1 or temporal state. The secret of happiness 
is life in God. 

Prayer should be concentrated on the effort to acquire 
this life in God. 2 It must be persistent and persevering. 
Christ's illustration is of the importunate widow. 

This prayer must be offered in faith and hope and 
love. 3 It is offered not with the purpose of giving 
God information, 4 but for the development of our 
spiritual powers. 

Prayer must be continuous 5 as a spirit of aspiration, 
finding expression in words at stated seasons. 

The value of prayer does not in any way depend 
upon its length. 6 Yet it is neither wrong nor unprofit- 
able to spend much time in prayer, provided that this 
does not interfere with our performance of our duties 
and good works. 

Augustine relates that the brethren in Egypt were 
accustomed to brief frequent petitions, attention being 
awakened and fixed for the moment. 7 This was found 
to be a remedy against inattention and wandering 
thoughts. He gives advice which shows great know- 
ledge of human limitations. Prolonged prayer is 
desirable if the mind is capable of continuous attention. 
Prolonged prayer is rather a mental attitude than a use 
of words. It is very different from " much speaking." 
It is rather a state than an utterance. At the same time 
of course words are necessary. 

And here Augustine gives a summary 8 of the mean- 
ing of the Lord's Prayer. 

1 Letter 130, 14. 2 Letter 130, 15. 

3 Letter 130, 16. 4 Letter 130, 17. 

5 Letter 130, 18. 6 Letter 130, 19. 

7 Letter 130, 20. 8 Letter 130, 21. 



266 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

All truly Christian petition is included, Augustine 
maintains, 1 in the clauses of the Lord's Prayer. Any 
petition which cannot be harmonised with that Prayer 
is carnal even if it is not unlawful. Indeed, it must 
be unlawful, since those who are born again of the 
Spirit must offer spiritual petitions. We may of course 
use other words beside the Prayer but the substance 
must be the same. 

As to the persons in whose behalf prayer is made, 2 
these are ourselves, our friends, strangers and enemies. 

When S. Paul said we know not what to pray for 
as we ought 3 (Rom. viii. 26), he is not betraying ignor- 
ance of the Lord's Prayer, but acknowledging ignorance 
which may be spiritually expedient for us. Thus his 
own prayer for deliverance from the thorn in the flesh 
was not granted in the form in which it was offered. 
All Christian prayer must be conditioned by the 
proviso which Christ uttered in Gethsemane. There is 
so much that we do not know. 

Accordingly there is a certain docta ignorantia* But 
it is an ignorance instructed by the Spirit of God. 

The letter concludes with a request that Augustine 
may be aided by Proba's prayers. 5 

The letter to the lady Italica 6 ought to be placed in a 
collection of spiritual letters. It is concerned with the 
Vision of God, and with the correction of misconceptions 
about it. The Vision of God 7 is for the mind, not for 
the bodily eye. It is a case of mental apprehension, not 
of physical discernment. The objects of physical vision 
must occupy space. Put God does not comply with this 
condition. He dwells " in the light which no man can 
approach unto ; whom no man hath seen, nor can 
see" (i Tim. vi. 16). He is not accessible to bodily 

1 Letter 130, 22. 2 Letter 130, 23. 

3 Letter 130, 25. 4 Letter 130, 28. 

8 Letter 130, 31. 6 Letter 130, 62, A.D. 408. 

7 Letter 130, 3. 



LETTERS TO WOMEN 267 

sight, but He is accessible to mental vision. " We shall 
see Him as He is " (i John iii. 2). But then this 
vision depends on resemblance to Him. " We shall 
therefore see Him according to the measure in which we 
shall be like Him." This likewise is not bodily but 
spiritual. When the Apostle says we shall see God 
" face to face," the seeing is not physical. God has 
not a face like ours. 

Numerous misconceptions prevailed l in the popular 
fifth-century theories about the Vision of God. It was 
held, for example, that while in this life we see God with 
our minds, in the next we shall see Him with our bodily 
eyes ; and that not only the good but also the evil will 
see Him. 

To this Augustine answers that, according to the 
Beatitudes, it is the pure in heart who shall see God. 
The text, " Now we see through a glass darkly, but then 
face to face," is not a contrast between mental vision 
and physical, but between two degrees of mental vision. 
All Vision of God is mental. 

A curious dilemma was propounded in popular discus- 
sions. The question was put : Was Christ able to see 
the Father with His bodily eyes, or not? If not, then 
God is not omnipotent. If yes, then so shall we be able 
in the future life. 

Augustine replies by asking why this question should 
be confined to the sense of sight? Why net apply the 
same inquiry to the other senses of Christ? Why not 
inquire whether Christ heard God with His bodily ear ? 
Is God, then, to be a sound as well as a sight? The 
theorist recoiled from this application. Well, then, it is 
no detraction from the Divine omnipotence that God is 
essentially invisible to the bodily eye. 

This great subject, the Vision of God,* is further ex- 
pounded in a letter written for the edification of a lady 
named Paulina. It is a treatise in itself, and a subject 

1 Letter 130, 4. 2 Letter 147. 



268 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

which enables the writer to reveal the depth of his own 
spiritual experience, and the principles which govern all 
personal relation between God and man. It is, as he says, 
a subject which must be known by experience rather 
than by discussion. Those who have learned from our 
Lord Jesus Christ to be meek and lowly in heart make 
progress rather by thought and prayer than by reading 
and hearing. Not indeed that instruction has no further 
place ; but that when he who plants or waters has done 
his task, 1 he must leave the rest to Him Who gives the 
increase. Meantime the reader must not accept instruc- 
sion on Augustine's authority, but either because the 
instruction is verified by Scripture, 2 or verified by the 
reader's inward experience. 

All knowledge comes to us either through the 
avenues of the senses, or by the inferences of the 
mind. 3 We see by the eyes of the body, we see also by 
the eyes of the mind. The material world is the object 
of the former sight ; will, memory, understanding, in- 
telligence, are the objects of the latter. There is 
another sphere ascertainable neither by bodily nor by 
mental vision, namely, the sphere of things accessible 
only by faith. 

This sphere of faith is very large indeed. 4 Without 
it we could neither know the existence of cities we have 
never visited, nor of the historic incidents before our 
time. Nor could we know who were our parents and 
who are our relatives except for the exercise of faith. 
Faith is the method of ascertaining these as well as the 
Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ. The correla- 
tive of faith is the authority of the testifier ; and if con- 
fidence is at times misplaced, it is none the less an 
inevitable principle of human existence. 

The objects accessible to sight are things present ; 
the objects of faith are things absent. 5 

1 Letter 147, i. 2 Letter 147, 2. 

3 Letter 147, 4. 4 Letter 147, 5. 

5 Letter 147, 7. 



LETTERS TO WOMEN 269 

Thus our knowledge consists of things seen and things 
believed. 1 " On whom though now ye see him not, 
yet believing." 2 " Blessed are they who have not seen 
and yet have believed." Things may be seen either by 
the eyes of the body or by the eyes of the mind. But 
the objects of faith are those which are neither seen by 
the eyes of the body, nor by those of the mind. Hence, 
then, we understand what it is to see, and what it is to 
believe. 

Apply this to the Vision of God. We know that God 
can be seen, for it is written, " Blessed are the pure in 
heart, for they shall see God." 3 And " we shall see him 
as he is." 4 Yet " no man hath seen God at any time." 5 
" Whom no man hath seen nor can see." 6 Yet " their 
angels do always behold the face of my Father which is 
in heaven." 

What is the explanation of these ? Augustine thinks 
we had better refer to that great exponent of Scrip- 
ture, S. Ambrose. 7 It is the nature of God to be 
invisible, yet He manifests Himself to whom He wills. 
But the plenitude of His Divinity cannot be compre- 
hended. 8 

He can be revealed through Christ to the human 
mind. A manifestation of Him can be given, but His 
essential nature cannot be seen. When it is said that 
the pure in heart shall see God, the meaning is that 
inward preparation qualifies men to be recipients of 
Divine manifestations and enables them to realise God's 
Presence. Thus is it true that no man hath seen God 
at any time : 9 that is to say, as He is in His essential 
being'. On the other hand, " He that hath seen me 

1 Letter 147, 8. 2 i Pet. i. 8. 

3 Matt. v. 8. 4 i John iii. 2. 

5 John i. 18. 6 i Tim. vi. 16. 

7 Letter 147, 17. 8 Letter 147, 22. 
9 Letter 147, 29. 



270 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

hath seen the Father," because Christ is the Revelation 
of the Father. 

The whole subject is summed up in such terms as the 
following. 1 If you ask whether God can be seen, I 
answer yes. If you ask how I know this, I reply be- 
cause the Scripture says : " Blessed are the pure in heart, 
for they shall see God." If you ask how He can be 
called invisible if He can be seen, I answer He is in- 
visible by nature, but He can be seen when and as He 
wills. 

Augustine here is moved to give a warning on the 
danger of all theological discussions. While we debate 
how God can possibly be seen, we may lose the 
disposition, the sanctified spirit, 2 without which it is 
impossible to see Him. Yet the intellectual study of 
these problems concerning God is essential. For the 
localising and the materialising of God are most dan- 
gerous to true religion. It makes the greatest difference 
whether we hold concerning God what is contrary to 
fact and truth. And the effort to convert body into 
spirit is endurable, but not that of converting spirit into 
body. Now God is Spirit, not body. Our bodily eyes 
cannot see Him now, and never will. He must be 
seen, when He is seen, by the spirit, and not by the 
body. 

This raises the question of the change which will pass 
over the human body in the Resurrection. 3 However 
spiritualised the body will become it will not cease to 
be body. It will not be converted into spirit. 

Again he appeals to S. Ambrose's teaching. And 
not without a half apology, 4 assuring his correspondent 
that his regard for Ambrose is not simply due to the 
fact that the Bishop of Milan's teaching was the provi- 
dential means of his deliverance from error, nor simply 
because through Ambrose's ministry he received the 

1 Letter 147, 37. 2 Letter 147, 49. 

3 Letter 147, ^50 and 51. Cj. p. I93/ and 208. 

4 Letter 147, 52. 



LETTERS TO WOMEN 271 

saving Baptismal Grace ; but because of the intrinsic 
value of Ambrose's instructions. 

Proba and Juliana sent Augustine a gift to com- 
memorate Demetrias's taking the veil (yelationis apo- 
phoretuni}. He replied in a letter of congratulation, 1 
which, for its brevity and contents, is a remarkable 
contrast to Jerome's effusive and redundant epistle. 
None the less Augustine agreed with Jerome in his 
estimate of the religious life. He hopes that those who 
envied the social distinctions of the Anician House will 
emulate their sanctity. 

Bishop Alypius and Augustine together wrote a letter 
to Juliana, 2 Froba's widowed daughter-in-law, mother of 
the religious Demetrias. The Bishops were at Hippo 
when Juliana replied to Augustine's letter congratu- 
lating her on her daughter taking the veil. 

Juliana evidently felt a little nettled because Augus- 
tine warned her not to pay attention to perverters of 
the faith. She thanked him for his admonition, but 
hastened to assure him that persons of that description 
were kept at a distance from the house, and that neither 
she nor any of her relatives had been known to lapse 
into heresy : no, nor even into minor errors in faith. 

Augustine replies that he considers Juliana's house to 
be a Christian Church of no small importance ; but that 
there are errors against which it is necessary to be on 
guard. 

He has been reading a book which he understands 
is addressed to Juliana's daughter Demetrias, in which 
spiritual graces are ascribed exclusively to our personal 
efforts. This document was the work of Pelagius. No 
one, says this book, 3 can confer spiritual wealth upon 
you except you yourself. 

That maxim Augustine affirms to be absolutely 
irreconcilable with Apostolic Christianity. The power 

1 Letter 150. 2 Letter 188, A.D. 418. 

3 Letter 188, 4 



2 72 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

is from God and not from ourselves (2 Cor. iv. 7). All 
cannot receive this word but they to whom it is given 
(Matt. xix. u). "Every good gift and every perfect 
gift is from above" (Jas. i. 17.) "What hast thou 
that thou didst not receive?" (i Cor. iv. 7). God does 
not only help us to know what we ought to do, but also 
inspires us with love, so that we may carry into effect 
what we know we ought to do. Instruction in the ideal 
must be supplemented by power to love the ideal. And 
that power to love is a gift of God. 1 

Augustine is well aware that Juliana's house has been 
unimpeachably orthodox on the doctrine of the un- 
divided Trinity. But there are other errors most per- 
nicious. 2 And this must be his excuse for dwelling, 
perhaps at undue length, on the error before him. To 
deny the source of a gift which comes from God is to 
do God a wrong, that is to wrong the Holy Trinity. 

He, therefore, bids Juliana ascertain whether in the 
book 3 in question, the help of God is anywhere acknow- 
ledged ; except in the sense of the gift of human nature, 
or free will, or forgiveness, or revelation of doctrine. 4 
Yet the fact is, that we are not only aided by a revela- 
tion of truth, but also by an infusion of charity enabling 
us to perform what we knotv to be our duty. 

Thus Augustine can only consider this book to be 
dangerously misleading. 5 It encourages the religious 
to glory in herself instead of glorying in the Lord. 
Augustine adds that its author is Pelagius, although the 
book does not say so. This he gathers from a letter by 
Pelagius which has come his way. 

He, therefore, asks Juliana to look into the matter and 
to acquaint him with the- result of her inquiries. 

The Bishop's vigilance and anxiety were more than 
justified. 6 

1 Letter 188, 8. 2 Letter 188, 10. 

3 Letter 1 88, 12. 4 Letter 188, 13. 

5 Letter 188, 14. 

6 See Augustine, De Gratia Christi, 40. For the contents of 



LETTERS TO WOMEN 273 

Troubles had arisen in a Community of Women over 
which the Bishop's sister formerly presided. 1 Augustine 
wrote to Mother Felicitas and the Sisters a letter in 
which he dwelt on the necessity at times of reproof, and 
of the spirit in which reproof should be uttered and 
received. If a person takes offence at being reproved, 
and the reprover retaliates, it is plain that the reprover 
was not qualified to give reproof but rather himself 
requires to be reproved. That is the spirit in which 
those in authority must act. They must aim at concord 
rather than at getting the better of each other in dispute. 
As vinegar corrodes a vessel if it continues long, so 
anger corrodes the heart if it is cherished till the morrow. 

Augustine also wrote a long letter to the Sisters. 2 
He is peculiarly grieved that, just at the very time 
when Donatists are coming into Unity divisions should 
break forth in a Monastery within the Church. The 
Sisters want to displace their Superior. Augustine 
points out that the present Superior has been there for 
years ; she was assistant to his own sister, the former 
Superior, now dead. All the present Sisters had been 
received by her, passed their novitiate and taken the 
vows under her rule. She had successfully governed 
the House and increased its numbers. Augustine thinks 
that if the proposal to remove her had come from 
himself, the Convent would have great reason to deplore 
it. He exhorts them to submit to her authority. 

The Bishop proceeds to lay down rules and give 
advice to the Sisterhood. The House contained Sisters 
of widely different social position. 

He recommends that allowance should be made in 
the Convent for the wealthier sort, and that they should 
not be required to forego everything to which they had 
been accustomed in the world. The life must not be 



Pelagius's letter to Demetrias, see Letters on the Doctrine of Grace, 
p. 126. 
1 Letter 210, A.D. 423. 2 Letter 211, A.D. 423. 

s 



274 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

made unnecessarily hard for them. On the other hand 
the poorer sort must not expect to find in the Convent 
indulgence and comforts which they never possessed in 
the world : nor must they give themselves airs because 
they now associate on terms of equality with persons 
whom they dared not approach while living in the 
world. At the same time those who formerly held dis- 
tinguished positions in the world must avoid pride of 
social distinction. Pride can so easily vitiate the best 
of human deeds. 

The chapel is to be kept exclusively for its sacred 
purposes. Nothing must be permitted there which may 
disturb or distract those who enter it to pray. 

They ought to fast. But only so far as health 
allows. Those who are unable to fast should not take 
food except at mealtimes : unless, indeed, they are ill. 
Religious books are to be read to the Sisters at meals. 

Everything conspicuous in dress or demeanour is to 
be carefully avoided. 

They are to warn each other of their faults and to 
report to the Superior the defects of a Sister who refuses 
to listen to them. If the offender refuse correction, she 
must be expelled from the Sisterhood. 

Augustine regulates the care of the sick members, the 
charge of the store-room and the library. Manuscripts 
are to be applied for daily at a fixed hour, and not to 
be given out at any other time. 

They are to cultivate mutual forbearance and forgive- 
ness. They are to give obedience to their Superior as 
a mother. Also they are to obey the presbyter who 
has charge of them. 

To complete the number of Augustine's letters to 
women, we must add the short note to the famous 
Fabiola (Letter 267). There are also the letters written 
to S. Paulinus and his wife Therasia. 

All these letters imply (what we know from other 
sources, such as the Letters of S. Jerome) not only a 



LETTERS TO WOMEN 275 

high level of education, but also of theological knowledge 
among the women of the early fifth century. Whether 
Augustine is writing on Christian ethics to the self- 
willed lady Ecdicia, or on the Incarnation to Maxima, 
or on Novatianism to Seleuciana, or on Pelagianism to 
Juliana, he certainly does not break the bread of know- 
ledge into any smaller fragments than when he is 
writing to men. It is questionable whether the Church- 
women were not better informed on doctrine than a 
number of the Churchmen of a corresponding social level. 

When Augustine wrote to these Roman ladies, he 
nowhere gives such elementary instruction as he did to 
Count Boniface, who had to be informed what the 
difference was between a Donatist and an Arian 
(Letter 175).^ 

And certainly his spiritual letters, such as that to 
Italica on the Vision of God, or to Proba on Prayer, are 
as profound as any writings of the kind composed by 
Augustine for men. 

These letters also reveal the extent to which Com- 
munity life appealed to women of the highest social and 
intellectual rank of that period. 

Note also that the elaborate refutation of Pelagianism 
in the treatise on the Grace of Christ and on the 
doctrine of Original Sin, was written for the instruction 
of Albina, Pinian and Melania. 



CHAPTER IX 

LETTERS ON THE EUCHARIST 1 

AUGUSTINE^ sacramental teaching was largely given 
in discussions on the problems created by schism. 
The question what constituted validity of a Sacrament 
was forced upon the Church by the theories of the 
Donatists. Incidentally much had to be taught con- 
cerning the sacramental principle in general, and the 
nature of Baptism and Ordination in particular. The 
Sacraments, therefore, are discussed all through the 
letters on the African Church divisions. But there was 
also much sacramental teaching which clearly would 
have been given in any case if no divisions had existed. 
Above all, Augustine has much to say in his letters 
concerning the Eucharist. It seems desirable to collect 
together the principal features of his instructions on the 
Sacrament of the Altar. 

Some insight into the devotional practices of 
Augustine's times is to be obtained from the letter 
to a priest named Casulan. 2 Casulan had been read- 
ing a work by a priest residing in Rome, whose purpose 
was to enforce on Christendom the custom prevalent in 
the local Roman Church of fasting on the Sabbath Day. 
The author was an ecclesiastic of a narrow type, and 
a person whose hard aggressive soul exceeded his 
knowledge. Casulan, who was evidently a little scandal- 
ised by the author's arguments, appeals to Augustine 

1 See Karl Adam, Die Eucharistie-Lehrc des h. Augustin. 
1908. Darwell Stone, Doctrine of the Eucharist. 

2 Letter 36. 

276 



LETTERS ON THE EUCHARIST 277 

for information whether it is lawful to fast on the 
Sabbath. To this inquiry Augustine sends a long reply. 
It should be noticed that in this letter the Sabbath and 
the Lord's Day are never confused. The Sabbath is 
the Jewish festival, the last day of the week ; the Lord's 
Day is the Christian festival, with which the week 
begins. This distinction is clearly carefully observed 
by all who were concerned in this discussion. Indeed, 
the discussion is unintelligible if the Sabbath and the 
Sunday are identified. 

To the question, Is it lawful to fast on the Sabbath ? 
Augustine replies that if it were not, neither Moses 
nor Elijah nor our Lord during their protracted fasts 
would have done so. If any one, therefore, infers that 
fasting on the Lord's Day must also be permissible, 
Augustine replies that this cannot be done without 
causing scandal to the Church. And here he appeals 
to the principles of custom and tradition. In those 
matters concerning which Holy Scripture gives no 
certain ruling, the custom of the people of God, or 
the decisions of our forefathers, must be regarded as 
the law. 1 

Now the custom of the Church, excepting the Roman 
and a few Western communities, was not to fast on the 
Sabbath. The Church at Rome fasted on Wednesday, 
Friday and Saturday. The Roman writer argued that 
it was necessary at least to fast three times in the 
week, otherwise the Christian would be no better than 
the Pharisees who only fasted twice. 2 As if, says 
Augustine, the Pharisee was condemned on the ground 
of the insufficient number of the fast days which he 
kept. Besides this, adds Augustine sarcastically, the 
Pharisee gave tithes of all that he possessed. Not 
many Christians did as much. 

The Roman writer argued with so little sense of 

1 In his enim rebus de quibus nihil certi statuit Scriptura divina, 
mos populi Dei, vel instituta majorum pro lege tenenda stint. 

2 Letter 36, 7. 



278 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

proportion that the logical inference would be that 
Christians ought 1 to fast on the Lord's Day as well 
as the Sabbath. Otherwise they paid more deference 
to the day on which the Lord lay in the grave than to 
that in which He arose from the dead. The Roman 
wrote in praise of fasting in extravagant terms. By 
food Adam lost Paradise, and Esau his birthright. If, 
as the Roman asserted, fasting on the Sabbath was the 
avoidance of all sin, the Lord's Day ought not to be 
deprived of those advantages. But to argue in such a 
manner is to scandalise the whole Church, which 2 does 
not fast on the Lord's Day. When the Apostle said 
that the Kingdom of God was not food and drink, he 
was not insisting that it was a Christian obligation to 
fast on the Sabbath. 3 Nor was it a true interpretation 
of Scripture to identify fasting with the Sacrifice of 
Praise. 4 Fasting is a practice confined to certain days 
and omitted on festivals; but the Sacrifice of Praise 
was offered by the Universal Church on every day. 

The Roman pamphleteer reached the extreme of his 
extravagance when he denounced all who did not fast 
on the Sabbath, and fulminated against them the woe 
incurred by all who put bitter for sweet and darkness 
instead of light. To which Augustine answers that he 
is not sure what the writer means. But, whatever 
he means, Casulan must not suppose that the Christian 
city (urbs Christiana, i.e. Rome) advocates fasting on 
the Sabbath in such a manner as to condemn the 
practice of the Christian world (orbis Christianus). 5 

But here the Roman author fell back on the authority 
of S. Peter. Peter himself, who was "the head of the 
Apostles, doorkeeper of Heaven, and foundation of the 
Church," 6 had taught this practice of fasting on the 
Sabbath to the Romans whose faith was proclaimed 
in the whole orbis terrarum. The story was, that the 

1 Letter 36, 12. 2 Letter 36, 16. 

3 Letter 36, 17. 4 Letter 36, 18. 

5 Letter 36, 20. 6 Letter 36, 21. 



LETTERS ON THE EUCHARIST 279 

Apostle S. Peter being about to contend with Simon 
Magus on the Lord's Day fasted on the Saturday with 
the Church of the city ; and that the Roman Church in 
memory of Peter's triumph continued to observe the 
Sabbath as a fast, in which practice certain other 
Western Churches followed them. 

Augustine in reply inquires whether, assuming that 
the Roman custom can be traced to S. Peter, the other 
Apostles taught the rest of the Catholic world the 
opposite practice in contradiction to S. Peter. If 
the Roman advocate replies 1 that S. James taught the 
same at Jerusalem, and S. John at Ephesus, as S. Peter 
taught at Rome, but that all these Churches have 
departed from their teaching and only the Church at 
Rome has stood firm, this is only to raise problems 
which cannot be solved ; it is just as easy to say that 
the Western Churches, Rome included, have not kept 
what the Apostles delivered unto them, and that the 
Eastern Churches, where the Gospel was first pro- 
claimed, have kept what all the other Apostles together 
with Peter himself taught them, namely, that they ought 
not to fast upon the Sabbath. Obviously there is no end 
to such mutual recriminations. Nothing can come of 
them but interminable controversy. After all, unity of 
Faith is consistent with diversity of observances. The 
King's daughter, i.e. the Church, is all glorious within. 
But the diversity of observances are but the fringes of 
the Church's vesture over which there is no necessity to 
arouse contention. 

The Roman advocated these claims further by urging 
that it was the duty of a Christian to be as unlike 
the Jew as possible. The Jew by observing the 
Sabbath rejected the Lord's Day, how then could a 
Christian observe the Sabbath? To fast upon the 
Sabbath commended itself as the plainest revolt from 
anything Jewish. The old dispensation was gone. Old 

1 Letter 36, 22. 



2 8o THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

things had passed away. You cannot serve two 
masters. 

The Roman went on to emphasise the differences 
between Israel and the Church. He maintained that 
the Jewish Ara had given place to the Christian Altare ; 
the Jewish Sacrifice of the Flesh to the Christian Sacrifice 
of the Bread ; the Jewish Offering of Blood to the 
Christian Cup. 

Augustine criticises these distinctions as inaccurate. 
The name Altare occurs constantly in the Law and 
the Prophets. The Altare of God stood in the 
Tabernacle. And the term Ara occurs in the apostolic 
writings. The Martyrs plead under the Ara Dei 
(Apoc. vi. 9-10). There was the shewbread on the 
Table of the Lord in the Jew's religion. And we are 
now partakers of the Body of the Immaculate Lamb. 
Accordingly it would be more in harmony with fact 
if we were to claim that the old had been made new 
in Christ ; that one Altare had succeeded to another, 
one Bread to another, one Lamb to another and Blood 
to Bread. There had been a transition from the carnal 
to the spiritual. Thus, whether the Sabbath was kept 
as a fast or not, the carnal meaning of the day has 
ceased. 

Looking to the New Testament principles as a 
whole, Augustine says it is clear that fasting is enjoined, 
but no detailed application of the practice to any 
specified days is found either in the teaching of* Christ 
or in that of His Apostles. Fasting on the Lord's Day 
ought nowhere to be encouraged. It is a mark of the 
Manichaean heresy. 

Augustine says that the reason why the Church 
fasted on the fourth day of the week is because that 
was the day on which the Jews took counsel to slay 
our Lord. 1 The Friday fast requires no explanation. 
The Sabbath was observed as a feast by those who 

1 Letter 36, 30. 



LETTERS ON THE EUCHARIST 281 

thought chiefly of our Lord's Death as rest ; l as a 
fast by those who laid stress on the aspect of its 
humiliation. 

The letter concludes by recounting the advice of 
S. Ambrose on observing the Sabbath. Augustine has 
told this story more than once. He gives it again in 
the celebrated letter to Januarius (Letter 54, 3). It 
was the custom at Carthage, or Thagaste, to fast on the 
Sabbath. But the Church at Milan did not observe 
this practice. The independence of the Church at 
Milan from Roman influence is a well-known feature 
of early history. When Monnica came to reside for a 
time at Milan she was in some perplexity which 
practice she ought to follow. She sent Augustine to 
consult Ambrose about it. Ambrose replied that when 
he was at Milan he did not fast on the Sabbath, but 
when at Rome he did. With this ruling Monnica com- 
plied. Augustine here adds that he himself followed 
the same rule in Africa. If he came to a church where 
both practices existed he followed the use of those who 
were responsible for the Church's guidance. His advice, 
therefore, to Casulan 2 was to follow the guidance of his 
bishop, and by no means in this matter to resist him. 

The first letter to Januarius, written in the year 4OO, 3 
is certainly among the most celebrated in Augustine's 
correspondence. It deals with practical observances 
concerning the Eucharist. Januarius had written to 
inquire what was a Churchman's duty with regard to 
observances which differed in various portions of the 
Church, 

Augustine considers that the ruling principle in a 
discussion on this subject should be found in the 
fact that Christ's yoke is easy and His burden light ; 
that " He has bound together the new Community of 
His people by Sacraments in number very few, in 

1 Letter 36, 31. 2 Letter 36, 32. 

3 Letter 54. 



282 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

observance very easy, and in meaning very excellent ; 
such as Baptism solemnised in the name of the Trinity, 
the Communication of His Body and Blood, and what- 
ever else is enjoined in the Canonical Scriptures . . ." l 

In addition to those observances which .rest on the 
authority of Scripture there are others which rest on 
the authority of tradition (" non scripta sed tradita "). 
Augustine contemplates certain observances which pre- 
vail universally : such as the yearly commemoration of 
the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension, and of the 
Descent of the Holy Spirit. These are regarded by 
Augustine either as instituted by the Apostles, or 
sanctioned by Plenary Councils which have great value 
in the Church. These are cases in which the observance 
is universal. 

Passing to cases where observance differs in different 
localities, Augustine gives examples. 2 " Some fast on 
Saturday, others do not ; some partake daily of the 
Body and Blood of Christ ; others receive it on stated 
days ; in some places no day passes without the Sacri- 
fice being offered ; in others it is only on Saturday 
and the Lord's Day, or it may be only on the Lord's 
Day." 

Augustine considers that in all these cases observance 
is optional, and that " there is no better rule for a wise 
and serious Christian than to conform to the ..practice 
which he finds prevailing in the Church which he may 
happen to visit." 

And here again he illustrates this rule by the advice 
of S. Ambrose to Monnica at Milan. 3 

Here he is concerned with the question of the 
frequency of reception of the Eucharist. Opinion was 
divided about this at the beginning of the fifth century. 
Augustine gives three views. 

I. Some held that the Eucharist ought not to be 

1 Letter 54, I. 2 Letter 54, 2. 

3 Cf. Letter 36, 32. 



LETTERS ON THE EUCHARIST 283 

taken every day ; but only on days of special pre- 
paredness. For this view reference was made to the 
warning in I Cor. xi. 29. 

2. Others held that if a person judged himself unfit 
to receive he ought to be forbidden by the Bishop to 
approach the Altar until he had done penance. The 
basis of this view was that the individual cannot with- 
draw from the Communion of the Church or restore 
himself as he pleases. 

The first of these two views regarded reception as an 
individual act, the second as a social act. 

3. The third opinion was, that each individual should, 
in the matter of reception, do what he conscientiously 
believed to be his duty. Augustine favoured this view. 
He did so for the following reason : l " Neither of them 
lightly esteems the Body and Blood of the Lord ; on 
the contrary both are contending who shall most highly 
honour the Sacrament." Augustine compares the 
advocates of the two opinions to Zacchaeus and the 
Centurion. "The former joyfully received the Lord 
into his house, the latter said ' I am not worthy that 
Thou shouldest come under my roof ; both honouring 
the Saviour, though in ways diverse, and, as it were, 
mutually opposed ; both miserable through sm, and 
both obtaining the mercy they required." 

Augustine next proceeds to discuss 2 the celebration of 
the Eucharist on the Thursday of the last week in Lent. 

" Suppose some foreigner visits a place 3 in which 
during Lent it is customary to abstain from the use of 
the bath and to continue fasting on Thursday. * I will 
not fast to-day,' he says. The reason being asked, he 
says, ' Such is not the custom in my own country/ Is 
not he, by such conduct, attempting to assert the 
superiority of his custom over theirs ? For he cannot 

1 Letter 54, 4. 2 Letter 54, 5. 

3 Letter 54, 5. Cunningham's translation. 



284 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

quote a. decisive passage on the subject from the Book 
of God ; nor can he prove his opinion to be right by 
the unanimous voice of the Universal Church, wherever 
spread abroad ; nor can he demonstrate that they act 
contrary to the faith, and he according to it, or that 
they are doing what is prejudicial to sound morality, 
and he is defending its interests. Those men injure 
their own tranquillity and peace by quarrelling on an 
unnecessary question. I would rather recommend that, 
in matters of this kind, each man should, when so- 
journing in a country in which he finds a custom 
different from his own, consent to do as others do. If 
on the other hand, a Christian, when travelling abroad 
in some region where the people of God are more 
numerous, and more easily assembled together, and more 
zealous in religion, has seen, for example, the Sacrifice 
twice offered, both morning and evening, on the 
Thursday of the last week in Lent, and therefore, on 
his coming back to his own country, where it is offered 
only at the close of the day, protests against this as 
wrong and unlawful, because he has himself seen 
another custom in another land, this would show a 
childish weakness of judgment against which we should 
guard ourselves, and which we must bear with in others, 
but correct in all who are under our influence. 

" Observe now to which of these three classes the 
first question in your letter is to be referred. You ask : 
* What ought to be done on the Thursday of the last 
week in Lent ? Ought we to offer the Sacrifice in the 
morning, and again after supper, on account of the 
words of the Gospel " Likewise also after supper"? or 
ought we to fast, and offer the Sacrifice only after 
supper? Or ought we to fast until the offering has 
been made, and then take supper as we are accustomed 
to do ? ' 1 answer, therefore, that if the authority of 
Scripture has decided which of these methods is right, 
there is no room for doubting that we should do 
according to that which is written ; and our discussion 



LETTERS ON THE EUCHARIST 285 

must be occupied with a question, not of duty, but of 
interpretation as to the meaning of the Divine institution. 
In like manner, if the Universal Church follows any one 
of these methods, there is no room for doubt as to our 
duty ; for it would be the height of arrogant madness 
to discuss whether or not we should comply with it. 
But the question which you propose is not decided 
either by Scripture or by universal practice. It must, 
therefore, be referred to a third class : as pertaining, 
namely, to things which are different in different places 
and countries. Let every man, therefore, conform 
himself to the usage prevailing in the Church to which 
he may come. For none of these methods is contrary 
to the Christian Faith or the interests of morality, as 
favoured by the adoption of one custom more than the 
other. If this were the case, that either the faith or 
sound morality were at stake, it would be necessary 
either to change what was done amiss, or to appoint 
the doing of what had been neglected. But . mere 
change of custom, even though it may be of advantage 
in some respects, unsettles men by reason of the 
novelty : therefore, if it brings no advantage, it does 
much harm by unprofitably disturbing the Church. 

" Let me add that it would be a mistake to suppose 
that the custom, prevalent in many places, of offering 
the Sacrifice on that day after partaking of food, is to 
be traced to the words, * Likewise after supper/ etc. 
For the Lord might give the name of supper to what 
they had received, in already partaking of His Body, 
so that it was after this that they partook of the Cup : 
as the Apostle says in another place, * When ye come 
together into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's 
Supper,' giving to the receiving of the Eucharist to that 
extent (i.e. the eating of the bread) the name of the 
Lord's Supper. 

" As to the question whether upon that day it is 
right to partake of food before either offering or 
partaking of the Eucharist these words in the Gospel 



286 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

might go far to decide our minds, ' As they were eating, 
Jesus took bread and blessed it,' taken in connection 
with the words in the preceding context, * When the 
even was come, he sat down with the twelve : and as 
they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you that one of 
you shall betray me.' For it was after that that He 
instituted the Sacrament ; and it is clear that when the 
disciples first received the Body and Blood of the Lord, 
they had not been fasting. 

" Must we, therefore, censure the Universal Church 
because the Sacrament is everywhere partaken of by 
persons fasting ? Nay, verily, for from that time it 
pleased the Holy Spirit to appoint, for the honour of 
so great a Sacrament, that the Body of the Lord should 
take the precedence of all other food entering the 
mouth of a Christian ; and it is for this reason that the 
custom referred to is universally observed. For the 
fact that the Lord instituted the Sacrament after other 
food had been partaken of, does not prove that brethren 
should come together to partake of the Sacrament after 
having dined or supped, or imitate those whom the 
Apostle reproved and corrected for not distinguishing 
between the Lord's Supper and an ordinary meal. 
The Saviour, indeed, in order to commend the depth 
of that mystery more affectingly to His disciples, was 
pleased to impress it on their hearts and memories by 
making its institution His last act before going from 
them to His Passion. And, therefore, He did not 
prescribe the order in which it was to be observed, 
reserving this to be done by the Apostles, through 
whom He intended to arrange all things pertaining 
to the Churches. Had He appointed that the Sacra- 
ment should be always partaken of after other food, 
I believe that no one would have departed from that 
practice. But when the Apostle, speaking of this 
Sacrament says, ' Wherefore, my brethren, when ye 
come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any 
man hunger, let him eat at home ; that ye come not 



LETTERS ON THE EUCHARIST 287 

together unto condemnation,' he immediately adds, 
' and the rest will I set in order when I come.' Whence 
we are given to understand that, since it was too much 
for him to prescribe completely in an epistle the method 
observed by the Universal Church throughout the 
world, it was one of the things set in order by him in 
person, for we find its observance uniform amid all the 
variety of other customs. 

" There are, indeed, some to whom it has seemed right 
(and their view is not unreasonable) that it is lawful for 
the Body and Blood of the Lord to be offered and 
received after other food has been partaken of, on one 
fixed day of the year, the day on which the Lord insti- 
tuted the Supper, in order to give special solemnity to 
the service on that anniversary. I think that, in this 
case, it would be more seemly to have it celebrated at 
such an hour as would leave it in the power of any who 
have fasted to attend the service before the repast which 
is customary at the ninth hour." [There is a difficulty in 
the reading of the text here. The Benedictine's reading 
is after the repast. But there is MS. authority for 
reading before the repastJ] 

" Wherefore we neither compel nor do we dare to 
forbid any one to break his fast before the Lord's Supper 
on that day. I believe, however, that the real ground 
upon which this custom rests is, that many, nay almost 
all, are accustomed in most places to bathe on that day. 
And because some continue to fast, it is offered in the 
morning, for those who take food, because they cannot 
bear fasting and the use of the bath at the same time ; 
and in the evening for those who have fasted all day." 

The second of the two letters to Januarius l is greatly 
inferior in value to the first. It deals with such questions 
as : Why we do not observe the anniversary of the 
Passion on the same day every year, as we do the an- 
niversary of the Birth ( 2). Much is said on numerical 

1 Letter 55, 9. 



288 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

symbolism ( 10, etc., to end of 31). Our Lord 
washing the disciples' feet is spoken of as literally 
instituted in some places, while it was a custom which 
"many have not accepted" ( 33). 

Returning to the subject discussed in the first letter, 1 
the variety of ceremonial observed in various parts of 
the Church, Augustine here remarks that ceremonial to 
which we are not accustomed should not be adversely 
criticised, but may be commended and copied provided 
that such imitation produces no offence. " We are not, 
however, to be restrained " from such imitation by the 
fear of offending some, "if more good is to be expected 
from our consenting with those who are zealous for the 
ceremony than loss to be feared from our displeasing 
those who protest against it." 

As an example of this Augustine refers to the practice 
of singing hymns and psalms, " for which we have on 
record both the example and the precepts of our Lord 
and of His Apostles. In this religious exercise, so useful 
for inducing % a devotional frame of mind and inflaming 
the strength of love to God, there is diversity of usage, 
and in Africa the members of the Church are rather too 
indifferent in regard to it ; on which account the Dona- 
tists reproach us with our grave chanting of the divine 
songs of the prophets in our churches, while they inflame 
their passions in their revels by the singing of psalms of 
human composition, which rouse them like the stirring 
notes of the trumpet on the battlefield. But when 
brethren are assembled in the Church, why should not 
the time be devoted to singing of sacred songs, excepting 
of course while reading or preaching is going on, or while 
the presiding minister prays aloud, or the united prayer 
of the congregation is led by the deacon's voice? At 
the intervals not thus occupied, I do not see what could 
be a more excellent, useful and holy exercise for a 
Christian congregation." 2 

1 Letter 55, 34- 2 Ibid. 



LETTERS ON THE EUCHARIST 289 

It is very instructive to find this distinction in the fifth 
century between the two types of African Christianity ; 
the severe restraint on the Catholic side and the emotion- 
alism and excitement on the side of the Donatist Com- 
munity. It is also noteworthy that the Church in Africa 
was slower than the Church in Italy to make full use 
of singing in devotion. Augustine is probably tacitly 
contrasting here what he remembers of the singing of 
S. Ambrose's hymns in the Church at Milan with the 
narrower practice of the Church in Africa. 

With regard to the introduction of new ceremonial 
Augustine adds : 1 " I cannot, however, sanction with my 
approval those ceremonies which are departures from the 
custom of the Church, and are instituted on the pretext 
of being symbolical of some holy mysteries ; although 
for the sake of avoiding offence to the piety of some and 
the pugnacity of others, I do not venture to condemn 
severely many things of this kind." 

He lays down, however, the following principle : " My 
opinion therefore is, that, wherever it is possible, all 
those things should be abolished without hesitation 
which neither have warrant in Holy Scripture, nor are 
found to have been appointed by councils of bishops, 
nor are confirmed by the practice of the Universal 
Church, but are so infinitely various, according to the 
different customs of different places, that it is with 
difficulty, if at all, that the reasons which guided men in 
appointing them can be discovered. For even although 
nothing be found, perhaps, in which they are against the 
true faith ; yet the Christian religion, which God in His 
mercy made free, appointing to her Sacraments very few 
in number, and very easily observed, is by these burden- 
some ceremonies so oppressed, that the condition of the 
Jewish Church itself is preferable; for although they 
have not known the time of their freedom, they are 
subjected to burdens imposed by the law of God, not by 
the vain conceits of men." 

1 Letter 55, 35- 



290 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

A problem on Infant Baptism was set before Augus- 
tine 1 for solution by Bishop Boniface. The problem 
was whether parents can injure their baptised infants 
if they offer Pagan sacrifice in the children's behalf. 
The answer to this is, No. The child has no share in 
the guilt, being unconscious of the incident. When the 
child once possesses an independent existence, it cannot 
be held responsible for sins committed without its own 
consent. 

Then asks the Questioner : " How, then, can the 
parents' faith benefit the infant in Baptism, when the 
parents' unbelief cannot injure it after it is baptised ? " 

The answer is, that Regeneration is conferred by the 
Sacrament and not by the parents' faith. 2 It is not 
written, says Augustine, except a man be born again of 
his parents' will, or of the faith of those who present him 
to Baptism or who minister the Sacrament ; but, except 
a man be born again of Water and of the Holy Spirit. 
Thus Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit. As 
Augustine puts it : the water externally manifesting the 
Sacrament of Grace, and the Spirit inwardly effecting 
the benefit of Grace. (" Aqua igitur exhibens forinsecus 
sacramentum gratiae, et Spiritus operans intrinsecus 
beneficium gratiae.") The Regenerating Spirit is present 
alike in the elders who offer the child, and in the child 
who is offered and born again. And it is this association 
in the one Spirit which gives value to the parents' faith. 
The stress, according to Augustine, must be laid on the 
Divine side and not on the mere human belief. 

But when parents offer sacrifice to Pagan divinities 
for a baptised infant there is no common bond of union 
between them in the Presence of the Holy Spirit. It is 
they who sin and not the infant. He cannot share the 
responsibility. For sin is not communicated through 
the medium of another person's will in the way in which 
grace is communicated through union with the Holy 

1 Letter 98. 2 Letter 98, 2. 



LETTERS ON THE EUCHARIST 291 

Spirit. The unconsciousness of the infant makes no 
difference to the presence of the Spirit. Thus Augus- 
tine's doctrine is, that the infant by its birth into the 
natural order shares the common defect of the nature 
which it inherits. But on being born into the spiritual 
order, by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, it is 
liberated from, and can no more be bound by, the defects 
of the natural order. When the grace of Christ is once 
received, the child cannot lose it except by his own 
impiety. When it begins to have sins of its own, these 
are not removed by Regeneration but are healed another 
way. 

. At the same time Augustine holds that the responsi- 
bility of the parents who offer Pagan rites J for a Christian 
child is very great. It is nothing less than a case of 
spiritual homicide. They are in intention killing the 
child spiritually, were such an act within their power. 
But the guilt of the action recoils only on the perpetrators. 
It is the soul that sinneth which will die. The just 
judgment of God, says Augustine, will not allow those to 
perish whose parents so far as it was in their power 
deceived them. A principle which it had been well if 
Augustine had applied in certain other parts of his 
theological construction. 

The thought that the faith of the parents receives its 
value from the presence of the Holy Spirit within them 
as well as within the regenerated child, leads naturally 
to the question : What if the faith of the parents or 
sponsors in Baptism is not genuine ? What if the 
parents bring a child to Baptism solely from an idea 
that the Sacrament will improve its physical health ? 

Augustine's reply is important. The regeneration of 
a child does not depend on the intention of the parents. 
There are certain conditions indispensable to the validity 
of a Sacrament. But the intention or the faith is not 
simply the intention or the faith of a few individuals, 

1 Letter 98, 3. 



292 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

relatives or friends, who bring the child to be baptised. 
It is the intention or faith of the whole Church which is 
the real presenter of the child to the Sacrament. 

Bishop Boniface further inquired : Whether it was right 
for sponsors to make professions of faith on behalf of an 
infant at its Baptism ? If you were asked : Will this child 
grow up good or bad ? you would have to reply that 
you could not tell. And yet when the sponsors are 
asked : Does this child believe in God ? They answer, 
Yes ; and this when the child is at an age incapable 
of any ideas whatever. 1 

Augustine admits the problem to be difficult ; deserv- 
ing, indeed, a lengthy treatment which he has not the 
time to give. But he suggests that there is such a thing 
in religion as symbolical language; language in which 
we transfer to the Sign, or emblem, what is strictly speak- 
ing true of the Thing Signified. Augustine does not 
here employ these familiar terms the Sign and the Thing 
Signified. But this in effect is what he means. He 
gives certain illustrations. Thus, for example, we say, 
this is the day when the Lord rose from the dead ; when, 
as a matter of fact, of course, the actual Resurrection of 
our Lord took place long ago. But nobody would mis- 
understand this transference of the fact from the Thing 
Signified to the Sign. 

Here is another illustration : a very well-known 
passage. 

"Was not Christ once sacrificed in His own self? 2 
And yet we say that Christ is daily sacrificed. . . . For 
if the Sacraments had not a certain resemblance to the 
things of which they are Sacraments, they would not be 
Sacraments at all. And from the fact of this resem- 
blance the Sacraments frequently receive the names of 
the realities which they represent. As, therefore, after a 
certain manner the Sacrament of the Body of Christ is 
the Body of Christ, and the Sacrament of the Blood 

1 Letter 98, 7. 2 Letter 98, 9- 



LETTERS ON THE EUCHARIST 293 

of Christ is the Blood of Christ, so the Sacrament of 
faith is faith." 

Augustine's reply is subtle and requires reflection. 
The point is : How can we reasonably ascribe faith to an 
unconscious infant at Baptism ? Augustine's answer is 
that the popular use of language makes this defensible. 
For we are accustomed to ascribe to a sign the properties 
of the thing which the sign represents. Augustine's first 
illustration is : We say, this is the Day when Christ rose 
from the Dead, when what we strictly mean is, this is the 
anniversary of the actual event. His second illustration 
is that the Sacrifice of Christ was offered once for all in 
His actual Passion, and yet it is offered by Christians 
every day. This second illustration suggests a different 
idea. For the offering of Christ by Christians every day 
is in itself a reality and not a simple reminder of a past 
event. Augustine certainly regarded the Eucharist as 
an actual offering made to God : a real spiritual trans- 
action, and not a mere external sign. The Sacrament 
does not merely represent, but actually is, the Body and 
Blood of Christ. Augustine says : " is after a certain 
manner (secundum quemdam modum) " ; because the 
Body and Blood are not there in the physical conditions 
of the Passion. He does not mean by the phrase " after 
a certain manner " that the Sacrament is merely in a 
figurative or representative or symbolical sense the Body 
and the Blood. The Sacrament of the Eucharist was 
immeasurably more to Augustine than a representative 
Sign. And yet the Sacrament is a representation of 
what occurred in the Passion : the Body wounded, the 
Blood outpoured. Thus it is true that we apply to the 
Sacrament what is strictly applicable only to the Passion. 
But we must be careful not to suppose that Augustine 
separated Christ's Presence from the Eucharist, or 
regarded the Sacramental Sign as a mere reference to 
the Passion as if the Body and Blood were only on the 
Cross and not in the Eucharist. 

A third illustration given by Augustine is the Pauline 



294 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

teaching that we are buried with Christ in Baptism 
(Rom. vi. 4). S. Paul does not say that Baptism signi- 
fies or represents our burial : it is our burial. He calls 
the Sacrament of this great spiritual reality by the name 
of this reality. 

Now here again Augustine certainly does not mean 
that Baptism is merely the sign of the inner spiritual 
change in the person baptised. His doctrine is not that 
the Sign and the Thing Signified are separated. They 
go together. No doubt Augustine held a theory of 
suspended effects ; that the grace received did not 
operate except under conditions. But he certainly held 
that the Sacramental grace was received. This was why 
Baptism could never be repeated. Sign and Thing 
Signified go together. He has already said as much : 
" The water externally manifesting the Sacrament of 
grace, and the Spirit inwardly effecting the benefit of 
grace." If, then, what is true of the Thing Signified is 
ascribed to the Sign or, to put it in other words, what is 
true of the Holy Spirit is ascribed to the Sacrament this 
does not mean that you can separate the outer from the 
inner, or regard the outer as a symbol of something not 
necessarily given. 

Augustine would be less liable to misinterpretation if 
we remembenjthat in the ancient mind Signs were not 
regarded as suggestions of absent realities but indications 
of their presence. 

Accordingly when Augustine applies this principle of 
ascribing to the Sign what is true of the Thing Signified 
to the case of the unconscious infant who at its Baptism 
is declared to be the possessor of faith, he does not mean 
in the least that nothing is conferred upon the infant in 
the way of inner grace, or that the Sign is separated 
from the Thing Signified, or that faith is ascribed to the 
infant only by way of hopeful anticipation. We must 
remember that Augustine has already spoken of the 
Regenerating Spirit as common alike to the parents and 
to the infant baptised ( 2). Also that he expressly 



LETTERS ON THE EUCHARIST 295 

says that, although the infant does not yet possess that 
faith which consists in the will to believe, nevertheless 
the Sacrament of faith constitutes him a believer ( 10). 
Why ? Obviously because it implants within him the 
grace which is the principle whence subjective faith is to 
spring. Augustine held that when self-conscious intel- 
ligence dawns the child is to be instructed in the nature 
of the gift it has received : not to repeat its Baptism but 
to utilise what it already possesses. And if it dies before 
the age when intelligence begins, it is saved by the Sacra- 
ment which it has received. This shows in the clearest 
way that in Augustine's mind the Outward Sacrament 
and the Inward Reality were not separated but simul- 
taneously conferred. And this conclusion harmonises 
the great teacher's principles in perfect consistency. 

On the subject of religious sacrifice 1 Pagan writers 
complained that while Christians found fault with the 
sacrificial worship of the Pagan Temples, the same kind 
of worship existed formerly among themselves. 

In reply to this complaint, 2 Augustine answered that 
sacrificial worship was certainly immemorial ; that Chris- 
tians do not criticise Pagan rites merely because they 
appointed priests and offered sacrifices. Christian criti- 
cism is not opposed to the form of devotion, but to the 
object to which it is offered. Sacrifice is not a mistaken 
principle. It is the offering sacrifice to false divinities 
which is the wrong. What is condemned in heathen 
superstitions by the true religion is not the mere offering 
of sacrifices (for the ancient saints offered these to the 
true God), but the offering of sacrifices to false divinities. 
Sacrifice is an offering due to God alone, and may not 
be offered to any but to Him. 3 

This leads Augustine to explain that sacrifice holds 
its place in the worship of the Christian Church. There 
is a sacrifice, says Augustine, which is offered by 

1 Letter 102, 16. 2 Letter 102, 17. 

3 Letter 102, 19. 



296 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Christians at this present time. That sacrifice is set 
before us in the Gospel. It is a sacred mystery and is 
celebrated by Divine Authority. 1 

And here Augustine anticipates a probable criticism. 
The Pagan will ask : Why, if you believe in the prin- 
ciple of sacrifice, have you Christians altered its form ? 
Augustine explains that the reason why the Christian 
sacrifice differs in form from the Jewish is that the 
Jewish was prospective and prophetic, while the Christian 
is retrospective. Between them lies the one true Offer- 
ing of the one Priest,, The change then is not in the 
religion, nor in the object of devotion. But what came 
before Christ and what followed after Him must natur- 
ally differ in form. Each is appropriate to its own 
period. Just as a man might bring one kind of offering 
in the morning and another kind in the evening, but 
offers both to the selfsame deity. His religion is the 
same, and his deity is the same. But different forms 
are adapted to different seasons. 2 

Augustine then accepts the principle of ceremonial 
sacrifices as entirely Christian. 

Further he adds that all external sacrifices are sym- 
bolical. 3 They are signs of inward realities. And we 
ought to view the Sign in the light of the Thing Signified. 

Augustine in this letter refers his reader to what he 
has written elsewhere on the same subject. Probably, 
what he had in mind is the passage in reply to Faustus 
the Manichaean (Book XXII. 17). In that passage, 
however, Augustine adds little if anything to what he 
has given here, and omits all reference to the Eucharist. 

The distinguished official of State, Marcellinus, set 
before Augustine the same problem : Why is it that 
God, Who rejected the sacrifices of the Old Dispensa- 
tion 4 should have authorised those of the New ? This 
alteration of religious ceremonial appeared to him incon- 

1 Letter 102, 21. 2 Ibid. 

3 Letter 102, 17. 4 Letter 138. 



LETTERS ON THE EUCHARIST 297 

sistent with Divine Unchangeableness. To inaugurate 
new seemed to disparage His own earlier directions. 

Augustine's solution is that all life is constructed on 
the principle of change. This is the case with the 
seasons of the year and with the life of the individual. 
Childhood, Youth, Maturity, Age : But these external 
changes do not imply any change in the Divine plan. 
Augustine quotes the case of a patient who grew worse 
through adhering beyond the proper time to his doctor's 
prescriptions. 

Apply these analogies to the case of sacrifice. The 
Jewish sacrifices were divinely ordained, and appropriate 
to the period for which they were designed. 1 Now 
Sacraments may be defined as symbolical actions per- 
taining to Divine things. The institution of new 
symbolical actions did not mean that the old had 
suddenly lost the Divine Approval ; nor does it show 
inconsistency on the part of God. The two series were 
each respectively appropriate to their conditions. One 
series of symbolical actions was appropriate to foretell 
Christ's coming, and another to proclaim the fact that 
He had come. 

Augustine's reply to men of other religions on the 
doctrine of sacrifice should be completed by his teach- 
ing on the subject in the City of God which, like the 
letter before us, was written for the instruction of 
Pagans. 

In his work on the City of God, Augustine says, that 
" a sacrifice is the visible sacrament or sacred sign of an 
invisible sacrifice" (Book X. 5). The outward offer- 
ing is the symbol of the inward. The outward is not 
required for its own sake but for the sake of that which 
it symbolises. 

And here he give,s his famous definition : " A true 
sacrifice is every work which is done that we may be 
united to God in holy fellowship, and which has a 

1 Letter 138, 7. 



298 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

reference to that supreme good and end in which alone 
we can be truly blessed " ( 6). 

Sacrifice can be offered to God alone. Thus, mercy 
shown to men is not a sacrifice unless it is shown for 
God's sake. A life dedicated to God is a sacrifice. 
But it is essential to the definition that sacrifice is a 
work done in reference to God. The Christian con- 
gregation is offered to God as our sacrifice through the 
Great High Priest, who offered Himself to God in His 
Passion for us. Our Lord offered Himself to God in 
the form of a servant. That is to say, it is the Incar- 
nation which makes this offering possible. Hence He 
is our Mediator, our Priest, our Sacrifice. 

Thus Christians are to present themselves as a living 
sacrifice. " This is the sacrifice of Christians : We, 
being many, are one body in Christ. And this also is 
the sacrifice which the Church continually celebrates in 
the Sacrament of the Altar, known to the faithful, in 
which she teaches that she herself is offered in the 
offering she makes to God." l 

Thus, then, according to Augustine, the Sacrament of 
the Altar is an offering which the Church makes to God. 
In that offering the Church itself is offered to God. 
And Christians are to offer themselves. Augustine 
distinguishes three things. He distinguishes between 
the offering which the Church makes in the Eucharist, 
and the offering which is made of the Church itself. 
He distinguishes also between the Church being offered 
passively, and the faithful offering themselves actively 
to God. There is : the offering of the Eucharist, 
the offering of the Church, and the Church offering 
itself to God. 

1. If we ask : What is the sacrifice which the Church 
continually celebrates in the Sacrament of the Altar ? 
the answer clearly must be, it is the Offering of Christ. 

2. If we ask : What is meant by the Church being 

1 Letter 138, 6. 



LETTERS ON THE EUCHARIST 299 

passively an offering presented to God? the answer is, 
that the congregation is regarded as being offered to 
the Father by Jesus Christ, Who is our Great High 
Priest, and Who offered Himself to God for us in His 
Passion. Christ self-identified with the Church offers 
the congregation to the Father. 

3. If we ask: What is meant by Christians presenting 
themselves in Sacrifice to God ? the answer is, that this 
offering is not conceived as being something separated 
from the offering of Christ, but identified with it. The 
offering of ourselves cannot be separated from the 
offering of Christ, because our offering can only be made 
or accepted on the basis of His. 

If the Christian congregation is offered in the 
Eucharist to God through the Great High Priest, it is 
clear that in Augustine's view Christ's work of making 
an offering to the Father is not simply past but con- 
tinuous. He is still engaged in priestly and sacrificial 
functions now. It is also clear that in Augustine's view 
the offering of one person to God by another person 
is an essential part of the Christian idea. Christ is 
represented as offering His Church to the Father. But 
if so there is nothing inconceivable in the converse idea 
of the Church offering Christ to His Father. Both 
these ideas are based on the principle of self-identification 
with others as opposed to the principle of an exclusive 
individual isolation. 

Briefly, then, by way of summary it may be said that 
Augustine 

1. Employs the term Sacrament in two ways, (i) In 
a general and comprehensive sense as a Sacred Sign. 
Thus he can say to the Donatists : " You are with us in 
Baptism, in the Creed, and the other Sacraments of the 
Lord" (Letter 93). But (2) he also uses the term in a 
more restricted and definite meaning. Thus he calls 
the Eucharist " the Sacrament" (Letter 98). 

2. He understands by the term Sacrament more than 



300 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

a mere resemblance between the Sign and the Thing 
Signified. There is an intimate union between outward 
and inward. Thus, in Baptism the Water externally 
manifests the Sacrament of Grace, while the Spirit 
inwardly effects the benefit of Grace. 

3. He teaches as a traditional belief that the Eucharist 
is an offering or a Sacrifice. 

Augustine applies to the Eucharist the term Sacrifice 
of Praise, and describes it as being daily offered by the 
Universal Church (Letter 26). He applies the same 
term to the Christian Altar as he does to the Jewish 
(ibid.).' 1 They differ as manifestations of the same 
sacrificial principle adapted to successive periods of 
human history. He speaks of the Sacrament of the 
Body of Christ (ibid.). His grievance against the 
Donatist schism is that it is " setting up Altar against 
Altar " (Letter 43, , 4). With reference to the Eucha- 
rist he says that Christ is daily sacrificed (Letter 98, 9, 
p. 400). See also Letter 187 on the Presence of God, 
where Augustine writes " Nosti autem in quo sacrificio 
dicatur, Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro" ( 21). 
Elsewhere he told the congregation assembled to elect 
a coadjutor that " it was well that we are able to 
transact around His Sacrifice the things which belong to 
God " (Letter 213). Thus excommunication is described 
as being " removed from the Altar " (Letter 54, 4, 
p. 187). His constant expression is to offer the 
Sacrifice. 

1 In Augustine's curious Psalm against the Donatists we read, 
sic fecerunt scissuram, et altare contra altare. The last three 
words are constantly repeated. 



CHAPTER X 

LETTERS ON DIOCESAN AFFAIRS 

A BISHOP of the fifth century had much secular 
business thrust upon him. Already while Augustine 
was no more than a layman in his monastic seclusion at* 
Thagaste his fellow-citizens intruded their secular affairs 
upon his Scriptural studies (Letter 5). After his 
consecration he had constantly to act as an unconven- 
tional magistrate. Citizens of Hippo brought all sorts 
of secular matters before him for decision : matters of 
business and matters of property, financial questions, 
farm and flocks, occupied precious hours and even 
days, and distracted him from spiritual considerations 
(Letter 33, 5). 

Augustine's letters show an enthusiastic belief in the 
value of religious communities. He knew of their 
existence during his years of wandering at Rome and at 
Milan. The monastic ideal contributed by contrast 
with his early self-indulgent life to promote his own 
conversion. This is recorded in his own Confessions. 
Community life was a subject of serious discussion, 
during his retirement before Baptism, at the Villa near 
Milan. He writes about it to his friend Nebridius 
(Letter 10). No sooner was he settled at Thagaste than 
he converted his house into a monastery. He did the 
same thing at Hippo after his ordination as priest. As 
Bishop he still lived in community. But of course the 
quiet and seclusion for continuous study was no longer 
possible. In a letter to Jerome he says that he can 
never emulate the learning of the recluse. His time is 

301 



302 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

absorbed in giving popular instruction. But he did his 
utmost to encourage the monastic institutions. It was 
he who introduced Monasticism into Africa. His own 
monastery at Hippo became remarkable for the number 
of bishops which it trained for the Church. It has been 
calculated that at least twelve African bishops received 
their training in Augustine's House. Of these the best 
known was his friend Evodius, who, like Augustine, 
promoted monastic life after he became bishop (Letter 
158, 10), and his biographer Possidius. The vocation 
of the monk was widely different from that of the 
, priest ; and Augustine, in his letters, speaks hesitatingly 
on converting the former into the latter (Letter 60). 
Still it is evident that priesthood was the destiny of 
many in his own monastery ; and their training in this 
direction was apparently deliberate. Probably the 
urgent requirements of the African Church led Augus- 
tine to feel that the monastery must be a seminary for 
clergy. His own mind on the subject is clearly shown 
in a Letter (48) written as early as 398 to Abbot 
Eudoxius in the island of Capraria. 

There he writes very wistfully of the blessedness of 
peaceful seclusion and uninterrupted devotion ; and 
contrasts their life with his own, wounded and weakened 
in the mists and tumult of other people's secular affairs, 
in which they compel him to go a mile and he is bound 
to go with them twain. He is so busy that he can 
scarcely breathe. 

Nevertheless he exhorts the monks that if their 
Mother the Church calls them to active service they 
must neither accept it too eagerly nor decline it through 
indolence. They have no right to prefer their own ease 
to the claims of the Church. If other men had acted on 
that principle, the monks' own spiritual life would have 
been impossible. On the other hand Augustine felt at 
times that the monastic life did not always provide a 
suitable training for the priesthood. Its entire ideal 
was so different. A man might be an excellent monk 



LETTERS ON DIOCESAN AFFAIRS 303 

and yet wholly unsuited for the labours of a priest 
(Letter 60). 

Monasteries existed in Thagaste, Carthage and Hippo. 
There were also Communities of Women. Over one of 
these Augustine's sister had presided, and the Bishop 
drew up regulations for the religious. 

A landowner named Publicola sent Augustine 1 a 
whole series of cases of conscience for the Bishop to 
solve. Some eighteen problems are propounded. 
Publicola was no stranger to Augustine. But the tone 
in which he writes is quaint. He insists that the Bishop 
must give him a definite, precise decision. He must on 
no account leave anything undecided. For if the Bishop 
replies doubtfully Publicola will be thrown into worse 
perplexities than those which afflicted him before he 
wrote. 

The sort of problems which troubled Publicola are 
those which were created by commercial relations 
between the Latin colonists and the original natives of 
Africa. The natives were the carriers of the period. 
They protected the crops. They brought down goods 
and merchandise and corn from the interior to the towns 
upon the coast. Or they acted as guards to solitary 
travellers. All this was the ordinary and more or less 
irregular system. It was the custom of the colonists 
to make the natives swear fidelity on such occasions. 
And of course the natives took an oath by their Pagan 
deities. 

Now it was this Pagan oath which disquieted the 
conscience of Publicola. He was evidently a thoughtful, 
conscientious and scrupulous person. He understands 
that the managers of his estates have followed the usual 
practice of exacting an oath of fidelity from the natives 
employed" in protecting his crops. Publicola desires to 
know whether this Pagan oath does not contaminate 
both the crops and their owner. He has in mind 

1 Letter 46. 



304 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

i Cor. x. 28. He inquires whether it is right for a 
Christian to accept the service of Pagans on such terms. 

Augustine's answer l is, that a Christian who accepts 
the service of a Pagan who pledges himself by his false 
gods, does not participate in the falseness of the man's 
religion but in the goodness of his faith. 

Another of Publicola's cases of conscience was the 
instance of participation in food offered to idols. 

Augustine in reply does little more than repeat 
S. Paul's direction to the Corinthians. He points out 
that anything like wholesale prohibition would lead to 
the inference that it was wrong for S. Paul to take food 
in Athens seeing that the whole city was dedicated to 
Minerva, and wrong for us to use the light of the sun 
because it was the object of Pagan worship. 

Publicola further raised the question whether it was 
lawful for a Christian to kill any one in self-defence. 
Ought he to act literally on the maxim, " Resist not evil " ? 
May he put a wall for defence round his own property ? 
Suppose he does so, and another person utilises this wall 
as a means to kill an enemy, is the builder responsible 
for homicide? 

Augustine in reply does not approve of a private 
individual killing any one in self-defence ; but appears 
to except the soldier or the public official. This distinc- 
tion seems to commend itself to Augustine (i) partly on 
the ground that the public official is defending others 
rather than himself, and (2) also because he is acting 
under lawful authority. 

This was written in 398. Augustine had previously 
discussed this subject at considerable length in his 
dialogues On Free Will, published in 395. 2 

As to the injunction, " Resist not evil," Augustine held 
that it was intended to prohibit revenge ; but not to 
prevent us from restraining other people from sin. On 

1 Letter 47. 

2 See De Libero Arbitrio I., II., ff. Works, Tom. I. p. 935. 



LETTERS ON DIOCESAN AFFAIRS 305 

these principles Publicola's cases of conscience are to be 
determined. A Christian has every right to protect his 
property by a wall. He is not responsible if a person 
is killed while attacking it. Augustine held that a 
Christian is not guilty of homicide though his ox may 
gore a man, or his horse kick a man, so that he dies. To 
argue otherwise would require that a Christian pro- 
prietor's oxen should have no horns, and his horses no 
hoofs, and his dogs no teeth. He must neither have a 
rope nor a tree lest some one should hang themselves by 
them, nor a window to his house lest any one should 
throw themselves down by it. 

One more example of Publicola's cases of conscience 
deserves repeating : What if a traveller, exhausted by 
privation, came upon a deserted Pagan Temple where 
food was placed, and no other food could be found, and 
no other human being was near : ought he to take that 
food or die of hunger? 

Augustine's answer has the virtue of conciseness : l 
" Either it is certain that this food was offered to the 
idol, or it is certain that it was not, or neither of these 
things is known. If it is certain, it is better to reject it 
with Christian fortitude. In either of the other alterna- 
tives, it may be used for his necessity without any 
conscientious scruple." 

Augustine gives this problem : What to do with idol 
offerings, an extremely practical application by dwelling 
on a Christian duty when permission has been given for 
the destruction of temples and images. Our taking part 
in the demolition proves our abhorrence of these idola- 
tries Nevertheless a Christian must decline to appro- 
priate the spoils to his own private use. His motives 
must be above suspicion. It must be unquestion- 
ably that he is prompted by religion and not by 
avarice. 

This warning was peculiarly appropriate at the tifne 

1 Letter 47, 6 



3o6 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

when it was given, since recent laws of the Empire 
allowed or ordered the destruction of Pagan Temples. 

About the year 404 a dreadful scandal occurred in 
Augustine's Monastery. A priest accused a deacon of 
inciting him to immorality. Whereupon the deacon 
made a similar charge against his accuser. There was 
no evidence beyond the assertions of the two. Augus- 
tine suspected the deacon of retaliating by a false charge 
against his accuser. Accordingly Augustine refused to 
ordain him priest. The deacon then grew furious, and 
claimed that if ordination to priesthood was refused him 
as a suspected person, neither ought the priest to be 
allowed to continue to exercise his office. The priest 
was willing to consent to this. Meanwhile the affair 
became public property. Then Augustine wrote a 
letter l about it to the brethren, the clergy, the elders 
and the whole people of the Church of Hippo. He tells 
them of his perplexity. He is unable to discover the 
truth. But he has sent them both to the tomb of 
S. Felix of Nola. Not indeed that God is not in every 
place, but certain places have more awe-inspiring asso- 
ciations than others. And he has seen at Milan a thief, 
who intended to perjure himself, so overcome at the tomb 
of certain Saints that he made confession of his theft. 
Doubtless there are tombs of the martyrs in Africa, but 
Augustine is not aware of similar occurrences in his own 
country. 2 

So then the priest and the deacon have gone upon 
their pilgrimage. Augustine awaits results. Mean- 
while he has not struck off the priest's name from the 
list of clergy. He has left the matter to the judgment 
of God. He may not anticipate the Divine decision. 
Moreover a Council of Carthage (in 387) ruled that no 
clergyman might be suspended from Communion before 
his guilt had been proved, except he refused to present 

% 

1 Letter 78, A. D. 404. 

2 Instances are given in Benedict XIV. De Synode Diacesana, 
L. IV. cap. vi. 



LETTERS ON DIOCESAN AFFAIRS 307 

himself for trial. Augustine adds that the priest in 
question has humbly and freely consented to go without 
letters of commendation, so that his priestly office will 
not be known. If the Church at Hippo thinks that his 
name ought not to be read in the lists, they must act 
accordingly. But Augustine will not take the initiative. 
At the same time, whether a man's name is omitted 
from a list in Church is indifferent so long as a guilty 
conscience does not erase his name from the Book of Life. 

Augustine then draws the moral from the thought of 
slander and calumny. 1 He dwells also on the unreason- 
able inferences which the world is always ready to draw 
from a Christian's fall. " They that sit in the gate speak 
against me, and the drunkards make songs upon me." 
As soon as any bishop or clergyman or monk or nun has 
fallen, the world generalises and maintains that all the 
whole class are just as bad, the only difference being 
that they are not found out. Yet with a glaring incon- 
sistency the world declines to generalise in this way 
about a scandal in ordinary social life. If a married 
woman is proved unfaithful the inference is not drawn 
that all married women, wives and mothers, are no 
better. Human nature finds malicious pleasure over 
the fall of any person who makes a profession of 
religion. 

It seems that some time previously two deacons who 
had been reconciled from the Donatist Communion had 
fallen into sin. And this was criticised as a proof of the 
weakness of religious discipline among the Donatists. 
Augustine hears that in the present instance some of 
his people are particularly upset because they are now 
deprived of the boast that the Catholic discipline under 
Augustine is superior to that of the Donatists. Augus- 
tine gently reproves his people for this. " However 
watchful the discipline of my house may be," writes 
Augustine, " I am but a man and live among men." He 

1 Letter 78, 5. 



3o8 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

does not pretend that his house is better than the Ark of 
Noah, in which among eight persons one was found a 
castaway ; or better than the apostolic Twelve, among 
whom one was a traitor. 

He gives it as his deliberate estimate of the Com- 
munity life that, as he had hardly found any men better 
than those who have done well in monasteries, so he 
had not found men worse than monks who have fallen. 
To them applies the apostolic sentence : " He that is 
righteous, let him be still more righteous ; and he that 
is filthy let him be still more filthy." But if failures 
could be found, there was a much larger proportion on 
the other side. 

The letter to Victorin x deals with questions of eccle- 
siastical precedent in the assembling of provincial 
councils. Victorin was a bishop. He is addressed by 
Augustine as Father Victorin and as fellow-priest : 
priest being the usual designation of a bishop. Victorin 
had summoned Augustine to attend a Council. It was 
the year 401. Augustine was unable to attend through 
illness. But he has criticisms to make about Victorin's 
letter. For it included a summons to the Bishops of 
Mauritania. Now the Province of Mauritania had its 
own Primate, who of course was the proper person to 
summon his colleagues to a Council. Moreover, the 
order of the Bishops of the Province of Numidia, to 
which Augustine belonged, was wrongly given. His 
own name appearing higher in the list (namely, third) 
than he has any right to claim. Besides, Bishop 
Xantippus claims to be the Primate of Numidia ; and is 
accustomed to issue summonses to Councils. Yet in 
Bishop Victorin's letter the name of Xantippus is left 
out. These anomalies create a suspicion in Augustine's 
mind that the letter purporting to be issued by Bishop 
Victorin must be a forgery. Meanwhile he begs Victorin 
to settle the question of precedence between himself and 

1 Letter 59. 



LETTERS ON DIOCESAN AFFAIRS 309 

Bishop Xantippus ; so that the Church may know which 
of the two is the proper person to summon the Bishops 
of the Province to a Council. The letter concludes 
with a note that Augustine has sealed it with a ring 
representing the profile of a man. 

The relation of the monk to the priesthood was 
already raising problems in the year 401. Two monks 
had left a religious community which was under Augus- 
tine's care and were claiming admission to the priest- 
hood. 1 Aurelius, Bishop of Carthage, wrote to Augustine 
about them. Augustine feels bound to maintain that 
those who have deserted their calling as monks ought 
not to be placed among the clergy. To do this would 
provoke the criticism of the laity. There is a proverb 
which says, " a poor flute-player makes a good singer " 
(Malus choraula bonus symphoniacus est). There would 
soon be another proverb to the effect that " a bad monk 
makes a good cleric." This would grievously discredit 
the clergy. The truth is that a good monk rarely makes 
a good cleric. He does not possess the necessary 
qualifications. 

Bishop Aurelius was evidently under the impression 
that these two monks had left the monastery with 
Augustine's approval. But this was not the case. 
Augustine had resisted their restlessness with all his 
power, but in vain. One of the two had already obtained 
ordination. As to the other, Augustine leaves the matter 
to Aurelius's wisdom, to act as he may judge best for 
the interests of the Church. 

Further ecclesiastical irregularities are reported to have 
occurred within Augustine's own diocese. The rule of 
restricting a bishop's authority to his own diocese was 
in somewhat fluid state in the beginning of the fifth 
century. 2 A certain reader, Timothy, was ordained a 
sub-deacon at Sulsana, in the diocese of Hippo, against 
Bishop Augustine's advice and desire. Augustine 

1 Letter 60. * Letter 63. 



310 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

complains of this irregularity, but admits that it cannot 
be undone. The only question was whether Timothy still 
belonged to the diocese of Hippo. Augustine held that 
since he had been a reader in that diocese he belonged 
to it, and must not be encouraged by another bishop to 
transfer himself to another diocese. 

It was clearly understood in the early fifth century 
and ruled by Canons x that a priest suspended 
from Communion by his own bishop could not be re- 
ceived into Communion in any other diocese until he 
was reconciled. Augustine considers this as a matter 
of course in his dealing with Quintian, a priest of the 
diocese of Carthage, whom his bishop, Aurelius, had 
suspended from Communion. Quintian wrote to Augus- 
tine proposing to pay a visit to Hippo. Augustine 
believed the priest to be innocent, but replied that he 
could not be received into Communion while suspended 
by his own Diocesan. Augustine has written to Aure- 
lius in Quintian's behalf. But he cannot possibly write 
to Quintian's own congregation, as the priest desires 
him to do. If they write to him Augustine can reply. 
" But," asks Augustine, " how could I put myself forward 
uninvited to write to a people not committed to my 
care?" 

There is, however, one matter on which Augustine 
will venture in this present letter to warn Quintian. Let 
him not scandalise the Church by reading in service 
writings which the Canon of the Church does not 
acknowledge. Augustine knows that incalculable mis- 
chief has been done that way by the Manichaeans. 

Quintian had warned Augustine not to receive into 
his monastery persons who came from Quintian's neigh- 
bourhood. Such practice was forbidden by the Canons. 
Augustine replies that he wonders how Quintian can 
appeal to the Canons when he himself ignores their 
ruling about books which may be read in church. 

1 Letter 64. 



LETTERS ON DIOCESAN AFFAIRS 311 

In the Synod at Hippo held in 393, which was a 
Council of great importance for the whole African 
Church, and over which Aurelius, the Archbishop of 
Carthage, presided, it was ruled that "besides the 
Canonical Scriptures, nothing shall be read in the Church 
under the title of Divine Writings." 1 

Augustine calls on Quintian to read the decisions of 
this Council carefully, and there he will find that the 
rule about not receiving persons from another diocese 
refers to clergy only and not to laymen. The rule does 
not mention monasteries. What it says is that' no 
strange cleric may be received. In a more recent Synod 
(i.e. that held at Carthage, September 13, A.D. 401. See 
Hefele, II. 423) it was definitely resolved that a bishop 
may not ordain a monk from a strange monastery (i.e. 
a ir.onastery belonging to another diocese), nor may he 
make him the superior of his own monastery (Canon 14). 

As to the particular case which Quintian has in mind, 
that of a layman named Privatian, Augustine has not 
received him into his monastery, but has referred the 
case to Bishop Aurelius, and will abide by his decision. 

Augustine shows profound anxiety 2 that the Church 
should never be accused of a mercenary spirit. A certain 
priest, Honoratus, died and a dispute arose about his 
property. It was claimed by the monastery of Thagaste, 
on the ground that the deceased had been a monk there. 
It was also claimed by the Church of Thiave, on the 
ground that he had been their priest. Alypius, Bishop 
of Thagaste, was willing that the Church of Thiave should 
have half. Augustine considers that the return of half will 
make it appear that the anxiety of Churchmen was only 
about the money. This will set the monastery in a 
false light. Augustine proposes that in future those 
who enter a monastery should relieve themselves of all 
temporal interests before they are received. This will 

1 Canon 36. Hefele, II. 400- En gl- Tr - 

2 Letter 83. 



3 i2 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

acquit the Community from any sordid suspicions. 
With regard to the property of a priest it should belong 
after his death to the church where he was ordained. 

In a severe letter of rebuke to a young bishop, 1 his 
son in the faith, who had been living in a worldly and 
extravagant manner, Augustine refuses to hold com- 
munion with him. The young bishop had been success- 
ful in winning people to the Church, but was now alien- 
ating more than he had won Augustine's independent 
action towards another bishop is noteworthy. He says 
" it cannot be that any bishop whatsoever of the Catholic 
Church should cease to be my colleague, so long as he 
has not been condemned by any ecclesiastical tribunal." 
Nevertheless he refuses to hold communion with him so 
long as the young bishop persists in worldly ways. 

In a letter to Pope Caelestine, in 423, Augustine relates 
some of the troubles of his diocese. 2 It throws some 
light on the extent of the diocese of Hippo. There was 
a town called Fussala, situated some forty miles from 
Hippo, and on the borders of the diocese. It was 
under Augustine's charge. There had never been a 
bishop presiding there. The people were nearly all 
Donatists. The clergy whom Augustine sent to work 
there were brutally treated, beaten, blinded, murdered 
by the ferocious fanatics of the Sect. But in the end 
conversion of the people to Catholicism was secured. 

Augustine accordingly looked out for a priest who 
knew the Punic speech, and found one suited for the 
work. The Primate of Numidia arrived to consecrate 
him, but for some reason unknown the Bishop-elect 
withdrew and refused consecration. Augustine was in 
great perplexity. Anxious not to give the aged Primate 
a long and fatiguing journey to no purpose, anxious also 
to carry into effect his scheme of making Fussala a 
diocese, he acted impulsively, and put forward a young 
reader of his own monastery, not even yet a priest, as 

1 Letter 85, A.D. 405. 2 Letter 209. 



LETTERS ON DIOCESAN AFFAIRS 313 

a suitable bishop for the people of Fussala. So the 
young reader, Antony, was consecrated. 

Unhappily Antony proved most unsuitable to be a 
bishop. Serious accusations were made against him : 
charges of immorality, which could not be proved ; 
charges of rapacious and aggressive conduct, which 
appeared to be true. 

His case was tried before African Bishops and he was 
suspended from office until he had made restitution. 

But Bishop Antony appears to have been a person of 
much plausibility. He insinuated himself into the good 
graces of the Primate who wrote favourably about him 
to Pope Boniface at Rome. Antony put in an appeal 
to Rome against the African Council which condemned 
him. They had been reluctant to act severely. They 
had taken into consideration his previous record, his 
youth and his inexperience. But he adroitly turned 
their leniency against them and charged them with in- 
consistency. Either he ought to be allowed to discharge 
his episcopal functions, or else he ought to have been 
deposed altogether. Pope Boniface had only heard one 
side of the case, and was ignorant of the realities. He 
wrote, but left the matter undecided. Meanwhile he 
died, and his successor Caelestine had to undertake it. 
The people of Fussala heard rumours that the decision 
of the Holy See was against them, that their young 
bishop was to be forced upon them by the authorities of 
the State. Consequently those converts to Catholicism 
expected to find themselves in a worse condition as 
Catholics than when they were members of the sect. 

Augustine writes with great earnestness imploring 
Caelestine not to listen to Antony's representations. 
The people of Fussala had complained of Augustine to 
the Pope, for imposing upon them a Novice insufficiently 
tried. And Augustine acknowledges the justice of their 
complaint. He is so profoundly grieved by the unhappy 
result of his imprudent nomination that he thinks of 
resigning his own bishopric ; a course which unless a 



314 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

satisfactory solution is given at Rome, he shall feel com- 
pelled to take. 

What answer Pope Cselestine made to these repre- 
sentations is unknown. It looks as if Bishop Antony 
were sent elsewhere. 

But in the following year (434) a Council of the 
African Bishops was held at Carthage, in which the 
subject of Appeals to Rome was considered. The result 
of their deliberations was, that a letter was sent to Pope 
Caelestine desiring him not to accept appeals from 
African decisions, whether such appeals were made by 
priests or by bishops. They claimed that this was 
already settled by the Council of Nicaea. To receive 
appeals at Rome was an intrusion .on the rights of the 
African Church. 1 

Much insight into the life of the primitive Church 2 
is given in the account of a singular scene at Hippo in 
the Church of Peace in the year 426. Many clergy and 
laity were present. Augustine presided. He spoke of 
the uncertainties of mortal life and of the different 
ages of man He divided human life into the various 
stages of infantia, pueritia, adolescentia, juventus, and 
senectus? There was no period beyond this. And he 
had reached the last of the ages of men. 

He reminded the people of his experience that a 
bishop's death was often followed by disorders and con- 
tentions among the people. He quoted the case of the 
Church of Milevis, where this had been prevented. There 
the Bishop nominated his successor, and this nomination 
was after the Bishop's death carried into effect. There 
was, however, one objection to the course which the 
Bishop of Milevis had taken. For he only consulted 
the clergy and not the laity. Accordingly the laity felt 
themselves aggrieved. Augustine was anxious to avoid 
this mistake. He, therefore, indicated his desire to a 
meeting of clergy and laity together. He informed the 

1 Hefele, II. 315. 2 Letter 213, 3 Cf. p. 297. 



LETTERS ON DIOCESAN AFFAIRS 315 

assembly that he desired to have the priest Eraclius as 
his successor in the bishopric. 

The people received the Bishop's words with acclama- 
tion. They shouted "God be thanked!" "Christ be 
praised ! " " Long life to Augustine ! " and repeated these 
exclamations over and over again. The highest number 
of repetitions recorded was thirty-eight. 

When quiet was restored Augustine went on to ex- 
plain that he was anxious to avoid the error which had 
occurred at his own nomination. He had been conse- 
crated Bishop during the lifetime of Valerius, and shared 
the See of Hippo with him. Augustine confesses that 
he did not know at the time that this was forbidden by 
the Council of Nicaea. 

He was, therefore, anxious that what was abnormal in 
his own ecclesiastical experience should not be reiterated 
in that of his successor. To this the people as before 
expressed their ready and vociferous approval. 

When silence was again secured Augustine explained 
that Eraclius was to remain a priest, and to be conse- 
crated bishop when the See of Hippo became vacant. 
For all practical purposes Augustine was appointing 
Eraclius as what we should now call Archdeacon, with, 
however, the right of succession to the Bishopric after 
Augustine's death. 

Meanwhile by this arrangement Augustine hoped to 
secure for himself further time for his writings. He had 
already some years previously come to an agreement 
with his people that for five days in the week he should 
be left to his studies uninterrupted by avoidable intru- 
sions. This was especially because the Councils of 
Numidia and of Carthage had expressly enjoined upon 
him the duty of Scriptural Exposition. The people of 
Hippo had readily agreed to this, but they soon failed 
to observe their part of the agreement. They invaded 
Augustine's studies as persistently as before. He hoped, 
however, that the nomination of Eraclius, whom in the 
Name of Christ he now appointed to be his episcopal 



3i6 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

successor, would induce his diocese to allow their Bishop 
to transfer to another a considerable portion of the burden 
of his occupations. 

This arrangement was made in the year 426, only 
four years before Augustine's death. 

It should be noticed that the title Servus Servorum 
Dei is claimed by Augustine and applied to himself. 1 

Augustine in his old age was witness to the misuse 
by younger men of episcopal authority. A youthful 
bishop named Auxilius had excommunicated Classician 
and all his household. This wholesale and indiscrimi- 
nating anathema raised some very serious ecclesiastical 
and spiritual problems. The days when men acquiesced 
in the interdict had not yet arrived. 2 The action of 
Auxilius caused grave offence.' Augustine wrote to 
expostulate with the young bishop. Classician had 
appealed to him. Augustine was not the young bishop's 
ecclesiastical superior, for the Bishop of Hippo was not 
head of the Province. The ecclesiastical divisions of 
Africa accorded with the Roman Provincial Adminis- 
tration. The head of the ecclesiastical Province was 
the See of Carthage. Augustine in his letter to Bishop 
Auxilius asks for justification, either from reason or from 
Scripture, for anathematising a son for the sins of his 
father. Augustine points out that while a household is 
under excommunication no member of it can receive 
the washing of regeneration, even although he be in 
peril of death. It is the spiritual disaster of dying un- 
baptised which terrifies the writer's soul : " Whatsoever 
ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven." 

Auxilius may be aware of precedents for the excom- 
munication of entire families. But perhaps the bishops 
who have so acted may be able to give, if asked, an ex- 
planation. Augustine confesses that he has never dared 
to venture on such a course. He is an old man now 

1 Letter 217. 2 Letter 250. 



LETTERS ON DIOCESAN AFFAIRS 317 

and he inquires of one who is young ; he has been a 
bishop for many many years, he addresses a bishop who 
has scarcely had one short year's experience. He can- 
not refrain from asking : How it can be just to let the 
innocent suffer for the guilty? If Classician is an 
offender, that is not his children's fault Why should 
they be permitted to perish unbaptised ? But Augustine 
does not even think that Classician himself deserved to 
be excommunicated. Augustine thinks it necessary to 
warn his colleague that the wrath of man worketh not 
the righteousness of God. 

How deeply this instance of ecclesiastical injustice 
moved Augustine's whole soul is clear from his determi- 
nation to bring the matter before the Council of the 
Province ; and if necessary also before the Apostolic 
See. It raised the whole problem of the validity of an 
unjust excommunication. On this point Augustine's 
judgment was certain. He placed it on record in terms 
which have taken effect down the centuries. 

"One thing I say deliberately as an unquestionable 
truth, that if any believer has been wrongfully excom- 
municated, the sentence will do harm rather to him who 
pronounces it than to him who suffers this wrong. For 
it is by the Holy Spirit dwelling in holy persons that 
any one is loosed or bound, and He inflicts unmerited 
punishment upon no one ; for by Him the love which 
worketh not evil is shed abroad in our hearts." 

This passage was incorporated by the Canonist Gratiari, 
who died in 1158, into his work on the Canons of the 
Church. There it remained as a warning against the 
dangers of the misuse of ecclesiastical power. 1 

It was not unusual in the fifth century for orphan chil- 
dren to be placed under the guardianship of the Church. 2 
Several letters of Augustine are concerned with the 
guardianship of a girl left by her father when dying in 

1 5^Sebastian Berardus. Gratiani Canones, 1757. Tom. IV. 
p. 400. 

2 Letters 252 to 255. 



318 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

the Church's care. Augustine received letters asking 
him to dispose of her in marriage. He has a high sense 
of episcopal fatherhood in the Catholic Church. She 
must be placed where she will be a faithful supporter 
of the Church. At present she wants to enter a Convent, 
but is too young to have any serious opinions of her own 
on the subject. One thing is certain : being a Christian 
she can marry no one except a Christian. No Pagan 
need apply. 

Most appropriately after this comes Augustine's 
teaching on Friendship. 1 

It is in a letter written to a friend of long standing, 
but who up to the present had been of a different religion. 
One of whom Augustine writes " I had him not, so long 
as I held him not in Christ." Augustine quotes with 
approval Cicero's definition of Friendship : " Friendship is 
loving agreement in things human and divine." Hitherto 
Martian and Augustine had often agreed in things 
human, but not in things divine. And Augustine is 
convinced that friends who do not agree in things divine 
cannot have complete and perfect agreement even in 
things human. For certainly he who despises things 
divine regards things human otherwise than he ought 
to do. He cannot love a man rightly who loves not 
Him Who created man. It is by things divine that 
things human are rightly tested. (Cf. Augustine's 
remarks on Friendship in the Confessions, Bk. iv. 4. 7.) 

1 Letter 258. 



CHAPTER XI 

LETTERS OF THE CLOSING YEARS 

IT has been given to many strenuous lives to close in 
a period of peace. This is a privilege which Augustine 
was denied. 

He had long since been called upon to strengthen 
the faith of others whom the deplorable anarchy in 
Church and State perplexed. 1 In the year before the 
Fall of Rome he received a letter from a priest, Victorian, 
informing him of the calamities inflicted by the Gothic 
invaders on Italy and on Spain. Augustine could but 
reply that the whole world had become a scene of 
slaughter. Hardly any portion was exempt. Quite 
recently even the monasteries in the solitudes of Egypt, 
chosen expressly for their immunity from strife, had 
been attacked by barbarians, and the monks had been 
murdered. Even here in Hippo, adds the Bishop, 
where barbarians had not reached, the Donatist Clergy 
and the Circumcellions have acted worse than barbarians. 

But, observes Augustine, these things are predicted. 
We ought not to believe when they are read of and 
complain when they are realised. 

After all, he asks, ought Christian people to complain 
of the Divine discipline ? Are we better than the Three 
Children who entered the furnace ? Or better than 
Daniel who was so afflicted ? Augustine reminds his 
correspondent of the story of the Maccabees. That 
story of patriotic faith should be read believingly, and 

1 Letter 3, A.D. 409. 



3 2o THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

taught believingly. So far as it lies in the priest's power 
let him warn men not to murmur against God in tempta- 
tions and tribulations. Victorian says that good and 
faithful servants of God have been slain. Augustine 
answers : after all, does it make much difference in what 
manner they died ? Is not the essential thing not in 
what circumstances, but with what character, they went 
forth to their Lord ? 

Here are the lines of thought which Augustine7when 
Rome had fallen, worked out in the treatise concerning 
the City of God. 

Augustine had witnessed with his own eyes the 
reversals of social position, the overthrow of distinguished 
houses, the ruin of families, the refugees to Africa from 
barbaric violence. But now the storm was drawing 
nearer to his own land. Soon he would be called upon 
to apply to himself the consolations and the principles 
by which he had strengthened others. 

Count Boniface was the last of the great military 
chiefs in Africa during Augustine's episcopate. Like 
all the others he came under the Bishop's influence. To 
Augustine the soldier looked for instruction on the state 
of African ecclesiastical affairs, and for guidance in 
matters affecting his own personal religion. The 
important Letter 185, a treatise on the treatment of the 
Donatists, dealing with the application of Imperial laws 
to African cases, was written for the enlightenment of 
Boniface. This was in 417. But the soldier wanted 
more than information concerning ecclesiastical condi- 
tions. He wanted help about eternal things ; something 
on spiritual themes. The incongruousness of war with 
the Christian ideals had roused misgivings at times in 
the officer's conscience. He wanted the guidance of 
the priest. 

Augustine turned immediately from other duties to 
respond to the soldier's need. 1 

1 Letter 189, A.D. 418. 



LETTERS OF THE CLOSING YEARS 321 

He counsels Boniface to have no misgivings whether 
a man can please God in the profession of a soldier. 
Pie refers to the instance of the Centurion whose faith 
Christ commended ; and of Cornelius whose alms were 
accepted and whose prayers were heard. He reminds 
Boniface that the advice S. John Baptist gave to the 
soldiers who consulted him was not to lay aside their 
weapons but to regulate their power. 

He acknowledges that there were higher missions than 
the secular calling : but added that God had endowed 
individuals with different gifts. He does not conceal 
for a moment his belief in the superiority of the ascetic 
life. But each has its place in the social order. They 
fight for you by praying against invisible foes : and you 
labour for them by fighting against visible barbarians. 
Would that the world were otherwise. But the citizens 
of the Kingdom of Heaven are here being proved by 
trials. 

When, therefore, Boniface prepares for the battle let 
him remember that his physical courage is a gift of 
God, and then he will not use the gift against its 
Giver. 

If faith is to be kept even with an enemy against 
whom we fight, how much more with a friend in whose 
behalf we are fighting. 

Augustine adds to this some thoughts on peace. The 
intention of war is peace. War may be inevitable. 
But the aim is that God will deliver from its necessity, 
and preserve us in peace. For peace does not exist for 
the promotion of war, but war is waged for the sake of 
peace. Therefore let Boniface be a peacemaker even 
in the midst of the strife, and strive simply for the sake 
of peace. 

The thought of temporal peace (pax humana) leads 
Augustine to add a word on heavenly peace (pax divina}. 
Let Boniface aim at the conquest of himself. It is a 
shame if he who cannot be overcome by the sword js 
overcome by passion or by wine. Let him persevere in 
x 



322 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

good actions and in prayer, remembering that human life 
on earth is one long temptation ; and let him learn to for- 
give others as he himself asks to be forgiven. 

Boniface knew well the intrigues of the Court and the 
moral conditions of the camp. He had himself suffered 
from unscrupulous opponents who misrepresented him 
to the Emperor and did their best to secure his ruin. 
There were times when the soldier's spirit revolted in 
disgust from the treatment he received. Times also 
when the peaceful ideals of the Christian religious life 
exercised over him a wonderful fascination. When in 
addition to all this, he had the misfortune to lose his 
wife a sense of the vanity of all earthly hopes almost 
overwhelmed him. 

He was resting at the time in a little African town in 
company with the Bishops, 1 Augustine and Alypius. 
The three were in quiet familiar conversation. In the 
course of it Count Boniface spoke of his longing to be 
released from military occupations and to spend the 
rest of his days for the welfare of his soul in some 
monastic community of the servants of God. 

To these proposals of Count Boniface Augustine gave 
no encouragement. He strongly dissuaded the General 
from adopting any such course. Quite possibly this 
was in part because he knew the soldier's character and 
regarded the proposal as prompted by an emotional 
impulse, a feeling of disgust, and a sense of reaction, 
which would in all probability vary and pass away. 
But what determined Augustine's dissuasion was his 
profound consciousness of the needs of the Church in 
Africa, and indeed of the whole country. Threatened 
as it was with invasion of Huns and Vandals, Augustine 
felt that Count Boniface could do his age more service 
in the army than in the monastery. To lead the Roman 
forces to victory over these fierce barbarians would 
secure the whole of the African Church the blessedness 
of peace. 

1 Letter 220, A.D. 427. 



LETTERS OF THE CLOSING YEARS 323 

Augustine reminded Boniface that perseverance in his 
profession need not conflict with the interests of his own 
soul. It was possible to lead an austere self-disciplined 
life in the camp as well as in the monastery. It was 
better for the larger interests of the Church that the 
soldier's personal preference should be sacrificed. 

Boniface accepted Augustine's direction. He returned 
to the soldier's work : but not to a life of Christian 
self-discipline and austerity. His conduct quickly 
proved that his aspiration towards monastic life was but 
a passing emotion of disgust with the world, rather than 
a real fitness for perpetual devotion and religious self- 
surrender. Rumours sadly to Boniface's discredit spread 
abroad. He had speedily married again ; and rumour 
said that to this second marriage he was by no means 
faithful. 

Augustine was profoundly grieved. He wrote 1 for 
Boniface a letter full of affectionate sympathy, discre- 
tion and distress. He says that it is difficult for Boni- 
face's friends to be his advisers concerning his soul, not 
because they have not the will, but for lack of oppor- 
tunity. Augustine himself has not been given a suitable 
occasion. When Boniface saw him last at Hippo the 
Bishop was so exhausted and so ill that he could scarcely 
speak. Nor could he venture to write for lack of a 
trustworthy messenger. A letter might fall into other 
hands than those for whom it was intended. 

Then Augustine recalls to the soldier's memory their 
conversation on the monastic life : contrasts it with this 
second marriage, which, after Boniface's express inten- 
tion, ought never to have been entered upon. The Bishop 
notes, however, the one relieving fact that Boniface re- 
fused to marry the woman until she had become a 
Catholic. But, on the other hand, the Count has per- 
mitted heresy to prevail in his own household so far as 
to allow his daughter to be baptised by those who deny 

1 Letter 220. 



3 2 4 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

that Jesus is the Son of God. Various other discredit- 
able rumours are abroad which Augustine trusts cannot 
be true. 

However that may be, Boniface is a Christian. He 
has a heart. He fears God. Let him realise what 
Augustine is reluctant to inscribe in words. The Bishop 
implores the Count in the language of Ecclesiasticus : 
" Make no tarrying to turn to the Lord ; and put not off 
from day 'to day." 

But there is another cause for deep distress. Augus- 
tine had advised the Count to keep to his military 
profession because he trusted that the soldier would be 
the protector of the African Church and country. Most 
unhappily that hope was being frustrated. Boniface, in 
his anger at finding himself maligned and distrusted in 
Rome, was himself allowing the Vandals to enter Africa. 

The Count appears to have taken this course in self- 
defence, to secure himself against his opponents in 
Ravenna by obtaining allies in Africa. But it was a 
desperate and destructive policy. It sacrificed the peace 
of Africa to the ambitions of the individual. Augustine's 
tone is sorrowful, reproachful, pathetic, as he thinks of 
the misery which these ferocious hordes are inflicting on 
his native land while Count Boniface takes no steps to 
avert the calamity.' 

If Boniface adopts the excuse that the responsibility 
for these misfortunes lies with the men who tried to ruin 
him, let him remember that he is a Christian, and that 
the ultimate question is how it all appears in the sight 
of God. I speak, says Augustine, to a Christian man. 
Do not render evil for good or evil for evil. From the 
standpoint of worldly success Augustine has no advice 
to give. But regarded from the standpoint of Religion, 
Boniface must consider his own salvation, and lay to 
heart the question : What shall it profit a man to 
gain the whole world while he injures his own soul ? 
Augustine reads him a lesson from I John ii. 15-17: 
" Love not the world . , ." 



LETTERS OF THE CLOSING YEARS 325 

It is a beautiful letter in many ways. Full of tact, 
consideration, forbearance, delicacy, yet strong in its 
lofty principle and its firm rebuke. A man of Boniface's 
temperament could not receive such a letter unmoved. 

It did affect him. That we know. He tried to 
remedy the evil he had permitted. But it was one thing 
to let the barbarians in, another to drive them out. 

It is singular to find in the personal names of the 
fifth century anticipations of forms which have been 
commonly regarded as a peculiarity of the Puritanism of 
the seventeenth century. Thus we find a person bearing 
the name of What- God-wills ("Quod vult deus"). 1 

What-God-wills wrote a letter begging Augustine to 
compile a dictionary of Heresies, or catalogue of errors 
which men have held concerning the Christian Religion. 

The reply is directed in the following terms : 2 " Au- 
gustine, Bishop, to his most beloved son and fellow 
deacon What-God-wills." Augustine is not at all dis- 
posed to write de omnibus hceresibus. There are already 
in existence such works as What-God-wills desires 
Augustine to compile. There is the book compiled by 
Bishop Philastrius, whom Augustine remembers to have 
met at Milan with S. Ambrose. Philastrius numbers 
twenty-eight heresies among the Jews before the Incar- 
nation and 128 since. Then there is the book by Bishop 
Epiphanius, who gives the sum total of the heresies as 
eighty. These diversities show how necessary it is to 
define the term heresy. And such definition is difficult. 
Augustine thinks he had better send a copy of Epipha- 
nius's book to Carthage in order to 'have it there trans- 
lated into Latin. For Epiphanius is the more learned 
writer of the two. 

What-God-wills was not satisfied with this reply. 3 
He renewed his request that Augustine should under- 
take such a work. He did not consider that works 
composed in Greek could meet the case. 

1 Letter 221. 2 Letter 222. 3 Letter 223. 



326 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Augustine thereupon agreed to make the attempt 
when the time of leisure should arrive. 1 But he ex- 
plains how many works he has on hand. 2 

The Vandal invasion of North Africa created many 
a problem for the panic-stricken Churches. The terror 
of the Vandal was felt everywhere. Throngs of people 
fled away from their homes to seek safety and protec- 
tion in the fortified places. The disappearance of many 
of the laity from the Churches affected the clergy also. 
They began to ask whether they were bound to remain ? 
The Bishop Honoratus wrote to the Bishop Augustine 
for his opinion on this. 

Augustine replies 3 that he has already sent an answer 
about it to Bishop What-God-wills. We whose Ministry 
is necessary to the people of God must say, let God be 
our protection and our fortified place. 

This advice, however, must be blended with the in- 
junction, " if they persecute you in one city flee to 
another," also with the example of S. Paul's escape by 
a window in a basket. Let the ministers of Christ's 
Word and Sacraments act in accordance with His orders 
or permissions. This applies especially in cases where 
the clergy in particular are the objects of persecution. 
But when the danger is common to all sections of the 
Church (Augustine distinguishes them as three : bishops, 
clergy and laity) then those who need the ministry 
should not be deserted by them. Either let all alike 
take refuge in a fortified place, or if for some of the 
laity this is impossible, let the clergy remain and serve 
their spiritual needs. 

Bishop Honoratus saw no advantage in remaining at 
his post. It would only be to witness the sufferings of 
others which he could not prevent, and to incur brutal 
treatment for himself. 

Augustine pointed out that future events were quite 

1 Letter 224. * See book De haresibus, Tom. VI. 

3 Letter 228. 



LETTERS OF THE CLOSING YEARS 327 

uncertain, and urged that a certain duty ought not to be 
abandoned for an uncertain event. It must not be sus- 
pected that the clergy were overcome by fear. 

At the same time there are cases when flight is per- 
missible. If the people have fled and no one is left to 
be ministered to ; or if the ministry can be adequately 
fulfilled by others who have not the same reason for 
flight ; if persecution is specially directed against par- 
ticular clergy, as was the case with Athanasius : under 
all these circumstances the flight of a priest is permis- 
sible. While the text about fleeing to another city is 
remembered, the warning about the hireling who fleeth 
because he careth not for the sheep must never be for- 
gotten. There is the awful danger of apostacy among 
those who are deprived of the daily ministry of the 
Lord's Body. 

Augustine points out that periods of calamity are 
generally accompanied, when things reach their very 
worst, by a revival of religious needs. When no escape 
from death seems possible many people will beg to be 
baptised, or to be reconciled, or to be received to peni- 
tence. All will require consolation and the help of the 
Sacraments. If the clergy have fled, think of the awful 
consequence to those who die unregenerate and unfor- 
given. See what the fear of temporal evils can produce 
when it leads men to incur evils which are eternal. 

The sailors and the officers must not desert the ship. 
They ought to be the last to leave it. 

The correspondence between Darius and Augustine 1 
is another example of the Bishop's influence over dis- 
tinguished officers of State. Augustine had never met 
Darius, but had corresponded with him. Darius had 
rendered signal service to the State by securing a truce 
in Africa with the Vandals. The Bishop wrote regret- 
ting that weakness and age prevented him from visiting 
Darius, but warmly congratulating him on being the 

1 Letters 229-231. 



328 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

providential instrument for averting bloodshed. Darius 
replied with expressions of veneration for Augustine's 
gifts and character. 1 Like Augustine, he is profoundly 
thankful that war is at any rate postponed, and earnestly 
hopes for peace. He has seen some of the Bishop's 
writings on various subjects, and asks for a copy of 
Augustine's Confessions. He tells Augustine the story 
how King Abgarus of Edessa wrote a Letter to Christ, 
and of the reply which the King received. He asks 
Augustine to write again ; sends salutations from one 
named Verimodus ; and sends also certain medicines 
valuable for alleviating pain and for the cure of disease 
(he does not mention what they were), through the 
hands of Lazarus a priest, 

Augustine acknowledging this letter has much to say 
on human praise. He is by no means insensible to the 
increasing influence which his writings acquire through 
the distinguished statesman's support. Darius belonged 
to a family whose traditions had been Christian for some 
generations, yet he has come to understand the Pagan 
religion through Augustine's criticisms upon it as he 
never understood it before. This may very likely be a 
reference to the great work on the City of God. Augus- 
tine then sends his Confessions, accompanying the gift 
with the following words : 2 

" Accept the book containing my Confessions. . . . 
In these behold me that you may not praise me beyond 
what I am. In these believe what is said of me, not 
by others, but by myself. In these contemplate me, 
and see what I have been in myself by myself. And 
if anything in me please you, join me, because of it, in 
praising Him to Whom, and not to myself, I desire 
praise to be given. For He hath made us and not we 
ourselves : indeed, we had destroyed ourselves, but He 
Who made us has made us anew. When, however, you 
find me in these books, pray for me that I may not fail, 

1 Letter 230. 2 Letter 231. Cunningham's translation. 



LETTERS OF THE CLOSING YEARS 329 

but be perfected. Pray, my son, pray. I feel what I 
say; I know what I ask." 

Augustine goes further than Darius requested and 
sends other of his writings, including his works on Faith 
in things not seen, on Patience, on Self-control, on 
Providence, as well as the Enchiridion on Faith, Hope 
and Charity. 

In a letter written in the closing period of his life 1 
the great theologian is found engaged in the final re- 
vision of his writings. The result appeared in his 
Retractations. This was not a recantation but a recon- 
sideration. Until this task was undertaken Augustine 
did not realise how many works he had composed. He 
finds the number to be 232, excluding Letters and 
Sermons. 

Meanwhile the prospect darkened. The Vandal in- 
vasion was turning North Africa into a wilderness. 
The news was constantly of increasing and unrelieved 
disaster. Hippo was crowded with refugees who bore 
terrible witness to barbaric cruelty. Augustine's letters 
will not guide us any more. We find the sequel in 
the pages of his faithful companion Bishop Possidius. 
Churches were burnt, convents ravaged, clergy slain. 
Then amid the universal desolation stood out three 
strongly fortified places : Carthage, Cirta and Hippo. 

Count Boniface's old success entirely deserted him. 
Finally, he took refuge behind the walls of Hippo, the 
last entrenchment possible between the enemy and 
the sea. 

Augustine's last outlook on the prospects of the 
African Church must have been heartrending. For 
forty-one years this greatest of theologians had con- 
centrated all his brilliant powers in building up and 
blending together the discordant elements of that 
afflicted and divided portion of the Catholic Church. 
And now he gazed on the sorrowful wreck and ruin of 

1 Letter 225. 



330 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

all his work. Yet with these crushing facts before his 
eyes we are assured that there escaped him no utterance 
of despair. It was a Divine retribution on a people's 
misdeeds. 1 " Righteous art Thou, O Lord, and true is 
Thy judgment." Salvian says that the Franks were 
liars, but they were hospitable; the Saxons cruel, but 
they reverenced a woman ; of the Africans he has no 
redeeming word to say. An African was a synonym 
for immorality. 2 

Augustine preached continually to the crowds within 
the besieged city, 3 while the numbers gradually thinned 
by disease and death. He laboured to provide for the 
wants of the destitute refugees. 

Then he retired from works of charity to the Bishop's 
House. And there he wrote his last word in defence of 
the doctrine of Grace. 

He threw himself earnestly into an elaborate refu- 
tation of the Pelagian theories of Julian of Eclanum, 
the ablest opponent of the Church's faith. He wrote 
with extraordinary acuteness, and with all the force of 
matured dialectic skill, a work which bears no trace 
of the agitated conditions surrounding the aged writer's 
dwelling. It might have been composed in the studious 
quiet of some uninvaded solitude rather than in the 
perils and commotion of a siege. The only sign of 
trouble is that it was left a mere fragment of his full 
intentions. This concentration sprang from no insensi- 
bility, but from the wonderful detachment of his religious 
nature. 4 

Then, having gone as far as circumstances would 
allow, he laid the unfinished work aside and turned his 
judgment within. This had been his custom all along. 
Never since his conversion had the inner life become 
neglected. 

His biographer says that Augustine would often recall 

1 Possidius. 2 De Gub. Dei. 7. 15. 64. 

3 Baronius Annals, A.D. 428. 

4 See the Chronicle of Prosper of Aquitaine. 



LETTERS OF THE CLOSING YEARS 331 

the words of Ambrose, whose character and influence 
were among the most sacred associations of his life. 
He would describe how when the great Archbishop of 
Milan lay dying, and his friends entreated, him to plead 
for a longer extension of life, he answered : " I have not 
so lived that I need be ashamed to continue among 
you : but neither am I afraid to die, for our Lord is 
merciful." 

As the siege of Hippo advanced Augustine had fore- 
bodings of his own decease. " You know," he said to 
them one day at table, " that 1 have besought God in 
this time of our misfortune, either to free this city from 
the besieging hosts ; or, if it please Him otherwise, 
either to make His servants strong to bear His will, or 
to release me from this world and take me to Himself." 
And, so saying, he taught them all to pray that it 
might be so. 

Arid when the third month of the siege began, he fell 
sick of fever and his strength faded away. And as he 
lay in the illness from which he was not to recover, he 
prayed with fervent intercessions for that city where 
he had lived in all simplicity for forty-one years. And 
when his people knew that he was dying they insisted 
that certain possessed with mental infirmity should be 
brought to his bedside ; that he should place his hands 
upon them, and pray that they might recover : a prayer 
which they say was granted. 

But the end was near. He now begged to be left 
alone in his chamber, uninterrupted except at the neces- 
sary visits of his physician and at the intervals of taking 
food. There alone with God Augustine prepared himself 
for death. He ordered the Penitential Psalms to be 
written out in large characters and hung upon the wall 
beside his bed. And so he spent the last days of his 
infirmity, reading those outpourings of a repentance 
like his own, repeatedly, and with many tears. So 
passed the closing ten days of his career. He died, at 
the age of seventy-six, in the presence of the Community 



332 THE LETTERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

which he had created. Possidius says he made no will : 
for he had no property to leave, with the sole exception 
of his library and his writings, which he committed to 
the keeping of the Church. 

Augustine's life was mercifully ended before his city 
fell. After holding out for fourteen months, Count 
Boniface eventually escaped by sea, leaving the unhappy 
city to destruction by the victorious Vandals. Baron ius 
lays much stress on the fact that Augustine's library 
was preserved during the sack of Hippo. Considering 
that the besiegers were Arians, the escape of Augustine's 
books from the flames is little less than marvellous. 

Such was the condition in which the last Bishop of 
Hippo, the greatest teacher in Christendom since the 
Apostles, passed away. 



INDEX 



I. SUBJECTS 



/ELIAN, proconsul at Carthage, 79 
African character, 261-2 
Altare, 88, 280 
Ambrose, 15, 69, 95 
Anthropomorphic, 69 
Apollonius of Tyana, 51 
Apostolic Chair, 89 
Apuleius, 15 
Arianism, 63 
Athanasius, 15 
Augustine 

changes of opinion, 9, 10 

letters, subjects treated in, 10-12 
, recipients of, 12, 21 

his place among contemporary 
Bishops, 13, 14 

authors quoted by Pagan, 14 

by Christian, 15 
,, ,, by Apocryphal, 

16, 17 

his ordination, 29, 30 

as a preacher, 37, 39 

his consecration, 41 

Doctrine of Grace, 131 ff. 

and Jerome, 216, 254 



Augustine's writings, references 

to 

Contra litt. Petit., 43 
City of God, 48, 59, 70, 71, 155, 

297 

Sermon 150, 53 
Against Cresconius, 98, 101 
De Gestis cum Emerito, 98 
De Libero Arbitrio, 131, 196, 304 
De Gratia et lib. arbitr., 134, 169 
Retract, 136, 329 
Contra Julian., 137 
De natura et gratia, 137, 151, 

156 
The Spirit and the Letter, 144, 

157, I7i 

De Peccat. Remissione, 151 
Literal interpretation of Genesis, 

I55 i?i 

De Gestis Pelagii, 156 
On Correction and Grace, 173, 

182 

On the Trinity, 71, 195 
On the Psalms, 225 



and his coadjutor, 314, 315 

Popes, 
87,91 



Baptism, 103 

relations with the Popes", 22, 82, of Infants, 154, 290-94 

of the Apostles, 96, 258 

of Christ, 72, 73 

Biblical exposition, 185-215 
Boniface (Count), 320-25 



allegorising tendency, 69 
and authority, 69 
on the Resurrection-Body, 70 
Augustine's writings, references 

to 

Soliloquies, 25, 26, 27, 225 
Confessions, 29, 34, 35, 37, 43, 

59, 131. 133. l8 5> 192, 3 OI > 

318, 328 

De Beaia Vita, 35 
De Vera Religione, 36, 196, 198 



Caecilian (Bishop of Carthage), 78, 

79,88 

Carefor the Dead, 33 
Carthage (Bishops of), 97 
Cassian, 76 
Casuistry, 303-5 
Catholic, 1 86 



333 



334 



INDEX 



Celestius, 140, 145 
Ceremonial, 288, 289 
Church, at Hippo, 31-37 

and State, 90 

Cicero, 14, 52, 54 
Circumcellions, 40, 79, 102 
Coercion, 79, 104, 105, 107, 113, 

116 

Communion, fast before, 281-7 
Communities, of women, 273-4 

, of men, 303, 306-8 

Community Life, 34, 35 
Conference at Carthage, no, 118, 

119 

Constantine (Emperor), 78, 88 
Constantine (Cirta), capital of Nu- 

midia, 99 
Council, at Rome (313), 79 

at Aries (314), 88-93 

at Carthage (326), 80 

at Nicsea, 41-2 

at Carthage (416), 148 

at Milevis (416), 148, 149 

at Diospolis, 143, 150, 151, 

159 

, at Trent, 131 

Creationism, 74> 161 
Crispin, 101 
Cyprian, 15 

Demetrius, 271 
Democritus, 54 
Desolation (cry from the Cross), 

187 

Diocesan affairs, 301-18 
Diocletian persecution, 77 
Diospolis (synod of). See Councils. 
Donatists, 76-125 
, outlines of the controversy, 

76-82 
Donatus (proconsul), 108 

(head of Donatists), 78 
Duchesne, 141, 227 

Ecclesia Africana, 31 
Episcopal Succession, 97 

in Rome, 99 

Eschatology, 203-7 
Eucharist, 276-300 

, a sacrifice, 203 
Evodius, 70 



Excommunication, 316, 317 

Felix (of Aptunga), 79 
Fortunatian, 69 
Fortunius, 94 ff. 

Galatians (dispute between SS. Peter 

and Paul), 218 ff. 
Grace, doctrine of, 126-84 
Gratian, 317 

Hammond (Definitions of Faith), 41 
Heraclian, 119 
Homoousion, 64 
Horace, 14 
Humility, 53 

Incarnation, 56-60, 75 

(See also Virgin Birth) 

Innocent (Pope), I5off. 
Intermediate state, 211-15 

Jerome, 74, 140 ff. 

Jews, 59 

John (Bishop of Jerusalem), 140, 

I5 1 

Julian, 8 1 

Lucilla, 78, 92 

Macarius, 76-82, 84, 95 n. 
Majorinus, 78, 88 
Marinus (Consul), 119 
Materialistic conceptions of Deity, 

68, 69 

Maximin, 83 ff. 
Maximinionists, 78, 97 
Maximus (Physician), 74 
Melchiades (Bishop of Rome), 88, 

90, 92 

Mensurius, 77, 78 
Ministries, 190-1 
Monks and priests, 307 

Nature and grace, 74 

Optatus, 8 1, i6of. 
Origen, 74, 227, 241 
Origin of the soul, 241-54 
Original sin, 144 
Orosius, 74, 141, 142, 244 



INDEX 



335 



Pagan, criticisms on Christianity ; 

its late arrival, 50 

mythology, 48 

- Scriptures contrasted with 
i Christian, 50 
Temples, destroyed, 49; 

closed, 59 ; converted into 

churches, 
Paganism, 45-62 
Papal claims, 90, 91-93 
Pascentius, 64 ff. 
Pelagianism, 74, 129-31 
Pelagius, letter to Demetrius, 126-9 

life of, 139-43 

Persona, 66 

Plato, 14 

Platonists, 53 

Plotinus, 14, 54 

Porphyry, 15, 50 

Possidius (Bishop of Calama), 101, 

329, 330 

Predestination, 181 
Principatus, 88, 89 
Priscillianists, 74 
Procopius, 76 
Proculeian, 85 ff. 
Punic names, 46 

Regeneration, 144-54 
Resurrection Body, 70, 207, 208 
Reunion, 84, 85, 87, 94 
Rome, fall of, 243, 263 



Rufinus, 241 

Sabbath and Sunday, distinction 

between, 276-81 
Sacrament, 299 
Sacrifice, 293-8 

of Eucharist, 298 

Secundus (Bishop of Tigisis), 91 
Seneca, 117 
Soul (see Origin of), 74 
Spirits in prison, 197, 202 
Succession. See Episcopal. 
Swete, Professor, Essays on Church 
and Ministry, 82 

Terence, 14 

Tertullian, 161 

Tradition, "non scripta sed Tra- 

dita," 282 
Traducianism, 161 
Trinity, 63-76 

Valerius (Bishop), 85 

Validity, 82, 103 

Virgin Birth, 55, 56, 62, 66, 152, 

162, 186, 195, 198 
Virgins, Parable of, 188 
Vision of God, 266-70 

War and Peace, 321 
Women, letters to, 255-75 

Zosimus (Pope), 160 



II. AUGUSTINE'S CORRESPONDENTS 



Alypius (Bishop), Letter 29, p. 37- 

40; L. 83, p. 311 
Apringius, L. 134, p. 113 
Aurelius (Bishop), L. 22, p. 31 ; 

L. 41, p. 43 ; L. 60, p. 309 
Auxilius (Bishop), L. 250, p. 316 

Benenatus, L. 253, 254, p. 317 
Boniface (Bishop), L. 98, p. 290-2 
(Count), L. 185, p. 121-5 

Caecilian (statesman), L. 151, 

p. 1 20 
Caslestine (Pope), L. 209, p. 312- 

14 



Casulan, L. 36, p. 276-80 
Catholics of Hippo, L. 78, p. 306-7 
Consentius, L. 119, 120, p. 67; 
L. 205, p. 207-9 

Dardanus, L. 187, p. 201-2 
Deogratias (Priest), L. 102, p. 50, 

295-6. 

Deuterius (Bishop), L. 236, p. 62 
Dioscorus, L. 118, p. 52 
Donatists, L. 105, p. 169 ; L. 141, 

p. in 
Donatus (Proconsul), L. 100, p. 

109 
(Priest), L. 173, p. 119 



336 



INDEX 



Ecdicia, L. 262, p. 255 
Emeritus (Donatist), L. 87, p. 101 
Evodius, L. 158, p. 192; L. 159, 
p. 193; L. 161, p. 195; L. 162, 
p. 198; L. 164, p. 199-201 ; L. 
169, p. 71-4 

Fabiola, L. 267, p. 274. 
Felicitas, L. 210, 21 1, p. 273 
Felix, L. 252, p. 317 
Festus, L. 89, p. 102-4 
Florentina, L. 266, p. 260 
Florentinus, L. 232, p. 59 
P'ortunatian (Bishop), L. 148, p. 69 

Generosus, L. 53, p. 99-100 
Genethlius, L. 51, p. 97 
Glorius (and others), L. 43, p. 87- 
93 5 L. 44, p. 94-6 

Hesychius, L. 199, p. 203-6 
Hilary, L. 157, p. 143-8 
Honoratus, L. 140, p. 185-9 

Innocent (Pope), L. 175, 176, p. 
148 

Januarius (Donatist Bishop), L. 88, 

p. 101 
Januarius, L. 54, p. 281-7 5 L. 55, p. 

287-9 

Jerome, L. 28, p. 217 ; L. 40, p. 
221 ; L. 71, p. 123 ; L. 73, 
p. 225 ; L. 76, p. 232 ; L. 82, 
p. 234-9 ; L. 1 66, p. 244-8 ; L. 
167, p. 248 

John (Bishop of Jerusalem), L. 179, 

P- J 5i 

Juliana, L. 188, p. 271-2 

Licentius, L. 26, p. 34 
Longinian, L. 133, 134, 135, p. 
60- 1 

Macedonius, L. 152, p. 114 ; L. 

153, P- II5-7; L- I53> 154, I55 

p. 118 
Marcellinus, L. 138, p. 209, 296-8 ; 

L. 129, p. in ; L. 139, p. 113, 

211 ; L. 143, p. 210-14 
Martian, L. 258, p. 318 



Maxima, L. 264, p. 258 

Maximin (Donatist Bishop) L. 23, 

P- 83-4 
Maximus, L. 16, p. 46 ; L. 17, 

p. 47 ; L. 170, p. 74-5 

Nebridius, L. 3-14. p. 24-9 ; L. n, 

P- 6 3 
Nectarius, L. 91, p. 48 

Optatus (Bishop), L. 190, p. 249- 
51 ; L. 202, p. 252 

Pascentius, L. 238, p. 63-5 ; L. 

239, p. 66 

Paulina, L. 147, p. 267-70 
Paulinus (Bishop of Nola), L. 24, 

p. 33 ; L. 27, p. 36 ; L. 31, p. 

41 ; L. 149, p. 190; L. 186, p. 

33, 156-60 

Paulus (Bishop), L. 85, p. 312 
Peter and Abraham, L. 184 B, p. 

154 
Pinianand Melania, L. 124, p. 260 ; 

L. 126, p. 262 
Proba, L. 130, p. 264-7 
Procopius and Cylinnius (Bishops), 

L. 219, p. 76 
Proculeian (Donatist Bishop), L. 

33> P- 85 

Profuturus (Bishop), L. 38, p. 43 
Publicola, L. 46, p. 303 ; L. 47, p. 

304-5 

Quintian, L. 64, p. 310 
Rusticus, L. 255, p. 317 

Sapida, L. 263, p. 257 
Seleuciana, L. 265, p. 258 
Severus, L. 62, 63, p. 309 
Sixtus (Priest), L. 191, p. 163 ; L. 
194, p. 163-7 

Valentinus (Abbot), L. 214, p. 168 
Valerius (Bishop), L. 21, p. 29-31 
Victorian (Priest), p. 319 
Victorin (Bishop), L. 59, p. 308 
Vincent, L. 93, p. 104-8 
Vitalis, L. 217, p. 178-81, 316 
Volusian, L. 135, 136, 137, p. 55-8 



in C,rtat Britain by R Clay & Sons, Lid., Lonaon and Bungay 



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Sparrow-Simpson, W. J. 
The letters of St. Augustine 
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