|THE PHILOSOPHY OF ST. AUGUSTINE|
|William G. Most
Augustine praises the greatness of God
1.1. "You are great, O Lord, and greatly to be praised. Great is your power, and of your wisdom, there is no measure." And (yet) man wants to praise you—man, some part of your creation. You arouse us so that it delights us to praise you. For you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.
1.2. And how shall I call—in my God, my God and my Lord? For surely, I will call Him into myself when I invoke Him. (A. is playing on words here—invoke in Latin can mean also "call in".) And what room is there in me into which my God might come? Into which God might come into me, the God who made heaven and earth? Is it so, Lord my God, is there anything in me that can contain you? Or do the heaven and the earth—which you made, and in which you made me—do they contain you?
1.4. What then are you my God? What, I ask, except the Lord God. For who is the Lord besides God? Or who is God besides our God?—Most high, most good, most powerful, most omnipotent, most merciful and most just, most secret and most present; most beautiful and most strong; most stable and incomprehensible; unchangeable (yet) changing all things; never new, never old; making all things new, and bringing the proud to (the collapse of) old age; ever acting, ever at rest; gathering, and not needing; carrying and filling and protecting (all things); creating and nourishing and perfecting; seeking, though you lack nothing.
You love, but are never disturbed; you are jealous, and secure; you regret, and you do not grieve; you are angered, and tranquil; you change your works, but do not change your plans; you regain what you find, and you never lose. Things are given in abundance to you, so that you are (our) debtor—and who has anything that is not yours? You repay debts, though owing to no one. You remit debts, losing nothing.
1.5. What am I to you that you order me to love you, and unless I do it, you are angry with me, and threaten immense miseries? The house of my soul is narrow—may you enlarge it. It is in ruins; remake it. It has things that offend your eyes, I confess and I know. But who will cleanse it? Or to whom besides you shall I cry: "From my hidden faults cleanse me, O Lord"?
1.6. But yet, permit me to speak before your mercy—me, who am dust and ashes—yet permit me to speak. For lo! it is your mercy—not man who laughs at me—to which I speak.
What is it that I wish to say, Lord, except that I know not from where I have come here—should I say into this mortal life, or life-giving death, I know not. And the consolations of your mercies received me, as I heard from the parents of my flesh, from whom and in whom you formed me in time—for I remember not. So then the consolations of human milk received me. Neither my mother nor my nurses filled their breasts of themselves. But you, Lord, you gave me though them the food of infancy, according to your providence, and the riches arranged to the depth of things.
You also ordained that I should not want more than you gave, and that those who nursed me should want to give what you gave them. For they wanted to give to me in virtue of the well-ordered attitude in which they abounded from you. For my good from them was good for them—which (yet) was not from them, but through them.
And lo! Bit by bit I began to sense where I was. And I was wanting to show my desires to those by whom they could be fulfilled, and (yet) I was not able to manifest them, for those desires were within—those (who could fulfill them) were without (outside of me). Nor by any sense could they enter into my soul. And so, I tossed about my limbs and my voice—signs like to my desires—the few I could make, such as I could make. And when they did not obey me—either because they did not understand, or so as not to do something bad for me—I was indignant at my elders for not being subject to me, and at children who did not serve me. And I got revenge on them by crying. Such have I learned infants are—the ones I have come to know—and they, without knowing, have revealed to me that I was such, more than my nurses who do know.
The little body learns to talk.
1.8. Did I not, in moving this direction, come from infancy into boyhood, or rather, boyhood came to me, and replaced infancy? For I was not an infant (Latin means non-speaker) who could not talk, but now I was a speaking boy. And I remember this, and later I noticed how I learned to speak. For my elders did not teach me this by giving me words in some set teaching order, as they later did with letters. But I myself, with the mind you gave me, my God, with groans, and various vocal sounds and movements of my limbs wanted to express what was in my heart, so my will might be obeyed. And I was not able to make clear all I wished. I grasped it in memory when they named some thing, and when they moved their body to something after a certain word. I used to see and to retain what sound they employed when they wanted to indicate a thing. It was evident that they meant this from the movement of their body, as by the words natural to all nations, words which consist in facial expressions, movements of eyes, and the actions of other limbs, and by the sounds of the voice indicating their attitude in seeking, having, rejecting, or fleeing things. And so little by little I gathered what words stood for, when put in their places in various meanings, which I heard frequently. And by controlling my mouth to make these signs, I now was expressing what I wanted. And so I communicated the signs of my wishes to those among whom I was, and I entered more deeply upon the stormy society of human life, depending on the authority and nod of my parents and older persons.
He prays to avoid beatings in school.
1.9. O God, my God, what miseries and mockeries I experienced there (in school). For when I was a boy, right living was presented to me as obeying those who advised me, so that I might flourish in this world, and excel in wordy arts, that serve for the honor of men, and false riches. So then I was sent to school to learn letters, whose value I, wretch, did not know. And yet, if I was slow in learning, I got a beating. for the elders approved of this. And many before this, going through this life, constructed weary ways through which we were forced to go, suffering and grief being multiplied for the sons of Adam.
We found, moreover, Lord, men who prayed to you. And we learned from them, as we could, that there was some great One who could—even though He did not appear to our senses—hear us, and help us. For as a boy I began to ask you, my help and my refuge, and I broke the knots of my tongue to invoke you, and I kept asking you, as a little one, with no little feeling, that I might not get a beating in school.
And when you did not hear me—which was not to teach me folly (A. interprets Psalm 21.3 in this way: The refusal of his prayer was to avoid letting him become foolish)—my blows were laughed at by older persons, and even by my parents, who wanted no evil to happen to me—though these beatings were then a great and grave evil in my eyes.
Is there anyone, Lord, so great a soul, adhering to you with so great a love—is there, I ask, anyone who by adhering devoutly to you is so greatly affected thereby that he thinks little of racks and hooks and other varied torments of this sort—which men pray to you all over the earth to escape, with great fear—as did our parents who laughed at the torments with which we boys were afflicted by our teachers? For neither did we fear these things less, or pray less to you to escape these. And yet we sinned, writing less or reading less or thinking less about letters than was demanded of us.
And yet, I sinned, Lord my God, ruler and creator of all the things of nature, but only the ruler of sins: I sinned, O Lord my God by acting against the precepts of my parents and those teachers. For later I could make good use of the letters that they wanted me to learn, whatever was their attitude in wanting it. For I was disobedient not because I chose better things, but out of love of playing, loving proud victories in contests and loving to have my cars tickled by false fables, so that they might itch more ardently.
See these things, Lord, mercifully, and free us who now call on you. Free also those who do not yet call on you, so that they may call on you and you may free them.
He became a catechumen, and is almost baptized
1.11. I had heard, when still a boy, about the eternal life promised us through the humility of your Son, our Lord and God, who descended to our pride. And I was already signed with the sign of the Cross, and was seasoned with his salt already from the womb of my mother, who hoped much in you.
You saw, Lord, when I was still a boy, and one day from abdominal trouble I suddenly fell into a fever and was close to death. You saw, my God, since you were already then my guardian, with what emotion and what faith I begged for the baptism of your Christ, my God and Lord, from the devotedness of my mother, and the devotedness of the mother of all of us, your Church. And the mother of my flesh was disturbed—since she very dearly was in labor for my eternal salvation and with chaste heart in your faith—and would have taken care hurriedly that I be initiated in the saving sacraments and be washed, confessing you, Lord Jesus, for the remission of sins, had I not been restored to health suddenly. And so my cleansing was delayed, as if it were necessary that I become still more filthy, if I lived. For, that is, after that bath (Baptism) the guilt of sins in filth would be greater and more dangerous.
So I already believed, and she believed, and the whole house, except my father alone. He however did not cancel out in me the right of my mother's devotedness so as to prevent me from believing in Christ, as he had not yet believed. For she strove that you should be a father to me, my God, rather than he. And in this you helped her to overcome her husband whom she served, though she was better than he, because in this surely she served you who commanded that she act thus.
I ask you, my God, I would like to know, if you also will it, for what purpose I was put off so as not to be baptized then. Was it for good to me, as if then the reins of sin were let loose, or not let loose? On this count even at present there sounds on all sides in our ears about various other persons: "Let him go. Let him do what he wants. for he is not yet baptized." And yet in the case of health of the body we do not say: "Let him go. Let him be wounded more. For he has not yet been healed." How much better it would have been then that I be quickly healed, and that it be provided for me, by my diligence and that of my people, that the health of my soul after being regained would have been safe under the protection of you who would have given it.
He hates Greek in school, but loves Virgil's stories
1.12. In boyhood itself—there was less fear for me about it than about the time of adolescence—I did not like letters. And I hated to be pushed to them. Yet I was pushed, and it was well for me, but I did not do well. For I would not have learned if I had not been forced. Yet they who forced me did not do well. But it turned out well for me as a result of you, my God. For they (who forced me) were not concerned about what use I would make of letters—except to satisfy insatiable desires of rich neediness and shameful glory. But you, for whom "the hairs of my head are numbered" made use for my advantage, of the error of all those who pressed me to learn. But you made use of my error—I who did not want to learn—for my punishment, of which I was not unworthy—so little a boy, and so large a sinner! And so you did well for me by means of those who were not doing well. And you justly repaid me for my own sin. For you have ordered it, and it is so, that every disordered soul is its own punishment.
1.13. I still do not know even now why it was that I hated Greek literature in which I was steeped as a boy. For I fell in love with Latin letters—not the kind the elementary teachers teach, but what those who are called grammarians teach. For those first stages, in which one learns to read and write and count, I considered not less burdensome and penal than all Greek letters. And yet, what does this too come from, if not from sin, and the vanity of life? For I was flesh, "a spirit that walks, and does not return." For certainly those first letters were better, because more certain, in which it was happening and has happened, and still is true that I can read whatever I find written and that I myself can write, if I wish—the first letters were better than those letters in which I was driven to weep for the wanderings of someone called Aeneas—forgetting my own wanderings—and to bewail the death of Dido, who killed herself out of love—while meanwhile with dry eyes I could bear myself—most miserable!—dying to you in these things, O God, my life.
For what was more miserable than miserable me, not pitying myself, and crying over the death of Dido, which happened because of her love for Aeneas, while I did not weep over my own death, which came from not loving you, O God, light of my heart, and inner bread of the mouth of my soul?
But now may my God, and your truth, cry out and say to me in my soul: "It is not so, it is not so." Better definitely was that first teaching. For behold, I am more ready to forget the wanderings of Aeneas and all that sort of thing than to forget how to write and read.
But veils hang at the thresholds of the schools of the grammarians—standing not more for the honor of a secret, than as a cover-up of error. Let those whom I no longer fear not shout against me, when I confess to you what my soul wants to confess, my God, and acquiesce in the rebuke of my evil ways, so that I may love your good ways.
So I sinned as a boy when I loved those empty things more than these more useful things, or rather, I hated the one, and loved the other. For "one and one are two. Two and two are four" had been a hateful sing-song to me—but the wooden horse, full of armed men, and the burning of Troy had been a most sweet sight of vanity.
1.14. Why then did I hate (to learn) Greek letters, which sing of such things? For Homer too is skilled at weaving such fables, and is most sweetly vain—and yet he was bitter to me as a boy. I suppose that Virgil is that way to Greek boys too, when they are forced to learn him as I was forced to learn Homer—with difficulty, that is. The difficulty of learning a strange language completely sprinkled as if with gall, all the sweetnesses of Greek fabulous tales. For I knew no (Greek) words and there was pressure on me, vehemently, with savage terrors and penalties, so that I might learn. For at one time as an infant I had known no Latin words; and yet by taking note I learned them, without any fear and torture, amid the enticements of my nurses, and the jokes of those who smiled at me, and the joys of those playing with me. I learned them without the penal burden of people pressing on me, since my heart addressed me, in order to be able to express its concepts—which I could not do without learning some words, not from teachers but from those who spoke, in whose ears I tried to bring forth whatever I felt. So it is quite clear that free curiosity has greater power for learning these things, than fearful necessity.
He must impersonate June in a speech.
1.17. Allow me, my God, to say something also about my ability, your gifts (to tell) in what madness it was being worn down. For an assignment was given me, quite troublesome to my soul—with praise as reward, or under fear of disgrace and a beating—that I should speak the words of Juno when she was angry and grieving because she could not "turn aside the king of the Trojans from Italy"—which I had never heard that Juno said. But we were forced in our wandering to follow the tracks of poetic fictions, and to say in prose something of the sort which the poet might have said in verse. And that student spoke with greater praise in whom, in accord with the dignity of the person represented, a more likely attitude of anger and grief stood out, with suitable words clothing the thoughts.
What good was it to me, my true life, my God, that there was more applause for me in this recitation than for many fellow students of my own age? Behold, are not all these things smoke and wind? Was there no other matter on which my mind and tongue could have been trained? Your praises, Lord, your praises through your Scriptures could have supported the vine shoot of my heart, and it would not have been carried off in empty trifles, a shameful prey for birds. For there is more than one way of sacrificing to the fallen angels!
Augustine recalls his wicked youth.
2.1. I want to recall my past foulnesses, and the carnal corruptions of my soul—not that I love them, but that I may love you, my God. Out of love of your love I do this, recalling my most wicked ways, in the bitterness of my thought, so that you may become sweet to me, a sweetness that is not deceptive, a happy and secure sweetness. For I was ablaze to get my fill of hell in my youth, and I dared to grow wild in varied and shadowy loves. I became rotten before your eyes, while being pleasing to myself, and desiring to please the eyes of men.
2.2. And what was it that delighted me, except to love and be loved? But I did not hold to the right measure, and so did not distinguish the serenity of love from the mist of lust. Both boiled confusedly together, and carried off my weak age through the steep paths of desires, and sank me in the whirlpool of crimes. But miserably I raged, following the onrush of my flow, leaving you. And I went beyond all your lawful bounds—nor did I escape your scourges. For who of mortals can? For you were ever present, mercifully raging, and sprinkling with most bitter unpleasantness all my illicit pleasures, so that I might seek to find pleasure without unpleasantness, and where I could, I should not find anything but you, Lord.
Where was I, and how far was I in exile from the delights of your house in that sixteenth year of my flesh, when luxury gained the sceptre over me, and I gave my hands to it fully, to the insanity of licentious lust? And my own family did not take care to snatch me out by marriage as I rushed on. But they cared only that I should learn to make the best possible speech, and to persuade by my words.
2.3 In that year my studies were interrupted after I returned from Madaura—the neighboring city in which I had begun to stay to learn literature and oratory—while funds were prepared for a longer trip to Carthage, more by my father's spirit than by his finances, for he was a citizen of Thagaste of rather slender means.
To whom do I tell these things? For I do not tell them to you, my God, but in your presence, I tell these things to my kind, the human kind, whatever part of them may happen on these writings.
But when, in that sixteenth year during the necessary interruption I was on holiday with my parents, the brambles of lusts went over my head, and there was no hand to uproot them. Woe to me. And do I dare to say that you, my God, were silent, when I went far from you? Were you then silent to me? And whose words were they, if not yours, those words through my mother, your faithful one, which you sang in my ears? Yet nothing of them went down into my heart, to carry them out. For she wanted, and I remember how secretly she warned me with immense solicitude, that I should not commit fornication, and especially that I should not commit adultery with anyone's wife. But these seemed to me just womanly warnings, which I would blush to obey. Yet they were your warnings, and I did not know, but thought that you were silent, and that she was speaking, through whom you were not silent to me, and in scorning her I scorned you, I, her son, your servant, the son of your handmaid.
But I knew not, and I kept going headlong with such blindness that when among my peers I was ashamed of having done something less disgraceful, when I heard them boasting of their sins, and boasting the more, the more shameful they had been. And I enjoyed doing these things, not just out of lust for doing them, but also out of desire for praise. What is worthy of blame but vice? But I, so as not to be blamed, became more vicious, and whenever there was nothing I had done equal to these wretches, I pretended I had done what I had not done, so I might not seem lower by being more innocent, and so I might not seem the more vile, the more chaste I was.
He steals for the sake of stealing.
2.4. Your law, Lord, surely punishes stealing, the law written in the hearts of man, which not even iniquity itself wipes out. For what thief calmly puts up with a thief? Not even a rich thief endures a thief who is driven by neediness. Yet I wanted to steal, and I did steal, driven by no need, but by the lack of and disdain for justice. For I stole that of which I had plenty and much better. Nor did I want to enjoy the thing which I desired to steal, but I enjoyed the stealing and sin themselves. There was a pear tree near our vineyard, loaded with fruit that was not enticing in shape or taste. We, most wicked youths, went to shake it down, and to carry off fruit in the middle of the night—we had prolonged our play that long out of evil custom. And we took large fruits, not to eat, but to at least throw to the pigs—even though we did eat some of it—we just wanted to do that which pleased us precisely because it was illicit. Behold my heart, O God, behold my heart, which you took pity on in the depth of the abyss. Let my heart now tell you what it was seeking there—so that it was evil without cause, and there was no cause for my malice but malice.
2.6. What then did I, wretch, love in you, O my theft, O evil deed of night of the sixteenth year of my age? For you were not beautiful, since you were a theft...Those fruits were beautiful, but my miserable soul did not really desire them: I had a supply of better fruits, but I picked those merely in order to steal. For I threw away what I picked, and ate out of them only the iniquity, which I rejoiced in. For whatever of those fruits entered into my mouth, it was seasoned by the evil deed.
2.8. And yet I would not have done that alone—thus I recall my soul then—I would not at all have done it alone. So I loved in it also the fellowship of those with whom I did it. So I did not love solely the theft—or rather, I really did love nothing else, for that fellowship (in crime) is nothing. But since there was no pleasure for me in the fruit, there was pleasure in the deed itself, pleasure which the fellowship of others sinning with me produced.
2.9. What was that attitude of soul? Surely it was simply shameful, but yet what was it? Who understands sins? It was a lark for our itching heart, as it were, that we were deceiving those who did not think we would do it, and strongly objected to our doing it. O too unfriendly friendship, and greediness for sport and joke and desire for harming another—without gain to myself, without a desire for revenge, just done when they said: "Let's go, let's do it". And we were ashamed not to be shameless!
Sinner at Carthage.
3.1. I came to Carthage, and there crackled about me on all sides the frying pan of wicked loves. (A word play here between Carthage and sartago, "a frying pan".) I did not yet love, and I loved to love, and out of a more secret need, I hated myself when I needed less. I sought something to love, loving to love, and I hated security and a path without traps. For I had an inner hunger for an interior food, you my God, and I did not feel that hunger, but I was without desire for incorruptible food—not that I had my fill, but the more empty I was, the more finicky I was towards it.
And so my soul was not well, and being full of sores, it cast itself outside of me, being pitifully eager to be scratched by the touch of things of sense. To love and to be loved was more sweet to me if I could also enjoy the body of the lover. So I befouled the spring of friendship, and defiled its clear waters with the hell of lust; and yet, though foul and dishonorable, I enjoyed being refined and urbane, out of brimming vanity. I rushed into love, desiring to be captured by it. My God, my mercy, with how much gall you sprinkled that sweetness, and how good you were to do it. For I was loved, and came to bond of enjoyment, and I was gladly bound in troublesome bonds, and so I was beaten with the hot iron rods of jealousy and suspicion and fear and anger and quarrels.
3.2. The spectacles of the theatre laid hold of me, full of images of misery, and tinder for my flame. Why is it that man wishes to grieve there, when he sees grief-filled and tragic things, which yet he himself would not wish to suffer? Yet he, the spectator, wishes to suffer grief from them, and the very grief is his pleasure. What is this but pitiful insanity? Are tears then loved, and pains? Surely, every man wishes to be happy. Or is it that although no one likes to be miserable, yet he is pleased to commiserate others, and for this reason alone—since commiseration cannot be had where there is not pain—he loves grief?
3.3. And there hovered over me at a distance your faithful mercy. Into what iniquities I wasted myself, and followed with sacrilegious curiosity, so that in my desertion of you it led me down to faithless depths, and deceitful service of demons, to whom I immolated my evil deeds—and in all these your scourged me! I dared even during the celebration of your mysteries with the walls of the church to desire and arrange an affair to procure the fruits of death. As a result, you whipped me with heavy penalties, but nothing in comparison to my fault, O you, my exceedingly great mercy, my God, my refuge from the fearfully harmful things in which I wandered, with proud neck, to go far from you, loving my ways, not yours, loving the freedom of a runaway slave.
The goal of my studies, which were called honorable, was law, so that I might excel in them and be the more praiseworthy, the more crafty I was. Such is the blindness of men who even boast of blindness. And I was the leading student in the school of the rhetor, and I was proudly glad, and swollen with smoke, though much more restrained, Lord, you know, and remote by far from the wreckings that the "Wreckers" did—this savage and devilish name is as it were the badge of urbanity. I lived among them with shameless shame, because I was not such. I was with them, and at times enjoyed their friendship, but I always abhorred their deeds, that is, the "wreckings" in which they boldly attacked the shyness of new students.
Cicero makes him eager for philosophy.
3.4. Among them at that time, in my immature age, I was studying books of eloquence, in which I desired to be eminent—with a damnable windy purpose, through the joys of human vanity.
In the regular course of studies I have come upon the book of a certain Cicero, whose tongue practically all admire—but not so his heart. But that book of his, called Hortensius, contains an exhortation to philosophy. That book changed my attitude, and turned my prayers to you, Lord, and made my wishes and desires different. For suddenly all vain hope seemed cheap to me, and I desired the immortality of wisdom, with incredible ardor of heart, and I had already begun to rise to return to you.
For I did not use that book to sharpen my tongue—a thing I seemed to be buying at my mother's expense, when I was nineteen (my father had died two years before)—not to sharpen my tongue did I use that book. For it impressed me not with its style, but with its teaching.
How eager I was, my God, how eager I was to fly away from earthly things to you. And I did not know what you were doing in me. For wisdom is yours. But the love of wisdom has the Greek name philosophy, for which that book made me eager. There are those who seduce people through philosophy, coloring and disguising their errors with that great, beautiful and honorable name. Almost all such men, from the time of Cicero and before, are presented and explained in that book. And that salutary admonition from your spirit through your good and devout servant becomes clear there: "See that no one deceives you through philosophy and empty seduction according to the tradition of men, and not according to Christ. For in Him there dwells all the fullness of divinity in a bodily way."
And I at that time—you know it, light of my heart—since I did not yet know these words of the Apostle, yet I was pleased with that exhortation (of Cicero) in that I was strongly aroused and on fire and kindled to love and seek, not some particular sect, but philosophy itself (whatever it might be). And only this checked me, in such great ardor, that the name of Christ was not there. For my tender heart according to your mercy, Lord, had drunk in this name of my Savior, your Son, in the very milk of my mother, and retained it deeply. Whatever lacked this name, however literary and polished and true-speaking it was, it did not entirely capture me.
3.5. And so I decided to turn my mind to the holy Scriptures, to see of what sort they were. And behold, I saw a thing not revealed to the proud nor laid bare to children, but humble in its walk, lofty in its outcome, and veiled in mysteries. And I was not such as to be able to enter into it, or to incline my neck to its steps. For when I turned to that Scripture, I did not feel as I now speak, but it seemed to me unworthy to compare with the dignity of Cicero. For my swelling pride shrank from its moderation, and my eye did not penetrate to its interior. Yet it was such as to grow with little ones, but I disdained to be a little one, and swollen with pride, I seemed great to myself.
3.6. And so I fell in with men proudly erring, very carnal and wordy, in whose mouth were the snares of the devil and a very birdlime made of a mixture of the syllables of your name, and even the Lord Jesus Christ and the Paraclete, our consoler, the Holy Spirit. For these names were ever in their mouth—but only as far as the sound and noise of the tongue went. As for the rest, their heart was empty of the truth. And they kept saying: "Truth and truth". And many kept saying that to me, and it was nowhere in them, but they were speaking false things, not only about you, who are Truth, but even about the elements of this world, your creation, in regard to which I should out of love of you have even gone beyond those philosophers who speak true things, my Father, supreme good, beauty of all things. O truth, truth. How intimately even then did the marrow of my soul sigh to you when these men sounded your name to me frequently and in many ways—but only with their voice—in many huge books. And they are the trays in which in place of you, they served me in my hunger the sun and moon, your beautiful works, but yet, only your works, and not you, nor were they the first works. For the earlier things were your spiritual works, before those bodily things, even though they be lucid and heavenly.
3.7. For I did not know that other reality which truly is, and I was as it were subtly moved to accept the views of these deceivers, when they asked me: Whence is evil, and whether God is bounded by a bodily form, and does He have hairs, and fingernails, and whether they are to be considered just who have many wives at once, and kill men, and sacrifice animals. Being ignorant I was disturbed by these things, and though I was going away from truth, I seemed to myself to go towards it, since I did not know that evil is nothing but the privation of good, even to the point of non-being. How could I have seen it, I whose bodily vision was confined to bodies and whose spiritual sight was limited to phantasms? For I did not know that God is a spirit, not having members in length or width, not having mass...And what is in us, according to which we are, and are called by the Scripture the image of God—I did not know this at all.
3.10. Gradually and little by little I was led to such nonsense as to believe that a fig weeps when it is picked, and that its mother tree sheds milky tears. But if some (Manichean) Saint would eat that fig—plucked not by his, but by another's—he would mix it with his entrails, and breathe forth from it angels, or rather, particles of God as he groaned and burped in prayer. These particles of the supreme and true God would have remained bound in that fruit, unless set free by the tooth and stomach of a Holy Elect one. And I, wretched, believed mercy should rather be shown to the fruits of the earth, than to men, for whose sake the fruits are born. But if someone who was not a Manichee in hunger would ask for the fruit, it was like condemning it to capital punishment to give it to him.
His mother's prophetic dream.
3.11. And you sent forth your hand from on high, and from this deep mist delivered my soul, when my mother wept to you for me, your faithful one, more than mothers weep for bodily death. For she saw my death to faith and the spirit, which she had from you, and you heard her, Lord. You heard her, and did not despise her tears, when they flowed forth and watered the earth beneath her eyes everywhere she prayed, and you heard her. For where else did that dream come from in which you consoled her, so that she would consent to live in the same house with me and to share the table with me—a thing she had begun to refuse, turning aside and detesting the blasphemies of my wandering? For she was (in the dream) herself standing on a certain wooden rule, and a splendid, joyful, smiling youth coming to her, when she was grieving, and worn with grief. And he, when he had asked the reason for her grief and daily tears—to teach her as is usual, not to learn—and when she had answered that she was weeping over my loss, he told her, so that she might be secure, and said she should look and see: where she was, I was also.
When she looked, she saw me standing on the same rule beside her. Whence is this, except that your ears were turned to her heart, O you good Almighty One, who take care of each and every one of us as if we were the only one to care for, and who take care of all as if they were just one?
Whence also was this: that when she had told me the vision, and I tried to twist it so that she should rather not despair of being what I was, at once, without any hesitation, she said: "It was not said to me that where he is, you will be, but: Where you are, there he will be." I confess to you Lord, what I remember, as much as I remember—often I have spoken of it—that I was more shaken by that, your response through my vigilant mother—for she was not disturbed by a false interpretation that was so plausible, and so quickly saw what needed to be seen, which I surely had not seen before she spoke—I was more shaken even then by the reply than by the dream itself, in which the joy of the devout woman, to come so much later, was predicted so far in advance for her present consolation.
For almost nine years followed, in which I wallowed in that mud of the deep and darkness of falsehood, in which I often tried to rise, and was thrust down more heavily; while that chaste, pious, sober widow—the kind you love—now, to be sure, more eager because of hope, but not slower in weeping and groaning, did not cease, at all hours of her prayers, to wail to you for me. And there entered into your sight her prayers, and yet you permitted me still to roll and roll deeper in that mist.
3.12. And you gave a second response that I recall—for I pass over many things, because I am hastening to those things that press me the more to confess and praise you, and many things I do not remember—you gave then a second reply through your priest, a certain bishop nourished in the Church and trained in your books. When that woman asked him to be willing to speak with me and refute my errors, and to unteach me evils, and to teach good—for he used to do this whenever he happened to find persons fit for it—he was unwilling—prudently for certain, as I realized later. For he answered that I was still unteachable, because I was puffed up with the novelty of that heresy and had upset many inexperienced people with my little questions, as she had told him. "But let him be there, " he said, "and just pray to the Lord for him. By reading he will find out what an error that is, and how great an impiety."
At the same time he also told how he when young had been given over to the Manichees by his own mother, who was deceived, and that he had read and even copied out almost all their books; but that it had become clear to him, though no one argued with him and refuted him, how much he ought to flee that sect: and so he had fled.
When he had said this, and she was not willing to acquiesce, but pressed the more, in begging and weeping copiously, so he might see me and discuss it with me, he, now a bit irritated with weariness said: "Go, and live this way. For it cannot happen that the son of those tears of yours should perish." And this she often recalled in talking with me: that she had received it as if it had sounded forth from the sky.
4.1. Throughout that same time of nine years, from my nineteenth year to my twenty-eighth, we were seduced and seducing; deceived and deceiving, in various desires—openly through those teachings which they call liberal, in a hidden way however those under the false name of religion—here we were proud, there superstitious: everywhere, vain. We taught in those years the art of rhetoric, and I sold a victorious wordiness, conquered by desire. Yet I preferred—Lord you know it—to have good students, as they are called good. And without guile I taught them guile—not so that they could act against the life of an innocent person, but at times for the head of a guilty one. And you, O God, saw me from afar, slipping in a slippery place, and my faith glowing under much smoke, a faith which I showed in that teaching I gave to those who loved vanity and sought a lie.
But in those days I had one woman, not known in what is called lawful wedlock, but one whom my wandering ardor, devoid of prudence, had hunted up. And yet, only one, and I was faithful to her bed. In this I learned by my own experience what a distance there is between the moderation of a conjugal pact, which is joined together for the sake of begetting offspring, and a pact of lustful love, in which an offspring is born even contrary to one's desire—though once born, it forces one to love it.
4.4. During those years in which I first began to teach in the town in which I was born, I had acquired a friend, very dear to me in an association in studies, of my own age, flowering along with me in the bloom of youth. He had grown up with me as a boy, and together we had gone to school, and together we had played. But in childhood he was not a friend in such a way—and even later not—as true friendship goes, because there is no true friendship unless you glue it together between those who adhere to you, "with your love diffused in our hearts, through the Holy Spirit who is given to us." For I had turned him from the true faith, which he as a youth did not hold faithfully and fully, into the superstitious and dangerous fables because of which my mother wept over me. That man was now wandering in spirit with me, and my soul could not be without him. And behold you, pressing on the back of your fugitives, at once God of vengeance and fount of mercies, who convert us to you in marvelous ways—behold, you took that man from this life when he had scarcely completed a year in my friendship, sweet to me above all the sweetnesses of this life.
Who can recount all your praiseworthy deeds which he alone by himself has experienced? What did you then do, my God, and how unsearchable the abyss of your judgments! For when he was struggling in fevers, he lay long unconscious in a deathly sweat. And when hope was given up for him, he was baptized—I did not know it, I did not provide for it, but presumed that his soul rather retained what he had received from me, and not what was done on his body when he was not aware of it. But it was quite otherwise. For he recovered and became better. And at once, as soon as I could speak with him—I was able as soon as he could, since I did not leave him, and we depended so much on each other—I tried to laugh, in his presence, as if he would join in laughing, at the baptism he had received when absent in mind and senses, but yet which he learned he had received. But he shrank from me as from an enemy, and with marvelous and sudden freedom warned me that if I wanted to be his friend, I should stop saying such things.
I, however, stunned and upset, put off expressing my feelings, so that he could get well first, and then would be fit in health and strength so that I could do what I wanted with him.
But he was rescued from my insanity, so that he might be kept with you for my consolation. After a few days, when I was absent, the fever attacked again, and he died.
With what sorrow was my heart darkened! And whatever I looked at was death, and my home land a punishment, and my father's house strange unhappiness, and whatever I had shared with him, without him turned into immense torture. My eyes sought him everywhere, and he was not there. And I hated all places, because they did not have him, nor could they say to me: "Yes, he is coming" as they used to do when he was alive and away.
He tries to flee from himself.
4.7. But when my soul was taken away from these, a great burden of misery weighed me down. It should have been lifted up to you, Lord, and cured. I knew, but I did not want to, nor was I able—all the more because you were not something solid and firm to me, when I thought of you. It was not you, but an empty phantasm: and my error was my God. If I tried to put my soul there to rest, it slipped down into emptiness, and again it rushed upon me. And I remained an unhappy place to myself, where I could neither be, nor get away. For where could my heart flee from my heart? Where could I flee from myself where I would not follow myself? And yet I did flee from my home place. For my eyes sought him less where they were not accustomed to see him. And so I came from the town of Thagaste to Carthage.
Faustus the Manichee Bishop.
5.3. Let me speak in the sight of my God about that twenty-ninth year of my age. There had already come to Carthage a certain bishop of the Manichees, Faustus was his name, a great snare of the devil; and many were caught in it by the enticement of smooth speaking—which, though I praised it, yet I distinguished from the truth about the things which I was eager to learn. For I considered not on what a tray of speech, but what knowledge that Faustus, famed among them, put before me to eat. For his reputation had told me in advance that he was most experienced in all honorable teachings, and especially educated in the liberal arts.
And since I had read many works of philosophers and retained them in my memory, and had compared certain things of theirs to those long fables of the Manichees, and the former had seemed more likely to me, which they spoke who were even able "to speculate about the world, although they did not find its Lord. For you are great, Lord, and you look upon the lowly, but you know the exalted from afar." Nor do you draw near to any but the contrite of heart, nor are you found by the proud, not even if they with diligent skill can count the stars and the sand, and measure the starry regions, and search out the paths of the stars.
For with that mind and ability which you gave them they have discovered many things, and announced years in advance the eclipses of the lights of the sun and moon—on what day, at what hour, and to what extent they would be. And the reckoning did not deceive them, and so it happened that they did predict. And they wrote down the rules they discovered which are read today from which it can be predicted in what year, and what month of the year and on what day of the month and at what hour of the day, and to what percent the moon or sun will be eclipsed. And it will be as predicted. And men admire these things, and those who do not know are amazed, and those who do know exult and are extolled, and through impious pride go away (from you) and suffer an eclipse of your light: so far in advance do they foresee the eclipse of the sun, but do not see their own present eclipse.
Yet I remembered many things they said rightly about creation itself, and there came to my mind the calculations and the order of times, and the visible testimony of the stars; and I compared these with the words of Mani who in his raving had written abundantly many words about these things. But there did not meet me (in the Manichean books), I was ordered to (just) believe, and it (what Mani said) did not agree with those reasons I had explored by calculations and by my own eyes—it was far different.
5.5. He (Mani) did not want to be thought of small account, but tried to convince people that the Holy Spirit, the Consoler and Enricher of your faithful, was personally present in him (in Mani) with plenary authority. And so when he was caught saying false things about the sky and the stars and the movement of the sun and moon, even though these things were not part of religious teaching, yet it was quite clear that his attempts were sacrilegious, since he not only said things he did know, but even things false, with insane vanity of pride, in such a way that he tried to attribute them to himself as if to a divine person.
5.6. And through those almost nine years, in which I listened to them (Manichees) with erring mind, I kept waiting for that Faustus with extremely intent desire. For the other (Manichees) whom I happened to meet, who failed on questions I proposed on such things (astronomy), promised him to me, (and I said that) by his coming and by talking with him all these things would be most fully solved—and even other greater things if I should ask.
So when he came, I found him a pleasing man, pleasant of speech, and saying more persuasively the very same things that they (ordinary Manichees) usually say. But what good was that cup-bearer of precious cups to my thirst? My ears had already been filled with such things, and they did not seem better to me because they were said in a better way, nor did they seem true because they were eloquent, nor did his mind seem wise because his face was pleasant looking and his speech becoming. They however who used to promise him to me were not good judges of reality; and so he seemed to them prudent and wise because he delighted them with his speech.
So my eagerness, in which I had looked forward to him so long a time, was delighted with his manner and attitude as he discussed, since his words were fitting, and came readily to clothe his thoughts. I was, moreover, delighted along with many—or even more than many, I praised and extolled him. But I was irked that in the crowd of listeners I was not allowed to go in to him, and to share with him the care of my questions in personal conference, offering and receiving thoughts.
When I had the opportunity, and began to besiege his ears, along with my friends, at a time when it was not out of place to discuss alternately, and when I presented certain things that disturbed me, the first thing I found was that the man was unskilled in the liberal arts, except for grammar, and even in that he had only ordinary training. And because he had read some orations of Cicero, and a very few books of Seneca, and some works of poets, and whatever books of his sect were well written in Latin, and because he had daily practice in speaking—from this came his eloquence, which became the more acceptable and the more seductive because of the guidance of his mind and a certain natural charm. Is it thus as I recall it, my Lord God, Judge of my conscience? Before you is my heart and my memory, you who then were dealing with me in the hidden secret of your providence, and were already putting my dishonorable wanderings before my face, so that I might see and hate them.
5.7. For after it became quite clear to me that he was inexperienced in those arts in which I had thought he excelled, I began to despair that he could open up and solve the problems that were troubling me. Someone ignorant of these things could still hold to the truth of piety—provided he were not a Manichee. For their books are full of very long fables about the sky and the stars and the sun and the moon, which I no longer thought he could explain subtly to me...When I nonetheless presented these things to him to consider and discuss, he was modest for certain, and did not dare to take up the burden. For he knew that he did not know those things, and was not ashamed to admit it. He was not of that loquacious kind, of whom I suffered from many, who tried to teach me these things, and said nothing. For he had a heart that, though not turned to you, was not uncautious about itself. For he was not altogether ignorant of his ignorance, and he did not want, by rash discussing, to put himself into a tight spot from which there would be no way out for him, nor a way to turn back. On this count he pleased me more. For more beautiful is the temperance of an honest soul, than the things I wanted to know. And in all the more difficult and more subtle questions I found him such.
So although my eagerness with which I had applied myself to Manichean literature was stopped, and despairing of their other teachers, since this famous one appeared such in the many things that disturbed me, I began to associate much with him because of the interest with which he glowed for those works of literature which I was already then teaching young people as a professor at Carthage. As for the rest, all my efforts, in which I had decided to make progress in that sect collapsed completely when I got to know that man—not in such a way that I broke off with them completely, but as though not finding anything better than that into which I had somehow rushed, I decided for the time being to be content, unless something more worthy to be chosen should appear.
And so that Faustus, who had been a snare of death for many, had then begun to loosen the snare in which I had been caught, though he did not intend it, nor even know it. For your hands, my God, in the hiddenness of your providence, did not desert my soul. And in the blood of the heart of my mother, through her tears day and night, sacrifice was being offered to you. And you acted with me in marvelous and hidden ways. You did that, my God, for by the Lord are the steps of a man directed. Or what provision for salvation is there except your hand, making anew what you made?
Augustine goes to Rome to teach.
5.8. You brought it about that I was persuaded to go to Rome, and to teach there as I had at Carthage. How this came about I will not omit confessing to you, for in these things are your most profound depths, and your mercy, most present to us, should be thought of and proclaimed. I did not want to go to Rome because my friends who convinced me to go held out greater income and dignity—though these things also influenced my mind. But the greatest, almost the sole reason was that I had heard that young people there studied more quietly, and that they were controlled by a more orderly coercion of discipline so that they did not at random and wantonly rush in the school of a teacher with whom they were not studying, and that they are not admitted at all unless he permits it.
On the contrary, at Carthage there is a foul and intemperate license on the part of students. They break in boldly, and with almost a mad look, disturb the order that each teacher has set up for the development of his students. They do many harmful things out of strange dullness, and things that should be punished by law—except that custom supports them. They are clearly the more wretched, the more they are allowed to do what your eternal law never will permit. And they think they act without being punished—although they are being punished by the very blindness in which they act, and they suffer incomparably worse things than they do.
And so I was forced, when I taught, to put up with practices in others that I did not want to follow when I was a student. And so I decided to go where everyone indicated such things were not done. But you "my hope, and my portion in the land of the living" applied incentives to me to change my place of living for the salvation of my soul, incentives to take me from Carthage, and to attract me to Rome. You did this through men who loved a dead life—here doing insane things, there promising vain things; and to correct my steps you secretly made use of both their and my perversity. For those who disturbed my rest were blind with foul madness; and those who invited me elsewhere had an earthly attitude. I however who detested here (at Carthage) real misery, there (at Rome) desired a false happiness.
But you knew, my God, why I went from here to there. Nor did you tell me, nor my mother, who wept dreadfully about my departure, and followed me to the sea. But I deceived her as she tried to hold on to me by force so that I should either return, or that she should go with me. And I pretended I did not want to leave a friend until he would sail when the wind was right. And I lied to my mother—to that mother—and I escaped. You forgave me even this, mercifully saving me from the waters of the sea, me full of detestable filth, for the waters of your grace so that, being washed, the rivers of my mother's eyes might be dried, with which daily she watered the earth under her feet.
And finally, when she refused to return without me, I barely persuaded her to stay that night in a place near our ship, a chapel in honor of St. Cyprian. But I secretly set out that night, while she remained, praying and weeping. And what was she asking of you, my God, with such great tears, except that you would not let me sail? But you, forming deep plans, and hearing what she really desired, did not take care of what she was asking then, so that you might do in me what she was always begging.
The wind blew, and filled our sails, and took the shore from our sight, in which in the morning she was beside herself with grief, and filled your ears with complaints and groans, while you rejected them, and her fleshy desire was justly scourged with the whip of sorrows. For she loved my presence with her, as mothers do, but much more than many mothers. And she did not know what joys you were going to make from my absence. She did not know, and hence she wept and wailed, and by these torments proved in herself the inheritance of Eve, with groaning bewailing what she had brought forth with groaning. And yet, after blaming my cruel deception, she turned again to begging you for me. She went to her usual practices, and I to Rome.
5.9. And behold! There I was caught by the scourge of bodily sickness, and I was already on my way to hell, carrying all the evils that I had committed against you, and against myself, and against others—many and grave things, in addition to the bond of original sin, in which "all die in Adam." For you had not "forgiven me anything in Christ" nor had He "loosed the enmity in His flesh, " which I had contracted toward you by my sins. For how could He loose that on the cross of a phantasm—as I believed about him? So, as false as the death of His flesh seemed to me, so true was the death of my soul. And so, as the fevers grew worse, I was already going, and perishing. Where would I have gone, had I departed then, except "into fire and torments worthy of my deeds" in the truth of your order?
And she did not know this, and yet, while absent, was praying for me. But you, present everywhere, heard her where she was, and where I was, you had mercy on me, so that I should recover the health of my body, though still insane in a sacrilegious heart. For in so great a danger I did not desire your baptism, and I was better as a boy, when I asked for it from the devotedness of my mother, as I have already recalled and confessed. But I had grown more disgraceful, and in my insanity laughed at the plans of your healing, you who did not allow such a one to die twice. Had the heart of my mother been struck with such a wound, it would have never been healed. For I cannot say enough what love she had for me, and with how much greater anguish she was bringing me forth in the spirit, than she had done in the flesh.
And so I do not see how she could have been healed if such a death of mine had pierced the heart of her love. And where would such great prayers have been, so frequent, and without interruption, always directed to you? Would you, "God of mercies" have spurned "the contrite and humbled heart" of a chaste sober widow, frequenting alms, following and serving your saints, never omitting the offering at your altar any day, coming to your church twice a day, morning and evening without ceasing, not for vain fables and old-womanly talkativeness, but that she might hear you in your words, and you might hear her in her prayers?
These tears of hers, by which she asked of you not gold or silver, not anything changeable, no transitory good, but the salvation of the soul of her son—could you, by whose gift she was such, have scorned and repelled them without giving help? By no means, Lord. In fact, rather, you were present, and you did hear, and you did act. Far be it from you that you could have deceived her in those visions and responses of yours, which I have already mentioned, and those I have not mentioned, which she held in a faithful heart, and ever praying, presented them to you as written promises of yours. For you see fit, "since your mercy is forever" to even become a debtor by your promises to those to whom you forgive their debts.
5.10. So you restored me from that sickness, and you "saved the son of your handmaid, " then, for that moment (only) in body, so there would be one to whom you could give a better and more certain health.
He still lives with Manichees, at Rome.
And I joined myself even then at Rome to those deceived and deceiving "Saints, " not just to their Hearers only, to whom he belonged in whose home I had grown sick and gotten better, but even to those whom they call the Elect. For it still seemed to me that it was not we who sinned, but some sort of other nature in us that sinned. And it pleased my pride to be free of fault, and when I did anything wicked, not to confess that I had done it, so that "you might heal my soul, since it had sinned against you" but I loved to excuse my fault, and to blame something or other that was with me, but was not I. However, I was that one whole—my impiety had divided me against myself—and my sin was the more incurable, by the fact that I did not think myself a sinner. And my iniquity was the more accursed.
So "you had not yet put a guard about my mouth, and a door of restraint about my lips, so that my heart should not decline into evil words, so as to make excuses in sins with men who worked iniquity" and therefore, I still "associated with their elect" while yet despairing of making advance in their false doctrine. I had decided to be content with those very things—for I found nothing better, though I now held on to them more loosely and negligently.
For this thought came also to me: that those philosophers whom they call the Academics were more prudent, in that they decided we should doubt everything and had determined that man could grasp no truth. For thus, as people in general judge, did they seem to me too to think for neither did I yet understand their intention.
Nor did I in pretense omit trying to hold that same host back from excessive credulity, which I saw he had about the fabulous things with which the Manichee books are full. Yet I used their friendship more closely than that of other men who had not been in that heresy. But I did not defend it with my former spirit. However my close association with them—for Rome hid many of them—led me to seek an alternative more sluggishly, especially since I despaired of finding the truth, from which they had turned me aside, in your Church, Lord of heaven and earth, creator of all things visible and invisible.
He thinks even God, and evil, to be bodily.
It seemed very shameful to me to believe that you had the shape of human flesh and were bounded by the lines of the limbs of our bodies. And since, when I tried to think of my God, I could think of nothing other than the mass of bodies—for there did not seem to me to be anything that was not such (bodily)—this was the greatest, and almost the sole cause of my inescapable error.
Hence too I thought that evil was some such substance, and that it had its own mass, foul and deformed, either gross (which they called earth), or thin and subtle, as the body of the air, which they imagine is a malignant mind creeping through the earth. And because some sort of reverence forced me to think that a good God could have created no evil nature, I supposed there were two masses, opposite one another, each infinite, but the evil one more narrow, the good one larger. From this pestilential beginning other blasphemous things followed me. For when my mind tried to come back to the Catholic faith, I was repelled, because what I thought was the Catholic faith, was not really it.
Even our Savior, your Only begotten, I thought was so put forth for our salvation from the most lucid mass, that I could not conceive of anything about Him except what my vain imagination could picture. For I thought that such a nature could not be born of the Virgin Mary without being mixed with flesh—and I did not see that He, such as I conceived Him, could be mixed, and not defiled. And so I feared to believe He was born in the flesh so I would not have to believe He was defiled with flesh—Now your spiritual ones will in a kindly and loving way laugh at me, if they read these my confessions. But yet I was such.
Dishonest students cheat him of pay.
5.12. So I began to apply myself diligently to that for which I had come, to teach rhetoric at Rome, and first to gather at my house some to whom and through whom I had begun to be known. And behold, I learned that different things happened at Rome, which I did not suffer in Africa. For really, those wreckings that are done by debased youths are clearly not done there (at Rome). Yet without warning many youths conspire to avoid paying the teacher, and transfer to another—deserters of their pledged word, people to whom justice is cheap because money is dear. My heart hated them too, although not "with a perfect hate."
5.13. And so, after a message was sent from Milan to Rome to the prefect of the city, asking him to obtain a teacher of rhetoric for that city, I tried, through those same Manichees, drunk with vanity—I was going to go to get free from them, but neither of us knew it—to gain approval by giving a trial discourse and so Symmachus, who was then Prefect, sent me there.
And I came to Milan, to Ambrose the Bishop, renowned among the best in the world, your devout worshipper, whose vigorous speeches then were providing "the richness of your grain" and the gladness of oil, and "the sober drunkenness of wine" for your people. You led me to him, though I did not know it, so that I might be led knowingly to you. That man of God received me in a fatherly way, and welcomed my travel as a bishop.
And I began to love him at first not as a teacher of the truth—which I completely despaired of in your Church—but as a man kind to me. And I used to eagerly listen to him as he preached to the people, not with the intention I should have had, but as trying out his eloquence, to see if it was up to his reputation, or whether it would flow forth in a greater or lesser way than the reports about him. And I hung intent on his words, not caring about the content, and stood there scorning that. And I was delighted with the persuasiveness of his speech, which was more learned, but yet less pleasing and alluring than that of Faustus, as far as style of language is concerned. As for the rest, there was no comparison in the content. For the one (Faustus) was erring in Manichean fallacies; but the other (Ambrose) most wholesomely was teaching salvation. But "salvation is far from sinners, " such as I was then. And yet I was gradually drawing near, and I knew it not.
5.14. For though I did not try to learn what he was saying, but only wanted to hear how he said it—that empty interest remained for me, though I despaired that a way was open for man to come to you—there came into my mind along with his words, which I loved, also the content, which I was neglecting. For I could not separate them, and when I opened my heart to take in how eloquently he spoke, there entered at the same time how truly he spoke—though gradually. At first it began to be clear to me that what he said could be defended. And I now judged that the Catholic faith, for which I had thought nothing could be said against Manichean attacks, could be maintained without being ashamed of it—especially after hearing one another and still more problems of the Old Scriptures solved, in which, when I took them literally, I was killed. And so when many of those passages were explained spiritually, I now criticized my own despair in which I had believed no resistance could be made to those who detested and laughed at the law and the prophets. However I did not feel that the Catholic way should be followed on the grounds that it too could have teachers and defenders who could copiously and not absurdly refute objections. Nor did I think that that which I held (Manicheism) should be condemned because the defenders seemed equal. For the Catholic faith seemed to me to be not conquered in such a way that it was not yet conquering.
But then I strongly applied my mind to see if I could convict the Manichees of falsity by any certain proofs. If I had been able to conceive a spiritual substance, at once all their machinations would have been dissolved and cast out of my mind. But that I could not do.
However, as to the makeup and entire nature of this world which bodily senses reach, by thinking further and comparing, I judged that many philosophers held much more probable views. And so, as the Academics are supposed to think, doubting about everything, and wavering about everything, I decided I ought to leave the Manichees, not believing that at the very time of my doubts I should stay in that sect to which I already preferred many philosophers. But I completely refused to entrust the cure of the sickness of my soul to those philosophers, because they were without the saving name of Christ. Therefore I decided to be a catechumen in the Catholic church which had been commended to me by my parents, until something certain showed up by which I could direct my course.
His mother comes to Milan.
6.1. "My hope since my youth" where were you for me? And where had you withdrawn? Or had you not made, and distinguished me from the four-footed animals and birds of the sky? You had made me wiser, and "I was walking in darkness" and a slippery place, and I was seeking you outside of me, and I did not find the God in my heart. And I had come into the depth of the sea, and I lost confidence, and despaired of finding the truth.
My mother had now come to me, strong in her devotedness, following me on land and sea, and secure because of you in all dangers. For in the dangers at sea she comforted the very sailors—who normally comfort inexperienced travelers when they are upset, for she promised them they would come through safely, since you had promised her that in a vision.
And she found me in grave danger because of despair of finding the truth. But yet when I had told her that I was no longer a Manichee, though not a Catholic Christian, she did not exult with joy as if she had heard something unexpected, for she was already secure in regard to my misery, in which she was weeping for me as dead, but going to be restored to life by you, and on the bier of her thought she was carrying me out, so that you might say to the son of the widow: "Young man, I say to you arise" and he would revive and begin to speak, and you would give him back to his mother. So her heart did not tremble with any disturbed exultation when she heard that so large a part had already been accomplished of what she daily wept for: that I had not yet reached the truth, but had already been rescued from falsehood. Rather, because she was certain that you would give what was still remaining, you who had promised it all, most calmly, and with a heart full of confidence, she answered she believed in Christ that before she departed from this life, she would see me a faithful Catholic.
And this she said to me. But to you, Fount of mercies, she sent more frequent prayers and tears that you might hasten your help and "illumine my darkness" and she more eagerly ran to the church, and hung on the mouth of Ambrose, on "the fount of water that leaps up into eternal life." For she loved that man "as an angel of God" because through him she had learned that I had at the time been brought to that wavering doubtful state through which she was confident I would be led from sickness to health, though with a keener danger intervening, as if through what the doctors call the crisis.
He tries to talk with Ambrose.
6.3. Nor did I yet groan in prayer that you might help me, yet my mind was intent to seek, and restless for discussion. I considered Ambrose a happy man according to worldly standards, whom the civil powers honored so. Only his celibacy seemed laborious to me. But as to what hope he bore, what struggles he might have in temptations against his very excellence, what consolation in adversity, and what savory joys his secret mouth (which was in his heart) dwelt on from your bread—I did not know how to guess, nor had I experienced (such things). Nor did he know my upheavals nor the pit of my danger. For I had not been able to ask of him what I wished, since the crowds of busy men, whose infirmities he served, kept me from his ear. When he was not with them—which was a very short time—he either was restoring the body by necessary sustenance, or his soul with reading.
But when he was reading, his eyes went over the pages, and his heart examined the content, but his voice and tongue were silent. Often when we were present—for no one was forbidden to enter, nor was it the custom that one coming be announced to him—we saw him thus, reading silently, and never otherwise. And after sitting in long silence—for who would burden someone so intent?—we used to depart, and conjecture that he, during that short span of time that he found to refresh his mind in getting away from others' cases did not wish to be distracted to something else, and that he was taking care so he would not have to explain something less clear that he might read to a listener who would be absorbed and intent, and so he would cover less of the books. and yet to save his voice, which easily became hoarse, could have been a more reasonable cause for reading silently. But whatever may have been his purpose, it was surely a good one.
But certainly, I was given no chance to inquire about what I wanted of that so holy an oracle of yours, his heart, unless the matter could be done quickly. But my disturbances needed to find him quite at leisure, to pour things forth to him, but never found him such. And I was listening to him every Sunday "treating the word of truth rightly" for the people, and it was more and more assured for me that all the knots of calumnies which those deceivers of us wove against the divine books could be loosed.
6.6. I was eager for honors, financial gains, and marriage, and you laughed at me. I suffered in these desires most bitter difficulties, while you were the more kind, the less you allowed whatever was not you to become sweet to me. Look at my heart, Lord, you who willed that I recall this and confess to you. Now let my soul adhere to you, which you pulled out of so sticky a snare of death. How wretched was my soul. And you stung the nerve of my wound so that I might leave all and be converted to you, you who are above all, without whom no things would be.
Who is happy: Augustine, or a drunken beggar?
How wretched then was I, and how you acted that I might feel my misery on that day on which I was preparing to recite the praises of the Emperor, in which I would tell many a lie, and would receive favor for lying from those who knew I was lying. My heart was pounding with these cares and boiling with wasting fevers, when in passing through a certain section of Milan I noticed a poor beggar, drunk, I believe, and joking and feeling good. And I groaned, and spoke with my friends who were with me about the many sorrows of our insanity, because with all our attempts of that kind, in which I was then laboring under the spurs of desire and dragging about the burden of my unhappiness, and making it worse by dragging it, we wanted nothing more than to come to the secure joy which that beggar had reached ahead of us—and which we might never reach. That which he had already attained by means of a very few begged coins, for this I was striving by such troublesome twists and round-around ways—that is, the joy of a temporal happiness. For he did not have a true joy, but I too in those ambitions was seeking much more falsely—and certainly he was happy, and I was anxious. He was secure, I was trembling. And if anyone asked me whether I would prefer to be happy or to fear, I would reply to be happy. If he should ask me again whether I would prefer to be such as that man, or such as I was then—I would have chosen myself, worn out with cares and fears, but perversely. Surely not truly. For I ought not to have preferred myself because I was more learned, for I did not get joy from that, but in that way I sought to please men, not to teach them, but just to please them. For that reason you also, with the rod of your teaching "were crushing my bones."
Let them therefore depart from my soul who say: "It makes a difference what one is happy over. That beggar was happy with drink. You wanted to be happy from glory." What glory, Lord? That which is not in you. For just as his was no true happiness, so neither was mine true glory, but it turned my mind the more. And he that very night was going to wear off his drunkenness. But I had slept with mine, and gotten up, and was going to sleep and get up again—see how many days! "But it makes a difference what one is happy over." I know. And the joy of faithful hope is incomparably distant from that vanity. But at that time there was an even greater distance between him and me. For he was the happier, not only in that he was drenched with cheerfulness, while I was being tormented with cares, but also that he, by wishing people good luck, had acquired wine—while I, by lying, was seeking vanity. At the time I said many things of this sort to my dear ones, and I often remarked how it was with me in these matters and I found it was ill. And I grieved, and doubled the evil itself; and if any good fortune came, I was too weary to grasp it, because almost before I could, it flew away.
His friend Alypius.
6.7. Those of us who lived together as friends used to lament over these things, and especially, I spoke of them most familiarly with Alypius and Nebridius.
Of these Alypius was from the same town as I, of parents who ranked high in the town; he was younger than I. For he had studied under me when I began to teach in our town, and later at Carthage. And he loved me much, because I seemed to him to be good and learned; and I him, because of his great natural virtue which stood out especially in a youthful age. Nevertheless the whirlpool of Carthaginian customs, with which foolish spectacles boil, had swallowed him up into the madness of the circuses. But when he was miserably caught up in this, and I was teaching rhetoric there, in a public school, he did not yet listen to me as a teacher, because of a certain hostility that had arisen between his father and me. And I had learned that he had a deadly love for the circus, and I was greatly disturbed because it seemed that he was going to lose such great promise or even had already lost it. But I had no opportunity to warn him or to restrain him either by the love of friendship or the authority of a teacher. I was thinking he had the same attitude towards me as his father, but he actually did not. And so, putting aside his father's wishes in the matter, he had begun to greet me, coming into my classroom, to hear something, and then to go.
For I had forgotten to speak with him so that so good a talent might not be destroyed by the blind and headlong eagerness for vain shows. But you, Lord, you who preside over the rudders of all things that you have created, had not forgotten him, who was going to be a Bishop of your sacrament, among your sons. And so that his correction would be attributed clearly to you, you brought it about through me when I did not know it. For on a certain day when I was sitting in the usual place and my pupils were before me, he came, greeted me, and sat down, and paid attention to the things we were discussing. And it happened that a lesson was at hand such that while I was explaining it, it seemed opportune to me to use a comparison of the circuses so that that which I was teaching would be clearer and more enjoyable, and I did it with a biting ridicule of those whom that insanity had captivated. You know, our God, that at the time I was not thinking of healing Alypius from that bane. But he took it for himself and believed I had said it only for his sake. And that which another would have taken as reason to be angry at me, that noble youth took as reason to be angry at himself, and to love me the more ardently. For you long ago had said, and had woven it into your letters: "Correct a wise man, and he will love you."
Yet I had not corrected him, but you, using all, those who know and those who do not know, in the order which you know. And that order is just. From my heart and tongue you worked "burning coals" by which you could burn the wasting-away mind of that man of good hope, and heal him. For after those words of mine, he snatched himself from so deep a pit, in which he was willingly sinking himself, and was being blinded with wretched pleasure, and he shook out his soul with brave temperance; and all the filth of the circuses left him, and never returned. Then he convinced his reluctant father that he should use me as a teacher. He gave in and granted it.
6.8. Not giving up the earthly way his parents had dinned into him, he had gone ahead to Rome to learn law. And there he was caught up incredibly with incredible passion by the gladiator shows. For although he shunned and detested such things, certain friends and fellow students of his, when they happened to meet him returning from a meal, led him—though he refused strongly and resisted—with friendly force into the amphitheatre on a day of cruel and deadly games, while he said this: "If you drag my body into that place and put me there, you cannot make my mind and eyes pay attention to those sights. So I will be absent while present, and thus I will conquer both you and the games." After this, they still led him with them, perhaps wanting to find out precisely if he could do what he said. When they came there and sat down where they could, everything was ablaze with savage pleasures.
He however, closing the doors of his eyes, forbade his mind to go to such great evils. And I wish he had blocked his ears too! For when during a fall in a fight a great shout of the whole people struck him strongly, he was overcome with curiosity, and as if he was ready to despise and conquer even that when he had seen it, he opened his eyes, and was struck with a more severe wound in the soul than that fighter whom he wanted to see sustained in his body. And he (Alypius) fell more wretchedly than the man whose fall caused the shout that entered his (Alypius') ears and opened his eyes, so there would be a means by which he could be struck and could fall. he was still bold rather than strong in mind, and the weaker, the more he had trusted in himself—he who should have trusted in you. For when he saw that blood, with it he drank in savagery, and he did not turn aside, but fixed his eyes on it, and drank in madness, and did not know what he was doing, and was delighted with the crime of the fight, and was drunk with cruel pleasure. And he was no longer the same man who had come, but just one of the crowd to which he had come, a real companion of those who had led him. Why say more? He looked, he shouted, he was on fire, he took his madness back with him which would stimulate him to return there, not only with those who had first dragged him, but even ahead of them, and dragging others along. And yet you pulled him out of it with a most powerful and merciful hand, and you taught him to have confidence not in himself but in you. But long afterwards.
Alypius as a public official.
6.10. I had, then, found him at Rome, and he adhered to me with a powerful attachment, and went to Milan with me, so that he might not desert me and yet do something about the law career which he had begun, more because of his parents' wishes than his own. And he had been assessor three times already with an integrity that was a marvel to others, while he marveled the more that they would prefer gold to innocence. His character was also tempted not only by the snare of greed, but also with the whip of fear.
At Rome, he had been assessor to the Count of the Italian Treasury. At that time the Count was a certain very powerful senator, to whose benefits many were under obligation, and subjected by fear. He wanted permission for something or other for himself, as was usual for a man of his power, but which was illegal. Alypius resisted. A bribe was promised. He laughed in his heart at it. There were threats: he trod them under foot while others wondered that he would neither want as a friend, nor fear as an enemy, so great a man, famed for having countless ways of helping or harming. In fact, the very judge whose assessor Alypius was, although he did not want it to happen (what the Count asked), yet he did not openly refuse, but transferred the case to him (Alypius), saying Alypius would not let him do it—for actually, if the judge had done it, Alypius would have left.
Nebridius, another friend, comes to Milan.
Nebridius too, who had left his own place near Carthage and Carthage itself, where he used to be so much, gave up his fine ancestral estate, gave up his home, and though his mother would not follow, came to Milan for no other reason than to live with me in a most ardent desire for truth and wisdom. Together with me he sighed, together he wavered, being a most ardent seeker for a happy life, and a most keen examiner of difficult questions.
So there were three mouths of needy ones, sighing over their neediness to each other, and expecting of you "that you would give them food at the opportune time." And in every bitterness that followed our worldly actions, out of your mercy, as we wanted to know why we suffered these things, darkness met us; and we turned aside groaning and said: "How long will this be?" And we kept saying this frequently, and in saying it we did not leave those things, because nothing certain appeared which we could take and leave all else for it.
He meditates on his present state: his soul should get the greatest attention.
6.11. And I especially wondered, striving, and recalling how long a time it had been from the nineteenth year of my life in which I had begun to ardently desire wisdom, planning, when I found it, to leave behind all empty hopes of vain desires and lying insanities. And behold, I was now in my thirtieth year, and still sticking in the same mud out of a desire to enjoy present things, which were fleeting and wasting me as I said: "Tomorrow I will find it. Behold, it will appear clearly, and I will take hold of it. Behold, Faustus will come and explain everything. O let us seek more diligently, and not despair. Behold, the things that used to seem absurd in the books of the Church are no longer absurd, but can be understood in a different and good way. I will set my feet on that step in which as a boy I was placed by my parents, until the clear truth is found. But where will it be sought? When will it be sought? Ambrose has no time, there is not enough time to read. Where will we find books? From where, and when will we get them? From whom? Let time be assigned, let the hours be laid out for the salvation of our soul. A great hope has dawned. The Catholic faith does not teach what we used to think and vainly accused it of. Its learned men consider it wrong to believe God has the lines of a human body; and do we hesitate to knock, so that other things may be opened? My students take up the morning hours. The rest of the day, what do we do, why do we do not do this? But when will we pay calls on our more important friends, whose help we need? When will we prepare what our students pay for? When will we refresh ourselves, relaxing the mind from application to cares? Let us give ourselves only to the search for truth. This life is miserable, death is uncertain: if it should creep up suddenly, how will we go from this world? And where should we learn what we have neglected here? Will we not rather have to pay the penalty of this neglect? What if death itself cuts off and puts an end to all cares along with consciousness? This too needs to be investigated. But far be it that it be so! It is no vain or empty thing that so eminent a peak of Christian authority is spread in the whole world. Surely such great and such things would not be done for us by the Divinity if the life of the soul ended with the death of the body. Why hesitate then, to give up hope of the world and to apply ourselves completely to seeking God and a blessed life?
On the other hand, this world is sweet.
But wait. These things are pleasant too, they have no little sweetness. I should not readily give up trying for them, for it is disgraceful to (give up and then) turn back to them again. Look, how much is to be done to get a post of honor? And what more is there to be desired in these things? I have many powerful friends: without rashly attempting too much, even a governorship can be had. And I can marry a wife with a lot of money, so expenses will not be too heavy, and to put a limit to my desire. Many great men, very worthy of imitation, have given themselves to wives, along with the pursuit of wisdom.
As I kept saying these things, and the winds kept shifting, and driving my heart this way and that way, time was passing, and I was delaying to be converted to the Lord, and I put off from day to day living in you. But I did not put off daily dying in myself. Though I loved a happy life, I was afraid of it in its own abode, and sought it in fleeing from it. For I thought I would be very miserable if deprived of the embraces of a woman, and I did not know the medicine of your mercy to heal that same weakness, because I had not experienced it, and I thought that continence depended on one's own strength—which I was not aware I had, since I was so foolish as not to know that, as it is written, no one can be continent unless you give it. Surely you would have given it, if with interior groaning I had beaten on your ears, and with strong faith had cast my care on you.
Should he marry?
6.12. Alypius kept stopping me, to be sure, from marrying, dinning into me that we could in no way live in secure leisure in the love of wisdom, as we had long desired, if I did that. For he himself was at the time most chaste in that matter, so that it was a marvel, because he had even begun to experience concubinage at the start of his youth, but had not continued, and rather had grieved over it and spurned it, and now was living already most continently. but I kept resisting him with examples of those who had cultivated wisdom while married, and had deserved well of God, and had most faithfully kept and loved their friends. I, to be sure, was far from their greatness of soul, and being bound by the disease of the flesh with its deadly sweetness, was dragging about my chain, being afraid to get loose from it. I repelled his very persuasive words as if they touched a wound when his hand was trying to loose my chain.
Besides, the serpent was speaking through me to Alypius himself, and was weaving and spreading out sweet snares in his way through my tongue, by which his honorable and free feet might be caught. For since he admired me, he too had begun to desire marriage, not at all because overcome with lust for such pleasure, but out of curiosity. He often said he wanted to know what that was without which my life, which so pleased him, would seem not life but punishment to me.
Pressure to marry, and false visions.
6.13. Strong pressure was put on me to marry. Already I was asking (for a girl's hand), and already she was promised, especially since my mother was working so that I, once married, might be washed by saving baptism, for she rejoiced I was steadily becoming fit for it, and she was noticing that your promises and her prayers were being fulfilled in my faith. When, at my request, and her great desire, with a loud cry of her heart she was daily asking you to show her in a vision something about my future marriage, you were never willing. And she did see certain vain fantasies to which the drive of her spirit, striving for this, impelled her, and she used to tell them to me, but not with her usual confidence which she had when you showed them to her. Instead she scorned these fantasies. For she kept saying she could distinguish by some sort of sweetness, which she could not explain, what difference there was between your revelation, and the dream of her soul. Yet she urged, and the girl was asked for, who was still about two years under marriageable age. And because she pleased me, we were waiting.
6.15. Meanwhile my sins were multiplying, and when she, with whom I was accustomed to lie, was torn from my side as an impediment to marriage, my heart, where it had stuck (to her) was cut and torn, and trailed blood. And she had already returned to Africa, vowing to you she would never know another man, leaving with me my natural son by her. But wretched I, not a lover of marriage but a slave of lust—had already obtained another woman, not as a wife, but as one by which the disease of my soul could be sustained and brought into the kingdom of marriage, even though the disease of my soul was still full blown and even greater. Nor was that wound of mine healed, that had been caused by cutting off the previous woman, but after becoming feverish, my very keen pain was rotting, and was hurting as it were more coldly, but more despairingly.
He reads Neoplatonic books, and gains some light.
7.8. But you, Lord, remain forever, and are not angry with us forever, for you took pity on dust and ashes, and it was pleasing in your sight to reform my deformity.
7.9. And first, wanting to show me how you resist the proud but give grace to the humble, and how mercifully your way of humility has been shown to men, you obtained for me, through a certain man swollen with immense pride, certain Platonic books translated from Greek into Latin. And in them I read, not, to be sure, in these words, but yet it was argued in many and varied ways that "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word. This was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him there was made nothing that was made. In Him is life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not grasp it." And that the soul of man, although "it bears testimony to the light" yet was not itself "light" but the Word of God is (light). For God is "the true light, that illumines every man coming into this world." And that "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him." But that "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him, but He gave to as many as received Him power to become sons of God, who believe in His name"—this I did not read there.
7.16. And I asked what iniquity was, and I found, not a substance, but a perversity of will twisted down toward lower things from you, God the supreme substance.
7.17. And I marveled that now I loved you—not a fantasm in place of you. And I did not stop to enjoy my God, but I was snatched to you by your beauty, and soon I was torn away from you by my own weight, and I kept falling into these things with a groan—and my weight was my fleshy habit. But with me there was the memory of you, and I did not doubt that you were the one to whom I should adhere, but I was not yet one to adhere, since "the body that is corrupted, weighs down the soul, and the earthly dwelling pulls down the mind that dwells on many things."
8.2. So I went then to Simplicianus, the father from whom the present Bishop Ambrose received grace, but he loved Ambrose as a father. I told him of the circlings of my wanderings. But when I mentioned that I had read certain books of the Platonists, which Victorinus, once a rhetor of the city of Rome (who I had heard died a Christian) had translated into Latin, he congratulated me that I had not fallen on writings of other philosophers, full of fallacies and deceptions. For in these books, he said, God and His Word were introduced in many ways.
Simplicianus tells of the conversion of Victorinus.
Then to exhort me to follow the humility of Christ which is hidden to the wise but revealed to little ones, he recalled Victorinus himself whom he had known closely when he was at Rome, and told something about him which I will not keep silent. For it provides great praise for your grace—which should be confessed to you—how that most learned old man, most expert in all liberal teachings, who had read so many works of the philosophers and had judged them and cast light on them, the teacher of so many noble senators, who because of the outstanding character of his teaching—which citizens of this world think outstanding—had earned and received a statue in the Roman forum, being up to that time a worshipper of idols and partaker in sacrilegious rites. Yet he did not blush to become a servant of your Christ, to be newborn from your font, to bend his neck to the yoke of humility and to lower his brow before the reproach of the cross.
O Lord, Lord, you who "did incline the heavens and come down; you touched the mountains and they smoked"—in what ways did you wend your way into that heart? He used to read Sacred Scripture, as Simplicianus said, and he was investigating all Christian writings most eagerly and was examining them, and he kept saying to Simplicianus, not openly, but in secret and as a friend: "You should know that I am already a Christian. And he (Simplicianus) always answered: "I will not believe it, nor will I count you among Christians unless I see you in the Church of Christ." But he (Victorinus) used to laugh at him saying: "So do walls make Christians?" And he used to say this often, and often repeated that mockery about the walls. For he feared to offend his friends, the proud worshippers of demons.
But later through reading and longing, he drank in strength, and he was afraid he would be "denied by Christ before the holy angels, if he feared to confess him before men." He seemed to himself to be guilty of a great crime by being ashamed of the sacraments of the lowliness of your Word, and not being ashamed of the sacrilegious rites of proud demons which he, a proud imitator, had taken on, and so he stopped being ashamed of vanity, and became modest before the truth, and suddenly and unexpectedly he said to Simplicianus, as he himself related: "Let us go to the Church. I want to become a Christian." He, beside himself with joy, went with him. But when he had been given the first rites of instruction, not long after, he turned in his name so that he might be reborn by baptism—as Rome marveled, and the Church rejoiced. The proud "saw and were angry, they gnashed their teeth and melted away." But for your servant, the Lord God was "his hope, and he did not look to vanities and lying insanities."
They, when the hour came for professing the faith, which is usually done in set words, memorized, from a high place in the sight of the faithful of Rome, by those who are going to approach your grace, Simplicianus said that the priests offered Victorinus the chance to profess secretly, as is usually done for some who are likely to tremble in fear. But he preferred to make the saving profession in the sight of the holy throng. For what he used to teach in rhetoric was not salutary, and yet he had professed it publicly. How much less then should he fear your meek flock, when he pronounced your Word, he who had not feared to pronounce his own words before the crowds of insane men.
So when he went up to make his profession, all who knew him spoke his name in a sound of congratulation. For who was there who did not know him? And the suppressed sound came from the mouths of all those rejoicing together: "Victorinus! Victorinus!" Quickly did they sound forth in exultation, because they saw him, and quickly did they grow silent to hear him intently. He professed the true faith with outstanding confidence, and all wished to snatch him within into their heart, and they did take him in love and in rejoicing—these were the hands of those who took him in.
Why greater joy over the rescue of the lost sheep?
8.3. O good God, what goes on in man, that he rejoices more over the salvation of a soul that had been despaired of, and is delivered from greater danger than if there had always been hope for him, or less danger? For you too, merciful Father, rejoice more "over one penitent, than over ninety-nine just who do not need penance." And we also hear with great pleasure when we learn how the sheep that had strayed is brought back on the shoulder of the exultant shepherd, and the drachma is put back into your treasury, as the neighbors of the woman who found it rejoice with her. And the joy of the solemnity of your house shakes out the tears when it is read in your house about the younger son "that he was dead and came back to life, he was lost, and is found." For you rejoice in us, and in your angels, holy with holy love. For you are always the same, who always know in the same way things that are not always the same.
What then goes on in the soul when it is more joyed because those that it loved are found or brought back, than if it had always had them?
The victorious general celebrates a triumph, and he would not have conquered had he not fought, and the greater the danger was in battle, the greater joy in the triumph. A storm tosses those who are sailing, and threatens shipwreck: all grow pale at the nearness of death. The sky becomes calm, and the sea, and they exult greatly since they had feared greatly. A dear one is sick and his pulse brings evil tidings. All who want him well are sick with him in heart. He grows better and does not yet walk with normal strength, and yet there is joy such as there was not when previously he did walk in good health and strength. Everywhere greater joy is preceded by greater trouble.
Why greater joy over the conversion of a great man?
8.4. Come, Lord and act. Arouse us and call us back. Enkindle us and carry us off. Be fragrant and sweet, let us love and run. Do not many return to you from a deeper hell of blindness than Victorinus, and approach and are illumined, receiving your light, and if they receive it they obtain from you "the power to become your sons." But if they are less known to the people, even they who know them rejoice less. For when many rejoice, even in each individual there is more abundant joy, since they warm each other and are inflamed from each other. Then, because they are known to many, they lead many to salvation, and go ahead of many who will follow. And so there is much joy over them, and over those who went before them, because there is not joy over just one. Far be it that in your tabernacle there be preference for the rich over the poor, or for the noble over the ignoble, when rather "you have chosen the weak things of the world to confound the strong, and the ignoble things of this world you have chosen, and the contemptible and the things that are not, as if they are, so as to bring to naught the things that are." And yet that very least of your Apostles, though whose tongue you sounded forth those words, when Paul the proconsul, his pride being conquered by his (Saul's) service, was sent under the light yoke of your Christ, and became a provincial of the Great King, he who was once called Saul, loved to be called Paul as a mark of so great a victory. So, the more pleasant the thought of the heart of Victorinus that great and keen weapon with which he had destroyed so many—so much more abundantly should your sons exult.
Augustine is moved by the examples of Victorinus and others.
8.5. But when your man Simplicianus told me these things about Victorinus, I grew eager to imitate him. For that is why he (Simplicianus) had told it. But afterwards he added this, that at the time of the Emperor Julian, a law was passed by which Christians were forbidden to teach literature and oratory. But he, embracing that law, preferred to desert the wordy school instead of deserting your Word, by which "you make the tongues of infants eloquent—and so he seemed to me the braver, the happier he was because he found occasion for taking time for you. I sighed for that, but was bound, not by another's chain but by my iron will. For the enemy held my will, and had made of it a chain, and had bound me. For from my perverse will there came lust, and when I was a slave to lust, it became habit, and when I did not resist the habit, it became a necessity. And so a hard slavery held me bound by these, as it were, links, interwoven with each other—which is why I called it a chain. The new will that had begun to arise in me, to worship you freely and to enjoy you, O God, the only sure pleasure, was not yet fit to overcome the old will, strengthened by its long duration. And so my two wills, the one old, the one new, the one carnal, the other spiritual, fought with each other, and by their discord wasted my soul.
Thus I understood by my own experience that which I had read, how "the flesh desires against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh." To be sure, I was in both, but more in that which I approved in me than in that which I disapproved of in me. For there it was more not I since in great part I endured it unwillingly instead of acting willingly. But yet habit had become more pugnacious as a result of myself, since I had willingly come where I did not want to be. And who could rightly contradict, since a just penalty pursues the one who sins? And no longer did I have that excuse that I formerly seemed to have, namely that I did not yet scorn the world and serve you because it was uncertain where truth was to be found. For now it was certain. But I, bound to the earth, still refused to serve you, and I feared to be loosed from all obstacles in the way in which I should have feared to be enmeshed in them.
And so I was sweetly weighed down by the burden of the world, as one is in sleep; and the thoughts by which I meditated on you were like the attempts of a person who tries to wake up, but is yet overcome by sleep and is sunk more deeply in it. And just as there is no one who would want to sleep always—to be awake is better in the judgment of every sound person—yet a man often puts off shaking off sleep when a heavy sluggishness is in his limbs, and he very gladly takes sleep even though it displeases him (to continue), even though the time for getting up has already come. So I judged it certainly better to give myself to your love, than to give in to my desire.
But that pleased me, yet it did not win. This pleased me, and bound me. For I had no answer to give when you said to me: "Arise, you who sleep, and get up from the dead, and Christ will illumine you." And I had no answer to give you when you showed you were speaking the truth on every point, being convicted by the truth, except for some slow and sleepy words: "Right away, right away, wait a bit." But that "right away" went on and on. And "wait a bit" went long. For in vain "I was delighted with your law according to the interior man, while another law in my limbs fought against the law of my mind and led me captive in the law of sin which was in my limbs." For the law of sin is the force of habit, with which the soul, even when unwilling, is held and dragged along, deservingly, inasmuch as it slipped into it willingly. Therefore: "Wretched me, who would deliver me from the body of this death—unless your grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord?"
8.6. I was going about things as usual, but with my anxiety growing, and daily I sighed to you. I was frequenting your Church, as much as the business under whose weight I lived permitted. With me was Alypius, at leisure after his third term as assessor, waiting to see to whom he could again sell his advice, as I was selling the ability to speak—if that can be given by any teaching. Nebridius moreover had given in to our friendship so as to teach under Verecundus, a good friend of all of us at Milan, and a fellow citizen and grammarian, who by the claims of friendship had asked a faithful helper from our circle, which he needed very much.
It was not profit that had drawn Nebridius there, for he could have done better from teaching had he wished. But as a mild and sweet friend, out of the claims of the kindness of friendship, he did not want to turn down our request. He was doing that most prudently, taking care not to become known to people of importance "according to this world, " seeking to avoid thus all disturbance of soul, which he wanted to have free, and at leisure as many hours as possible to seek or read or hear something about wisdom.
So on a certain day on which Nebridius was absent—I do not recall the reason—behold, there came to us, to Alypius and myself, at my house, Ponticianus, a certain fellow citizen of ours, inasmuch as he was an African, serving outstandingly in the palace. He wanted something or other from us. And we sat down to talk, and he happened to notice a book on the game table before us. He picked it up, opened it, found it was the Apostle Paul—surprisingly. For he had thought it was one of the books whose profession was wearing on me. But then smiling, and with a look of congratulation to me, he said he was surprised that he, by chance, found this book, only this book. For he was a Christian and a faithful one, and he used to prostrate himself often to you, our God, in the Church, in frequent and long prayers. When I told him that I was studying Scripture most of all, a conversation arose in which he told about Anthony the monk of Egypt, whose name shone so brightly among your servants, but was unknown to us even to that time. When he found that out, he dwelt on the subject, telling us who did not know about such a great man, and marveling at our lack of knowledge.
We were amazed in hearing that so recently, and practically in our own times, there were perfectly attested wonders of yours in the right faith and the Catholic Church. We all marveled—we because these things were so great; he, because we had not heard of them.
From there his conversation came to the flocks of the monasteries, and the sweet odor of your ways, and the fruitful deserts of the wasteland, of which we knew nothing. There was at Milan a monastery, full of good brothers, outside the walls of the city, under the guidance of Ambrose. And we had not known. He continued and spoke further, and we were in intent silence. And as a result it happened that he told how once he and three other companions, at Trier, when the Emperor was occupied with an afternoon Spectacle of a circus, had gone to walk in the gardens near the walls and that it happened that they walked in pairs, one with him, and the other two by themselves. He said that the latter, in wandering about, had come upon a certain hut in which there lived servants of yours, "poor in spirit, of such as is the kingdom of heaven, " and that they had found there a book in which was written the life of Anthony.
One of them began to read it, and to marvel, and to be set on fire, and as he read to consider quickly taking up such a life, and leaving the service of the world, to serve you. He was one of those who are called special agents. Then suddenly he was filled with holy love
and sober shame, and, angry at himself, he cast his eyes on his friend and said to him: "Tell me, please where do we hope to get by all these labors of ours?" What are we seeking? For what purpose are we in office? Can our hope in the palace be any more than to be friends of the Emperor? And what is not fragile there, and full of dangers? And through how many dangers does one come to still greater danger? And when will that be? But if I want to be a friend of God—behold, I am becoming that now."
He said this, and in the turmoil of bringing forth new life, he cast his eyes on the pages again, and he read and was changed inwardly, where you saw him. And his mind put off the world, and was soon clear. For while he read and churned over the waves of his heart, he raged at himself for awhile, and made a decision, a decision for better things, and, already being yours, he said to his friend: "I have already torn myself from that hope of ours, and have decided to serve God, and to do it beginning this very hour, in this place. If you are too sluggish to imitate me, do not oppose me." His friend answered that he was adhering to him as a companion for so great a reward and so great an office.
At that point Ponticianus and the other who was with him, walking through other parts of the garden seeking them, came to the place, and when they found them reminded them to come back, for the day was far along. But they told of their decision and resolve, and how such a will had arisen and become firm in them, and asked them not to bother them if they refused to join them. They (Ponticianus and friend), not changing from what they were before, yet wept over themselves, as he said, and devoutly congratulated them, and commended themselves to their prayers. And dragging their heart on the earth, they went back to the palace. But the others, fixing their heart on heaven, remained in the hut. And both had fiancées, who after they heard this, dedicated their virginity to you too.
A storm arises in the heart of Augustine.
8.7. Ponticianus was telling these things, but you, Lord, as he spoke forced me to turn to myself, taking me from behind my back, where I had put myself, in not wanting to see myself, and you were putting me before my face, so that I could see how shameful I was, how twisted and dirty, besmirched and ulcerous. And I looked and was horrified, and there was no place to flee from myself. And if I tried to turn my gaze aside—he kept on telling what he was telling, and you still kept putting me before myself and thrust me into my own eyes, so that I might find out my iniquity and hate it. I had known it, but was covering over, and holding back and forgetting.
But then, the more ardently I loved those whose salutary attitudes I had heard, by which they gave themselves completely to you to be healed, the more contemptuously I hated myself compared to them. For many years of mine I was fired with the zeal for wisdom, yet I delayed putting off earthly happiness to get time to search for it—though not only its finding, but even the mere search for it should have been preferred to finding treasures, and the kingdoms of the nations, and pleasures of the body surrounding one at will.
But I, wretched youth, so miserable at the very beginning of youth, had even asked chastity of you and said: "Give me chastity and continence—but not now." For I was afraid you might hear me at once and quickly heal me from the disease of concupiscence, which I preferred to have satisfied instead of extinguished. And I had gone "through wicked ways" with sacrilegious superstition, not being sure in it, but as it were preferring it to the other things, which I was not seeking devoutly, but was fighting against, as an enemy.
And I had thought I was putting off, from day to day, scorning the hope of the world and following you because nothing certain appeared to me by which I could direct my course. And the day had come in which I was naked to myself, and my conscience reproached me: "Where are you, O tongue? For you used to say that because of the uncertainty of truth you did not want to cast aside the burden of vanity. Behold, now it is certain." And that vanity still weighs you down—while with free shoulder they take wing who were not so worn out in seeking, nor for ten years and more meditated on it."
So I was gnawing at myself inwardly, and was vehemently confounded with horrible shame while Ponticianus was telling such things.
When the conversation and the reason for which he come were finished, he went back, and I went to myself. What did I not say against myself? With what whips of thoughts did I not scourge my soul, so it would follow me as I tried to go to you? And it was struggling backwards, and refusing, and not excusing itself. For all the arguments were used up and refuted. There remained mute trembling, and my soul feared like death to be restrained from the flow of habit in which it was wasting away even to death.
Crisis in the garden.
8.8. Then in that great strife of my interior house, which I had strongly stirred up with my soul in our chamber, my heart, disturbed as much in face as in mind, I come to Alypius and exclaim: "What are we enduring? What is this that you have heard? The unlearned rise up and seize heaven—and we, with our learning without a heart—behold: how we are wallowing in flesh and blood! Or because they have gone first, are we ashamed to follow, and not ashamed not even to follow?" I said some things of this sort, and the boiling within me snatched me from him, while he was silent in astonishment as he looked at me. For I did not sound as usual, and my forehead, cheeks, eyes, color, quality of voice spoke my soul more than the words I said.
A garden belonged to our lodging which we used, as did the whole house. For the host, the master of the house, did not live there. The tumult of my breast had carried me there where no one might hinder the hot strife that I had begun with myself, until it would have the outcome you knew, but I did not. So I went into the garden, and Alypius followed step by step: for I did not lack secrecy where he was. Or when would he desert me in such a state? We sat, as far as we could from the building. I was raging in spirit, indignant with most turbulent indignation that I was not entering into a covenant and pact with you, my God for which all my bones cried out, and praised it to the sky. One does not reach that point by ship or chariot or on foot, as far as I had gone from the house to the place where we sat. For not only to go, but also to arrive there was nothing other than to will to go—but to will strongly and fully, not to toss hither and thither a half-wounded will, struggling, with one part rising up, the other falling down.
He meditates: how can a man want, and yet not want?
Finally, I was doing so many things with my body in the very tides of hesitation, which sometimes men want to do, but are not able if they lack the limbs themselves, or if they are bound with chains, or weakened by sickness, or blocked in any other way. If I pulled my hair, if I struck my brow, if with locked fingers I held my knee—I did it because I willed to. I might have willed it and not done it if the free movement of limbs would not obey me. So I did so many things in which willing was not the same things as being able to do—yet I did not do that which pleased me with incomparably greater love, and as soon as I would will it, I would be able—because as soon as I would will, I would will. For in this (deciding within myself to be converted) the ability and the will were the same thing, the very willing was already doing. And yet it did not happen, and my body more easily obeyed the slightest will of my soul, so that my limbs would move as I willed, than the soul itself obeyed itself towards that great decision, which was to be done in the will alone.
8.9. Whence this monstrous thing and why? Let your mercy shine out, and let me ask, in case the hiding places of the penalties of man can answer me, and the dark crushings of the sons of Adam. Whence this monstrous thing and why? The soul commands the body and is obeyed at once. The soul commands itself, and there is resistance. The soul commands that a hand move, and such is the facility, that one can scarcely distinguish the command from the execution of the command—and the soul is the soul—but the hand is part of the body. The soul commands that the soul will—and it is not another (than itself), yet it does not do it. Whence this monstrous thing and why? It commands, as I say, that it will, and it would not command unless it (already) willed—and yet the will does not do what the will commands.
But it does not completely will—and so it does not completely command. For it commands to the extent that it wills, and what it commands is not done, to the extent that it does not will. For the will commands that it will, and does not command another. But it does not fully command—and so what it commands is not done. For if it fully willed, it would not command that there be a decision—there would already be a decision. So it is not a monstrous thing, this partly willing, partly not willing—but it is a sickness of the soul because it does not completely rise: it is lifted by the truth, but weighed down by habit. And so there are not two wills, since one of them is not complete, and that is lacking to the one, which is present in the other.
8.10. Let those perish before your face, O God, as the vain-speakers and seducers of minds perish, who, since they notice the two wills present when one deliberates, assert that there are two natures of two minds, the one good, the other evil. They themselves are the real evils, when they have these evil thoughts. And these same men will be good themselves, if they think truly, and agree with the true, so that your Apostle may say to them: "Once you were darkness, but now light in the Lord." For they want to be light, not in the Lord, but in themselves, thinking the nature of the soul is the same as God, and so they became the denser darkness, since they went farther from you, in dreadful arrogance, leaving you, "the true light, which enlightens every man coming into this world." Notice what you are saying, and blush, and "approach to Him, and be enlightened, and your faces will not blush." I, when I was deliberating about serving the Lord my God, as I had long planned, I was the one who willed, I was the one who did not will. It was I, I. I neither fully willed, nor fully was unwilling, and so I strove with myself, and was scattered from myself, and that very scattering took place when I was unwilling, to be sure, yet it did not prove the nature of another mind (was in me) but it was my punishment.
He returns to describing the crisis.
8.11. Thus I was sick and tormented, accusing myself more bitterly than usual, and I twisted and turned myself in my chain till it would be completely broken—the thin chain with which I was still held. But yet I was held. And you kept pressing on in my secret interior, Lord, with severe mercy, doubling the scourges of fear and shame so I would not stop again, and that slender thin chain that remained might not be broken, and would grow strong again, and bind me the more strongly. For I kept saying interiorly: "Behold, now let it be done, now let it be done." And at that word I was already on the way to deciding. I was almost doing it—and not doing it. Yet I did not slip back to the former things, but I stood nearby, and caught my breath. And I was trying again, and was almost there, and almost touching it, and grabbing it, and yet I was not there, nor did I touch it nor hold it—hesitating to die to death and to live to life, and the worse that was familiar in me carried more weight than the better that was unfamiliar. And the very point of time at which I was to change, the closer it came, the more horror it struck in me, but it did not drive me back, nor turn me aside, but left me in suspense.
Trifles of trifles held me back, and vanities of vanities, my old girl friends, and they pulled at my fleshy garment and murmured softly: "Are you sending us away? From this moment will we be with you no more forever? And from that moment will this and that never be allowed you forever." And what things they suggested in that which I said "this and that!" What things they suggested, O my God! Let your mercy turn aside from the soul of your servant the filths, the improprieties they suggested! And I heard them now far less than halfway, not as though they were freely contradicting and openly coming towards me, but as if muttering from behind my back, and as if by stealth pulling at me as I tried to depart, so that I might look back. Yet they held me back, as I hesitated to snatch myself away and shake them off, and to go to where I was being called, as that violent habit kept saying to me: "Do you think you can do without these?"
But now it (habit) was saying it very tepidly. For there opened up from that direction to which I had turned my face, and to which I trembled to cross over, the chaste dignity of continence, serene, not dissolutely smiling, but honorably enticing me to come and not to hesitate, and stretching out devout hands to take and embrace me, hands full of the flocks of good examples. There were so many boys and girls, there were numerous young people, and every age, and serious widows, and virginal old women. And in all was continence herself, not at all sterile, but the fruitful mother of the sons of joys from you, her husband, O Lord. And they smiled at me with an encouraging smile, as if to say: "Cannot you do what these men and women do? Or can these do it in themselves, and not in the Lord their God? The Lord God of these gave me to them. Why do you stand by yourself—and fail to stand? Cast yourself on Him. Do not fear, He will not pull back and let you fall. Cast yourself forward securely. He will catch and heal you."
And I blushed greatly, because I still heard the murmur of these trifles, and hung hesitant. And again she (continence) as it were said: "Turn a deaf ear to those unclean limbs of yours on the earth, so that they may be mortified. They tell you of delights, but not like the law of the Lord your God." This struggle in my heart was only myself against myself. But Alypius, sticking close to my side, awaited in silence the outcome of my unusual disturbance.
8.12. But when deep reflection had gathered up and heaped together from the hidden deep all my misery, in the sight of my heart, there arose an immense storm, bringing in immense rain of tears; and so I might pour it all out with its voices, I got up from Alypius. For solitude suggested itself to me as more fit for the matter of weeping. And I withdrew too remotely for even his presence to be burdensome to me. Thus was I then, and he sensed it. For I had, I suppose, said something or other in which the sound of my voice seemed already pregnant with tears, and then I had gotten up. So he stayed where we had been sitting, greatly amazed. Then I prostrated myself under a certain fig tree, I know not how, and I released the gates of tears and the rivers of my eyes broke forth, an acceptable sacrifice to you. And not in these words, but to the same effect I said to you: "And you, O Lord, how long? How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever? Do not remember our old iniquities." For I felt I was held by them, and I tossed forth pitiful words: "How long, how long, tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why may not the end of my shamefulness come this hour?"
A strange voice—and it is over.
I kept saying these things, and was weeping with most bitter crushing of my heart. And behold, I hear a voice from the neighboring house, saying in song and often repeating, as the voice of some boy or girl: "Take it and read; take it and read." And at once, with changed face, I began to think most intently whether boys in any kind of game usually sing such a thing. Nor did I recall ever hearing such a thing at all. And stemming the onrush of tears, I got up, taking it as nothing other than that heaven ordered me to open the book, and read the first chapter I might find. For I had heard about Anthony, that as a result of the reading of the Gospel, which he had come on by chance, he had been advised, and took it as if it were said to him: "Go sell all that you have, and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me." And that by such an oracle, he was at once converted to you.
And so excitedly I went back to the place where Alypius was sitting. For there I had laid down the book of the Apostle when I had gotten up. I snatched, I opened, and I read in silence the first chapter on which my eyes fell: "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambers and impurity, not in strife and envy, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ. And make no provision for the flesh in your concupiscences." I did not want to read further, nor was there need. For at once with the end of this sentence, as if the light of security was infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt fled. Then, putting in my finger or other marker, I closed the book, and with tranquil countenance told Alypius. What was going on in him, which I did not know, he showed as follows. He asked to see what I had read. I showed it. He went even beyond what I had read, and I did not know what followed. This followed: "Receive the weak one in faith." He took that to apply to himself, and told me. But with this admonition he was strengthened and he joined me without any turbulent hesitation in the good resolution and purpose, most suited to his character, in which he already for a long time was greatly and far ahead of me.
Then we go in to mother. We tell. She rejoices. We recount how it happened. She is exultant, she triumphs and blessed you, "who are powerful to do beyond what we ask or understand." For she saw you had granted in my case so much more than she used to ask with her pitiful tearful groanings. "For you converted me to you" so that I did not seek a wife, or any hope of this world, and I was standing on that rule of faith on which you had revealed me to her so many years before. "And you turned her grief into joy" much more abundantly than she had asked, and more dearly and chastely than she had sought from the grandsons of my flesh.
Augustine gives thanks to God.
O Lord, "I am your servant, I am your servant, and the son of your handmaid. You have broken my chains, I will sacrifice to you the offering of praise." Let my heart praise you, and my tongue, and let all my bones say: "Lord, who is like to you?" Let them say, and reply and say to my soul: "I am your salvation." Who am I, and of what sort am I? Is there any evil that was not found in my deeds, or if not in deeds, in my words, or if not in my words, in my will? But you, Lord, are good and merciful, and your right hand had regard for the depth of my death, and emptied out from the bottom of my heart an abyss of corruption. And it amounted to this: that I no longer willed what I had willed, and that I willed what I had not willed.
But where was it (my free will) in that long period of years, and from what a deep and secret depth was my free will recalled in a moment, so that I might subject my neck to your mild yoke, and my shoulders to your light burden, Christ Jesus, my help, my redeemer? How sweet did it suddenly become to me to lack the sweetnesses of trifles, and it was a joy to dismiss what I had feared to lose. You cast them out for me, you true and supreme sweetness, you cast them out, and you entered in their stead, sweeter than every pleasure, but not to flesh and blood; brighter than all light, but more inward than every secret; more sublime than any honor, but not to those who seem lofty to themselves. Now my soul was clear from the biting cares of ambition and acquisition, and of wallowing and scratching the itch of lusts, and I spoke freely to you, my brightness, my richness, and my salvation, the Lord my God.
9.2. And it pleased me in your sight not to make an abrupt break, but to quietly remove the ministry of my tongue from the markets of speaking so that boys might no longer be "meditating" not "you law" not your peace, but "lying insanities" and be buying the combats of the courts from my mouth (which provided) arms for their madness. And opportunely, then only a very few days were left before the harvest holidays, and I decided to put up with them so I might leave in correct fashion, and, after being redeemed by you, no longer come back as for sale. Therefore our plan was in your sight; but not in the sight of men, except for our own. And we had agreed that it (the news) should not be given out indiscriminately even though to us who were climbing up from "the valley of tears" and singing the "song of the steps" you had given "keen arrows and devastating coals against a deceitful tongue."
He and friends retire to a villa at Cassiciacum.
9.4. And the day came on which I would actually be freed from the profession of rhetoric, from which in my thoughts I had already been freed. And it happened, and you delivered my tongue from the place from which you had already delivered my heart, and I was joyfully blessing you, as I set out for a villa with all of mine. For the books of discussions there with others, and with myself alone, testify what I did there in writings that already for sure did serve you, but were yet panting from the school of pride, as during a rest period. My letters testify what things were discussed there when Nebridius was absent. And when will there be time enough to mention all your great benefits to us at that time, especially since I am hurrying on to greater things? For my recollection calls me back, and it is sweet, O Lord, to confess to you with what internal whips you tamed me, and how you leveled me off, "bringing low the mountains and hills" of my thoughts, and "made straight my crooked ways, and smoothed the rough ways." And how you subjected also Alypius, the brother of my heart, to the name of your only-begotten, our Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ, a word which (Latin salvator—savior) at first he disdained to include in our writings. He rather wanted them to be redolent of the "cedars" of the gymnasiums, which already "the Lord had crushed" than of the herbs of the Church, wholesome against serpents.
What cries did I send to you, my God, when I read the Psalms of David, songs of faith, sounds of devotion, which shut out the swollen spirit, though I was new to your true love, a catechumen in the villa, taking time out with the catechumen Alypius, while my mother stayed with us, womanly in dress, manly in faith, with the security of an old woman, the love of a mother, with Christian devotedness. What cries I sent forth in those Psalms, and how I was inflamed towards you from them, and was eager to recite them, if I could, to the whole world, against the pride of the human race! And yet they are sung in the whole world, and "there is no one who can hide from your heat." With what strong and keen pain was I indignant at the Manichees, and yet took pity on them, because they did not know those sacraments, those medicines, and were insane against the antidote by which they could be healed! I could have wished they were there then, and without my knowing it, could have looked at my face, and heard my cries, when I read the fourth Psalm in that leisure, and saw what that Psalm had wrought in me.
"When I called on you, you heard me, God of my justice. When I was in a narrow place, you enlarged the way for me. Have mercy on me, Lord, and hear my prayer." They would have heard, if I did not know they were hearing, so they would not think I said those things for them, which I did say in the course of these words; for really I would not have said them, nor would I have said them thus, if I had felt they heard and saw me. Nor if I had said them, would they have so understood as to realize how I was saying them with myself, and to myself in your presence, out of the inner movements of my soul.
I shook with fear, and at the same time grew ardent in hoping and exulting in your mercy, Father. And all these things came forth through my eyes and my voice, when the good spirit turned to us and said to us: "Sons of men, how long will you be heavy of heart? Why do you love vanity, and seek a lie? For I had loved vanity and sought a lie.
When shall I recall everything of those days of leisure? But I have not forgotten, nor shall I be silent about the severity of your scourge and the wonderful quickness of your mercy. At that time you tormented me with pain in the teeth, and it grew so severe that I could not speak, and it came to my heart to suggest to all of mine who were present to pray to you for me, God of every sort of salvation. And I wrote this on a wax tablet and gave it to them to read. As soon as we bent our knees in a humble attitude, that pain fled. But what pain, and how did it flee? I was afraid, I confess, my Lord, my God. For I had never experienced anything such from the first years of my life. And the (power of) your nod was made deeply clear to me, and rejoicing in faith, I praised your name. And that faith did not let me be at ease over my past sins, which had not yet been remitted for me through your baptism.
9.5. When the harvest holidays were over, I announced that the people of Milan would need to provide another seller of words for the students, because I had chosen to serve you, and out of difficulty of breathing and pain in the chest I was no longer sufficient for that profession. And I made known by letter to your Bishop, the holy man Ambrose, my former errors and my present desire, so that he might advise which of your books I should read specially to prepare for and be more ready to receive your grace. He prescribed Isaiah the prophet, I suppose because he is clearer than others in predicting the Gospel and the call of the gentiles. But I, not understanding the first of those readings, and thinking the whole was such, put it off, to come back to it when I was better trained in the words of the Lord.
9.6. Then, when the time came for me to give in my name, we left the countryside and went back to Milan. Alypius decided to be reborn in you with me, now that he had put on a humility suited to your sacraments, and had become most brave in overcoming the body, even to the point of walking barefooted on the icy soil of Italy—with unusual daring. We joined to us also the boy Adeodatus, born of me carnally, of my sin. You had made him well. He was about fifteen, and in power of mind was ahead of many grave and learned men. I confess you gifts to you, my Lord God, creator of all, greatly powerful to re-form our deformities. For I had nothing in that boy but my sin. The fact that he was being nourished by us in your training: you had inspired that to us, and no one else. I confess to you your own gifts. There is a book of ours entitled "On the Teacher". In it he speaks with me. You know that all thoughts included there in the person of the one speaking with me were his, though he was only sixteen. I experienced many other wonderful things in him: his mind was a source of awe to me. And who besides you is the worker of such wonders?
Quickly did you take his life from the earth, and I recall him more securely, not fearing at all for his boyhood or adolescence nor for his manhood. For we associated him with us in your grace, as if the same age, to be brought up in your training.
And we were baptized, and concern for our past life left us.
Augustine starts back for Africa. At Ostia, seaport of Rome, his mother dies. Their experience of contemplation.
9.10. As the day drew near on which she was to depart from this life—a day which you knew, though we did not—it happened—by your secret arrangement I believe—that she and I were standing alone, leaning at a certain window from which we could see the garden within the place where we were staying at Ostia Tiberina, at which, far from the crowds after the weariness of a long journey, we were restoring ourselves before sailing. So we were speaking together alone very sweetly, "and forgetting the things that were past, stretching ahead to those that were ahead, " we were seeking between ourselves, in the presence of truth—which you are—what that future eternal life of the saints would be like, "which eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man." But we were eager with the mouth of our heart for the streams of your font above, " the font of life, which is with you" so that getting what sprinkling of it we could, we might in some fashion think of so great a thing.
And when our conversation reached this point, that the delight of carnal things howsoever great, in whatsoever great a bodily light, seemed not only not worthy of comparison, but not even of mention alongside of the pleasure of that life, then, raising ourselves up with more ardent love to "the Selfsame" we walked step by step through all bodily things, and the sky itself from which the sun and moon and stars shine upon the earth. And we went still higher interiorly, thinking and speaking and wondering at your works, and we came to our minds, and we transcended them, so as to touch the region of unfailing richness where "you feed Israel" forever with the food of truth, where the life is that Wisdom through which all these things are made—things that were, and things that are to be—and Wisdom itself is not made, but is as it has been, and will be ever thus, since "to have been" and "to be going to be" are not found in it, but only "to be, " since it is eternal. For "to have been" and "to be going to be" do not belong to it—they are not eternal.
And as we spoke, and sighed for it, we touched it somewhat with a total effort of our heart, and we sighed, and left bound there "the first fruits of the spirit, " and we went back again to the noise of our mouth where a word has a beginning and an end. And what is like your Word, our Lord, which abides in itself without becoming old, and makes all things new?
So we said: "If for any man there grew silent the tumult of the flesh, silent the images of earth and water and air, silent even the skies, and the very soul grew silent and passed beyond itself, not thinking of itself, if all dreams and imaginary revelations grew silent, every tongue, and every sign, and whatever passes—if for any man these grew altogether silent—for if someone is listening, all these things say: "We did not make ourselves, but He who remains forever made us"—and if after these words, they grew silent since they had lifted up our ear to Him who made them, so that He Himself alone should speak, not through them, but through Himself, so that we might hear His word, not by tongue of flesh, nor by voice of an angel, nor by a sound from a cloud, nor by the riddle of a likeness, but Himself, whom we love in these things, if we should hear Him without these things—just as now we extend ourselves, and with speedy thought touch upon the eternal Wisdom that remains over all. If this continue, and if all other visions of far inferior sort be removed, and this one alone snatch and absorb one, and hide the one who sees, for interior joys, so that such would be eternal life as was this moment of intelligence for which we sighed—is not this "entering into the joy of you Lord?" And when this be? Will it be "when we shall all rise, but not all will be changed?"
We were saying such things, if not in precisely this way and in these words, yet, O Lord, you know, that on that day when we spoke such things, and the world itself with all its delights became cheap among our words, then she said: "My son, so far as pertains to me, I no longer delight in anything in this world. What should I still do here, and why I am here, I know not, now that the hope of this world has been consumed. There was one thing for which I wanted to stay awhile in this life, that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I die. God has granted this to me far more richly, so that I should see you His servant, even scorning earthly happiness. What am I doing here?
His mother's death
9.11. What is said in reply, I do not clearly recall. Then scarcely five days later, or not much more, she became sick with a fever. And when she was sick one day, she suffered a fainting spell, and was taken away briefly from present things. We ran, but she quickly regained consciousness, and looked at my brother and me standing there, and she said to us, as if seeking something: "Where was I?" Then looking at us who were thunderstruck with grief she said: "Put your mother here." I was silent and trying to restrain tears. but my brother said something to the effect that he would wish her to die not in a strange land but in her own country, as a happier thing. when she heard this, with an anxious look she rebuked him with her eyes for such thoughts, and then looking at me: "See, " she said "what he is saying." And soon she said to both of us: "Put his body anywhere, " she said. "Let it not be a concern for you. I ask only this of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be."
And when she had explained this in what words she could, she grew silent, and as the disease became heavier, she was racked with it.
But I, thinking of your gifts, Invisible God, which you send into the hearts of your faithful so that marvelous fruits come from them—I was rejoicing, and giving thanks to you, recalling that I knew how very concerned she formerly was about her tomb, which she had provided for herself, and had prepared aside the body of her husband. For since they had lived very harmoniously she also wished this—so little is the human soul capable of divine things—that she might have the added happiness of having men mention that it was granted her that after travel overseas, the same earth should cover the dust of both spouses.
But when this empty thought had begun to fade in her heart out of the fullness of your goodness, I knew not, but in gladness I wondered that she had seemed such to me, although in our conversation at the window when she said "What am I doing here?" she did not seem to be desiring to die in her homeland. I heard too later that when we were at Ostia and I was absent one day, she had spoken with certain friends of mine, with motherly confidence, about contempt of this life, and the advantage of death. And when they were amazed at the strength of a woman, which you had given her, and were asking whether she did not fear to leave her body so far from her own city, she said "Nothing is far from God. Nor need we fear that He will not know where to raise me up at the end of the world." So on the ninth day of her sickness, in the fifty-sixth year of her age, in the thirty-third of my age, that religious and devout soul was loosed from the body.
Augustine struggles with grief.
9.12. I closed her eyes. And there flowed into my heart an immense grief, and it flowed over into tears, and at the same time my eyes, by a forceful command of my mind, soaked up again this font even to dryness. And in such a struggle, it was very ill with me. But then when she breathed her last, the boy Adeodatus cried out in a wail, but was restrained by all of us, and became silent. In this manner something childish on my part too, which slipped into weeping with a young voice, was restrained and became silent. For we did not think it proper to observe that death with tearful plaints and groans, for in this way the misery of those who die is usually deplored, or their total extinction. But she died neither miserably nor totally. We held to this by the proofs of her character, and by her "unfeigned faith", as by definite reasons.
What then was there within me that grieved so gravely unless a fresh wound, from the suddenly broken habituation of living together sweetly and dearly? I took joy indeed from her testimony for in the last illness she herself spoke kindly of my assistance, and called me devoted, and recalled with great emotion of love that she had never heard from my mouth a harsh or disrespectful word. But yet, my God what comparison was there between the honor I gave her and her service to me? Since then I was deprived of so great a solace from her, my soul was wounded, and that life which I had shared with her was as it were torn apart.
After restraining the boy from weeping, Evodius took the psalter, and began to sing a psalm, to which we, the whole household, responded: "I will sing of mercy and judgment to you, Lord." When they heard what was happening, many of the brothers and religious women gathered and while they whose duty it was were taking the usual care for the funeral, I in another part of the house, where I could fittingly do so, discussed what was suited to the occasion with those who thought they should not leave me, and by that salve of truth I tried to soften the torment which you knew, but they who intently listened to me did not know, and so thought I was without any feeling of sorrow.
But I in your ears, where none of them heard, reproached the softness of my emotion, and restrained the flow of grief, and it yielded to me a bit, but again rushed on by its own force, not as far as breaking out into tears, or to a change of facial expression. And because it displeased me greatly that these human things had so much power over me—things which inevitably happen in the due order and lot of our condition I grieved with another grief over my grief, and was torn by a double sadness.
And behold, when the body was carried out, we went and returned without tears. For I did not weep in these prayers which we poured forth to you when the sacrifice of our ransom was offered to you as the body was placed beside the grave before being let down into it as was the custom of the place—not even in those prayers did I weep, but I was secretly sad the whole day, and with disturbed mind I asked you, as I could, that you would heal my grief. You did not do it, I suppose, to impress on my memory by at least this one proof how great is the bond of custom, even against a mind that is no longer fed with a deceitful word.
It seemed good to me too to go to bathe, because I had heard that the name bath was given because the Greeks call it balaneion: it drives disturbance from the soul. Behold, I confess this too to your mercy, "Father of orphans" that I bathed, and was the same as before I bathed. For the bitterness of grief did not come out like sweat from my heart.
Then I went to sleep, and woke up, and found my grief lessened in no small part, and when in my bed alone, I recalled the true verses of your Ambrose. For you are:
God the creator of all, the ruler of the sky clothing the day with splendid light, and the night with the grace of sleep, that rest may restore relaxed limbs to the service of work and loose anxious griefs.
And starting from there, I gradually brought back my former thoughts of your handmaid, and her way of life, devoted to you and holy, sweet and accommodating to us—of which I was suddenly deprived. And it pleased me to weep in your sight over her and for her, over me and for me. And I let go the tears I was holding in, so that they might flow forth as much as they willed, putting them as a bed beneath my heart, and I rested in them, for your ears were there, not the ears of any man proudly interpreting my weeping.
And now, Lord, I confess to you in this writing. Let him who wishes read, and interpret as he wishes. And if he finds it a sin that I wept for my mother for a small part of an hour, my mother meanwhile dead to my eyes, who had wept for me for many years so I might live to you—let him not laugh, but rather, if he has great charity, let him weep for my sins to you, the Father of all the brothers of your Christ.
He prays for his mother.
9.13. But I, now that my heart is healed of that wound, in which a fleshy love might be charged, I pour forth to you, our God, for that servant of yours, quite another kind of tears that come from a stricken spirit, at the consideration of the dangers of every soul that "dies in Adam." For although she, after being made alive in Christ, even though not yet loosed from the flesh, had so lived that her name was praised for its faith and conduct, yet I do not dare to say that ever since you regenerated her by baptism, no word had come from her mouth contrary to your command. And it was said by the Truth, you Son: "If anyone says to his brother 'fool', he will be guilty of the gehenna of fire." And woe even to the praiseworthy life of humans if you examine it without mercy! But because you do not seek out faults so absolutely, we hope faithfully for some place with you. For whoever recounts to you his true merits—what does he recount but your gifts? O that all men might know themselves, and that "those who glory would glory in the Lord!"
Therefore, "my praise" and my life, "the God of my heart, " putting aside for awhile her good deeds, for which I gladly give thanks to you, now I beg for the sins of my mother. Hear me through the Medicine of our wounds which hung on the wood, and "sitting at your right hand, intercedes with you for us." I know that she acted mercifully, and that "she forgave debts from her heart to those who owed her". May you forgive her debts too, if she contracted some too through so many years after the water of salvation. Forgive, Lord, forgive, I beg. "Do not enter" with her "into judgment. Let mercy be exalted above justice, " since your words are true, and you promised "mercy to the merciful." You granted them to be thus, "you who will have mercy on whom you will have mercy, and will give mercy to the one to whom you will be merciful."
And I believe that you have already done what I asked you for, but "accept, Lord, the free offerings of my mouth."
For she, when the day of her dissolution was at hand, did not think of having her body richly clothed or embalmed with spices, nor did she desire a choice monument, or care about a grave in her home land. She did not enjoin these things on us, but only desired a remembrance of her at your altar, which she had served without omitting one day, your altar from which she knew was dispensed the Holy Victim by which "the handwriting that was against us was destroyed, " by which there was a triumph over the enemy that counted our faults, seeking something to throw up against us, and finding nothing in Him in whom we conquer. Who will give back to Him His innocent blood? Who will restore the price by which He bought us, so as to take us from him (the enemy)? By the bond of faith your handmaid bound her soul to the sacrament of our redemption.
Let no one tear her from your protection. Let not "the lion and the dragon" by force or deception put himself between you and her. For she did not reply that she owed nothing—so she would not be convicted and held by the clever accuser. But she will reply that her debts have been forgiven by Him to whom no one will pay back that which He, owing nothing, paid for us.
So may she be in peace with her husband, before whom and after whom she married no one. Him she served, "bearing fruit to you with patience" so that she might gain him for you. And inspire, Lord my God, inspire your servants, my brothers, your sons and daughters, my masters, to whom I serve in voice and heart and writings, that as many as read this may remember Monica your handmaid at your altar, along with Patricius, once her husband, through whose flesh you brought me into this life—in what way I know not. May they remember with devout affection my parents in this transitory light, and my brothers under you, my Father in the Catholic mother, and my fellow citizens in the eternal Jerusalem, for which the pilgrimage of your people sighs from the start to their return: so that the last thing she asked of me may be more abundantly given through the prayers of many, occasioned by these confessions and my requests.
Conquered gods who could not save Troy could not have saved Rome.
1.3. Look! To what kind of gods the Romans were glad they had entrusted their city to be saved! Oh too pitiable an error! And they are angry at us when we say such things about their gods—and are not angry at their own authors, to learn whom they gave pay, and considered the teachers themselves worthy of a public salary and honors in addition! For in the words of Vergil—whom children read so that he, being I suppose a great poet, the most famous and best of all, if imbibed in tender years may not be easily removed from memory, according to the saying of Horace: "The jug once imbued will keep the odor fresh long—in this Vergil, then, Juno is pictured as hostile to the Trojans and saying to Aeolus the king of the winds, to stir him up against the Trojans:
A people hostile to me sails the Tyrrhenian sea Carrying Troy into Italy, and the conquered gods.
So: Should prudent men have entrusted Rome to these conquered gods so it would not be conquered? But someone may say: "Juno said this as an angry woman, not knowing what she was saying." Then what about Aeneas himself, so often called devoted, does not he tell this:
Panthus Othryades, the priest of the citadel of Phoebus, carrying the sacred things in his hand, and the conquered gods, and his little nephew, mad with running, heads for the threshold?
Does he not consider those gods—whom he does not hesitate to call conquered—as entrusted to him rather than he to them, when it is said to him: Troy entrusts its sacred things and its gods to you?
If then, Vergil calls such gods conquered and, so that even though conquered, they might escape somehow, entrusted to a man: what insanity is it to think that Rome was wisely entrusted to these guardians, and that if it had not lost them, it could not have been devastated? Rather, to cultivate conquered gods as guardians and defenders—what is this but to have not good divinities, but bad omens? How much more wise is it to believe, not that Rome would not have come to that disaster unless they (the gods) had first perished, but that they (the gods) would have perished long ago if Rome had not saved them as much as it could?
For who, when he pays attention, would not see how vain it was to presume that Rome could not have been conquered under conquered defenders, and that Rome perished for the reason that it lost its guardian gods, when really the sole reason for perishing was wanting to have guardians destined to perish? When those things were written and sung about the conquered gods, it did not suit the poets to lie, but instead, truth forced prudent men to confess. We will find another more opportune place to treat these things diligently and at length. Right now, I will clear up a bit as best I can what I had begun to say about ungrateful men who in blasphemy charge against Christ that which they rightly suffer because of the perversity of their morals. Moreover, they do not even see fit to notice the fact that even such men were spared because of Christ, and they wag those tongues against His name, in the madness of sacrilegious perversity—the very tongues with which they lyingly invoked that very name so that they might live—the tongues which they pressed in fear into places sacred to Him, so that being safe and protected there where the enemy left them unharmed because of Him—from there they might leap forth against Him with hostile curses!
Why the good suffered with the bad in the fall of Rome.
1.8. But someone will say: "Why then did that divine mercy come even to the impious and the ungrateful?" Why do we suppose, except because He gave it, who every day "causes His sun to rise over the good and the bad, and rains upon the just and the unjust?" For although certain of them, thinking and repenting may correct themselves from their impiety, yet others, as the Apostle says scorning "the riches of the goodness and long-suffering of God, according to the hardness of their heart and impenitent heart, store up for themselves wrath for the day of wrath, the day of the revelation of the just judgment of God, who will render to each according to his works." Yet the patience of God invites the evil to penitence, just as the scourge of God instructs the good for patience. And likewise the mercy of God embraces the good to cherish them, just as the severity of God seizes the evil to punish them. For it has pleased Divine Providence to prepare in the future good things for the just which the unjust will not enjoy, and evils for the impious, with which the good will not be tormented; but He wanted these temporal goods and evils to be common to both, so that the good things (of this life) would not be too eagerly sought after—since the bad evidently have them too—nor should the evils of this life be basely avoided—since very often even the good are afflicted with them.
It makes a great difference how one uses either the things that are called prosperous, or those that are called adverse. For the good man is neither lifted up by temporal goods, nor crushed by temporal evils. But the wicked man is punished by this sort of failure precisely because he is corrupted by success. Yet God often shows His hand quite openly even in distributing these things. For if He at present punished every sin in an obvious way, nothing would be thought to be saved for the last judgment. Again, if the divinity did not clearly punish any sin now, men would believe there is no Divine Providence. Similarly, as to favorable things, if God did not give them to some who ask, with clear largess, we would say these things are not His. Likewise, if He gave them to all who ask, people would think they should serve Him solely for such rewards—and this service of theirs would not make them devoted, but instead, greedy and avaricious. Since this is the case, the fact that good and evil men are similarly afflicted does not mean they are not different, because what each type endures is the same. For there remains the difference of those who suffer even in the similarity of the things they suffer, just as virtue and vice, under the same trial, are not the same. For just as in one and the same fire, gold gleams and chaff smokes, and just as under the same threshing sledge, the stalks are crushed, and the grain is cleansed, and just as scum is not to be confused with oil because it is pressed by the same weight of the press—so too, one and the same force rushing in proves the good, purifies and refines them, but condemns, destroys, and brings an end to the wicked. Hence in one and the same affliction, the evil detest and blaspheme God—but the good pray to Him and praise Him. So great is the difference, not in what things one suffers, but in who it is who suffers. For when stirred by the same movement, filth sends out a stench, and ointment smells sweetly.
The gods never gave their devotees any moral guidance.
2.4. First of all, why did their gods not want to take care so that they (their worshippers) would not have very evil morals? For the true God rightly neglected those by whom He was not worshipped—but those gods, from whose worship ungrateful men complain they are kept, why did they not help their worshippers to live well by some laws? Yes, it was right that the gods should take care of the deeds of their worshippers, in the same way the worshippers took care of the sacred rites of the gods.
But someone will object: "Each one is evil by his own free will." Who denies this? Yet however, it did pertain to the guardian gods not to hide the precepts of a good life from the peoples that worshipped them, but instead to provide them with clear proclamation, and even through prophets to assemble and convict sinners, to openly threaten penalties to evil doers, to promise rewards for those who lived rightly. What of this sort ever sounded forth in the temples of those gods with ready and eminent voice?
Result of lack of guidance: moral ruin.
2.6. Hence it is that those divinities did not care about the life and morals of the cities and peoples who worshipped them, so that they let them become very wicked and filled with such horrendous and detestable evils, not just in their fields and vineyards, not just in their homes and money, not, finally, just in their very body, which is subject to the soul, but in the mind itself, in the very soul, the ruler of the flesh—without any awe-inspiring prohibition on their part. Or if they did prohibit it—let this rather be shown, let this be proved.
The rules of the philosophers were useless, in view of the bad examples of the gods themselves.
2.7. Or perhaps will they recall for us the bad evidently have them too—nor should the evils of this life be basely avoided—since very often even the good are afflicted with them.
It makes a great difference how one uses either the things that are called prosperous, or those that are called adverse. For the good man is neither lifted up by temporal goods, nor crushed by temporal evils. But the wicked man is punished by this sort of failure precisely because he is corrupted by success. Yet God often shows His hand quite openly even in distributing these things. For if He at present punished every sin in an obvious way, nothing would be thought to be saved for schools and discussions of the philosophers? First, they are not Roman, but Greek. Or if they are called Roman because Greece too became a Roman province—still they are not the precepts of the gods, but the discoveries of men who tried somehow, being endowed with keen talents, to trace out by reasoning, what lay hidden in the nature of things, what should anything that could be enough to live a good life and attain a blessed life—how much more justly would divine honors have been decreed for such men! How much better and more honorable that the books of Plato be read in his temple, than that in the temples of the demons the Galli should castrate themselves, the homosexuals should be consecrated, the insane men should cut themselves—and whatever else either cruel or shameful, or shamefully cruel, or cruelly shameful is commonly celebrated in their rites of such gods. How much more suitable to teach the youth justice would it have been to publicly recite the laws of gods—instead of emptily praising the laws and institutions of the ancestors. For all the worshippers of such gods, as soon as lust, tinged with hot poison, impels them, as Persius says, look rather at what Jupiter did, than at what Plato taught or Cato censored.
Augustine quotes Cicero's condemnation of the condition of Rome.
2.21 "For what is left of the ancient morals, on which he (Ennius) said the Roman state rested, which we see so worn out with forgetfulness that they are not only not cultivated, but are even unknown? For what should I say about real men? For morals themselves have perished for lack of real men, and we must render an account for so great an evil, and even plead our case, as men on trial for capital crime. Not by any mishap, but by our own vices, we retain a state in name, but in reality, we have lost it long ago."
The gods took no care to prevent the ruin of Rome by vice.
2.22. But so far as pertains to the present matter, however praiseworthy they may say that state was or is, yet according to their own most learned authors, long before the coming of Christ, it had become very evil and wicked—in fact, it had ceased to exist and had altogether perished from most debased morals. So that it might not have perished, the guardian gods should have given to the people that worshipped them chiefly rules for life and morals—the gods whom they worshipped in so many temples, with so many priests and kinds of sacrifices, and with so many and such great celebrities of games. But in these the demons really were minding their own business—not taking care how the people would live, or rather taking care that they should even live basely, provided that the people, subject in fear, would minister everything to their honor.
Or, if they did give such precepts, let it be brought forth, shown, and read, what laws of the gods, given to that city, the Gracchi scorned, so as to disturb everything with seditions; what laws Marius and Cinna and Carbo scorned, so that they went even into cruel civil wars, begun for most unjust reasons, and carried on cruelly, and more cruelly finished; what laws finally Sulla himself scorned, whose life, morals and deeds as Sallust and other historians describe them—who would not shudder at them? Who would not admit that that state had perished then? Or perhaps will they dare, because of the morals of such citizens, to quote as usual that line of Vergil to defend their gods:
All have left, abandoning the shrines and altars, All the gods, on whom this empire rested.
First, if that is the case, they have no reason to complain about the Christian religion, or to say that the gods, offended at it, deserted them—since their ancestors long before drove from the altars of the city so many, such tiny gods, like flies.
But yet, where was that throng of gods when long before ancient morals were corrupted, Rome was captured and burned by the Gauls? Were they perhaps present but asleep? For then the whole city came into the power of the enemy, and only the Capitoline hill remained—and it too would have been taken, if at least the geese had not been awake while the gods slept. As a result, Rome almost fell into the superstition of the Egyptians, who worship beasts and birds, when they celebrated a solemnity to geese.
But I am not talking now about these outside evils and evils of the body rather than of the soul—now I am talking about the fall of morals, which at first became a bit off-color, and then crashed so greatly, like a waterfall, that even though the homes and walls of the city were untouched, their great authors do not hesitate to say it was then lost. Rightly all the gods departed so that the city was lost, abandoning the shrines and altars, if
the state had scorned their precepts about the good life and justice. But as it is, what sort of gods were they, if they were unwilling to live with the people that worshipped them, when they had not taught that people who lived badly, how to live well?
The gods did not save their devotees from physical evils—which only the wicked fear.
3.1. I think now I have said enough about the evils of morals and souls, which are the chief things to avoid—that the false gods not only did not act to keep the people that worshipped them from being weighed down by a mass of evils, but instead acted so that they should be most greatly oppressed. But now I see that I should speak about those evils which are the only evils these people are unwilling to endure, such as: famine, disease, war, being despoiled, captivity, butchery, and others like these, that we mentioned in the first book. For evil people think these the only evils—things that do not make people evil. And they are not ashamed to be evil themselves among the good things which they praise, and complain more if they have a bad villa than if they have a bad vita (life)—as if this were the greatest good for man: to have everything good but themselves! But neither did the gods, when they were freely worshipped by them, keep such evils from them, which are the only evils they feared.
Where were the gods when Rome groaned under wars and other evils in the early days?
3.17. Let not good and prudent Romans be angry at us because we say this: although they should not have to be asked or reminded, for it is most certain they will not be angry at all. For we do not say things graves, or say them more gravely, than their own authors—and we are greatly unequal to them in style and leisure. and yet, to learn these authors, they themselves work, and compel their sons to work. Those who are angry at me, when would they put with me if I were to say what Sallust says? "Very many mobs, seditions, and finally civil wars arose, while a few powerful men sought for power under the honorable name of patricians or plebeians, and most people gave in, to seek their favor. They were called good or bad citizens, not for merits towards the state—for all were equally corrupt—but according as each one was richest, and mightier in injustice, because he defended the status quo, he was considered a good man."
Now if those writers of history thought it the part of honorable freedom not to be silent about the evils of their own state, which in many places they had to praise with loud proclamation, since they did not have another truer state, into which eternal citizens are to be gathered—what should we do, whose freedom should be the greater, the better and more certain is our hope in God, when they charge the present evils against our Christ, so as to separate the weaker and less experienced minds from that city in which alone one can live perpetually and happily? Nor do we say more dreadful things against their gods than their very same authors, whom they read and extol, since we have taken from them what we say, and in no way are we capable of saying such things as they say, or all the things they say.
So where were those gods whom they think should be worshipped for the sake of a scanty, deceptive happiness in this world, when the Romans, to whom they sold themselves as objects of worship, with lying astuteness, were vexed by such great calamities? Where were they when the consul Valerius was killed in defending the Capitol, set on fire by exiles and slaves, and he could more easily help the temple of Jupiter than that crowd of so many divinities, with their "best and greatest king", whose temple he had delivered, could help him? Where were they, when the city, wearied by closely packed evils of seditions was devastated by a severe famine and pestilence while waiting for legates to return from Athens to borrow laws? Where were they when again the people, suffering from famine, first established a prefect of the grain supply. And when Spurious Maelius incurred a charge of wanting to be king, so that during a great and dangerous uprising in the city at the instance of the same prefect through the Dictator Lucius Quintius, he was killed by Quintus Servilius, Master of Horse? Where were they when through ten continuous years of poor fighting, the Roman army had suffered great and frequent disasters near Veii (and would have had more) had it not finally been aided by Furius Camillus, whom the ungrateful city later condemned? where were they when the Gauls captured Rome, despoiled, burned, and filled it with slaughter? Where were they when that remarkable pestilence caused such huge devastation, in which that Furius Camillus was taken away who had earlier rescued the ungrateful state from the Veii, and later saved it from the Gauls?
Some of the many evils in Rome before the time of Christ.
3.30. With what face, then, with what heart, with what boldness, with what folly or rather insanity do they fail to charge these things against their gods, and do charge them against Christ? Cruel civil wars, more bitter than all wars with foreign enemies, as their authors admit, with which that state was judged not just afflicted but destroyed—these arose long before the coming of Christ, and by a wicked concatenation of causes came down from the war of Marius and Sulla, to the wars of Sertorius and Catiline (of whom the one was proscribed by Sulla, the other nourished) and thence to the war of Lepidus and Catulus (of whom one wanted to rescind the deeds of Sulla, the other to defend them), and thence to the wars of Pompey and Caesar (of whom Pompey had been a follower of Sulla and the same, and had equaled, or even surpassed his power, while Caesar could not stand the power of Pompey because he did not have the same, and yet went beyond it after conquering and killing him) and from there to the other Caesar, who was afterwards called Augustus, under whose reign Christ was born.
For Augustus himself waged civil wars with many, and in them many most famous men perished, among them Cicero, that eloquent architect of plans to rule a state. For a conspiracy of certain noble senators had killed Gaius Caesar, the victor over Pompey, the Caesar who had used his civil victory in a clement way, and had given back life and dignity to his adversaries—and yet they killed him as seeking royal power. Then Anthony, much unlike him in character, and defiled and corrupted with all vices, seemed to desire his power. Cicero vehemently resisted him for the sake of the freedom of the fatherland, as he said. Then there emerged that other Caesar, a youth of remarkable nature, the adopted son, Gaius Caesar, who, as I said, was later called Augustus. Cicero had favored this young Caesar, to build up his power against Anthony, hoping that he, after beating off and crushing the power of Anthony, would restore the freedom of the state—but Cicero was so blind and unforeseeing that that very youth, whose power and dignity he (Cicero) had nurtured, handed over the same Cicero to Anthony to be killed, in a sort of pact of harmony, and also subjected the very freedom of the state, for which Cicero had cried much, to his own sway.
The expansion of the empire was only an apparent good.
4.3. So now, let us see what sort of thing it is that they dare to attribute to those gods so great an extent and length in time of the Roman empire, gods whom they claim they worshipped honorably by the services of shameful stage plays, and the ministry of shameful men. And yet I would like first to inquire what sense it is, what prudence, since one cannot point to the happiness of men, to be constantly involved in warlike disasters and in the blood of citizens or enemies, and to want to boast about the size and greatness of the empire, when there is yet dark human fear and bloody desire, so that a glass-like joy may be obtained, such that one must fear horribly that it may suddenly break. To judge this more easily, let us not become vain and tossed about with empty windiness and blunt the edge of our minds with high-sounding words for things when we hear of peoples, kingdoms, provinces. But instead let us picture two men—for just as a letter is a unit in language, so each man is as it were a unit of a city or kingdom, howsoever extensive it may be in the lands it takes in. Let us picture one of these men as poor, or rather, of modest means, and the other very rich. But the rich man is anxious with fears, wasting away with griefs, burning with greed, never secure—but ever restless, panting in constant strifes in enmities, while increasing his fortune by these miseries to an immense extent, and by those increases also heaping up very bitter cares. But that man of modest means has enough with his small, compact estate, is very dear to his own, enjoying sweet peace with his relatives, neighbors, friends; he is kindly in mind, sound in body, sparing in his way of life, chaste in his morals, secure in his conscience. I doubt if anyone would be so foolish as to dare to doubt which one he should prefer. So then, just as in these two men, so in two families, so in two peoples, so in two kingdoms, there is a fair standard. If we carefully apply it and so correct our vision, we will very easily see where dwells vanity, and where happiness.
Therefore, if the true God be worshipped, and served with true sacred rites and good morals, it is useful that the good rule far and wide. And yet this is beneficial not so much to the rulers as to those over whom they rule. For so far as the subjects are concerned, their devotedness and uprightness, which are great gifts of God, suffice for them for true happiness, in which the present life can be lived well, and after it, eternal life received. So on this earth, the rule of the good is given not so much for the sake of the ruler as for human affairs, but the rule of the wicked harms the rulers the more, for they devastate their souls in a greater opportunity for wrongdoing. But for these who serve them in subjection, only their own iniquity is harmful. For whatever evils are imposed on the just by unjust masters are not a penalty for crime, but a test of virtue. Hence the good man, even though he be a slave, is free; but the wicked man, even if he be a king, is a slave, and not of just one man, but what is worse, of as many masters as vices. When the Divine Scripture spoke of these vices it said: "By whom one is conquered, to him he is assigned as a slave."
If the false gods could have given an empire, they would have given it to Greece.
4.28. So in no way could those gods who are appeased or rather accused by such honors—so that it is a greater charge that they are pleased with these false things than if the truth were told about them—in no way could they have been able to increase and conserve the Roman empire. For if they could have done it, they would have rather given so great a gift to the Greeks, who worshipped them more honorably and worthily in divine rites of this kind, that is, in stage plays, since they did not exempt themselves from the bites of poets, by which they saw the gods were being torn, but gave the poets license to mistreat what men they pleased, and judged the stage actors not disgraced, but even worthy of outstanding honors.
So just as the Romans could have had gold money without worshipping a goddess Golden; so they could have had silver money and bronze money without worshipping Silvery and his father Bronzy—and so for all other things that are too wearisome to recount. Similarly then, they could in no way have had an empire if the true God were unwilling; but if they had ignored and scorned those many and false gods, and instead had known the one God and worshipped Him with sincere faith and morals, they would have had a better kingdom here—of whatever size—and after this they would have received an eternal kingdom, whether they had had one here or not.
All kingdoms rise or fall in accordance with the unscrutable Providence of the true God.
4.33. So God, that author and giver of happiness, because He alone is true God, He Himself gives kingdoms on earth to both the good and the wicked. Nor does He do this at random, and as it were by chance, since He is God, not fortune, but He does it in accordance with an order of things and times which is hidden to us, but well-known to Himself. And yet He is not subjected to this order of times in servitude, but He Himself as the Lord rules it and arranges it as its guide. But He gives happiness only to the good. For those who serve may or may not have it, rulers may or may not have it. But yet it will be complete in that life where no one will serve anymore. And so He gives earthly kingdoms to both the good and the wicked, so that His worshippers, still in a state of making progress in their little souls, may not desire these gifts from Him as if they were something great. And this is the mystery of the Old Testament, in which the New was hidden (namely) that in the Old even earthly gifts were promised, though spiritual men even then understood, though they did not clearly proclaim it, what an eternity was signified by those temporal things, and in which gifts of God there was true happiness.
God sustained the Jews while they served Him, punished them when they were unfaithful.
4.34. And so, that it might be known that those earthly goods, for which alone they sigh who cannot think of better things, are in the power of the one God, and not in the power of many false gods whom the Romans formerly believed must be worshipped, for this reason He multiplied His people in Egypt from a very few, and freed them from there with marvelous signs...without invoking Neptune, the sea was divided and lay open for them to cross, and overwhelmed their enemies as the waves came back on themselves. Nor did they consecrate some goddess Mannia, when they received manna from the sky; not did they worship Nymphs and Lymphs when the rock was struck and gave forth water for those who were thirsty. Without the insane rites of Mars and Bellona they waged wars, and they did not indeed conquer without victory—but they did not consider it a goddess but the gift of their God. Without Segetia they had crops, oxen without Bubona, honey without Mellona, fruits without Pomona—and so on for absolutely all things, for which the Romans thought prayer had to be made to a crowd of false gods, but the Hebrews received these things much more happily from the one true God. And if they had not sinned against Him, and had not run down to other gods and idols, seduced by impious curiosity as if by magic, and if they had not finally killed Christ they would have stayed in the same kingdom, more happy, even if not more extensive (than that of Rome). And now, as to the fact that they are scattered throughout practically all lands and nations—this is the providence of the one true God so that it may be proved from their books that the destruction of images of false gods everywhere and of the altars, groves and the cessation of their sacrifices was foretold so far in advance—so that people might not read it in our books and think we had forged it. But now we need to see what comes in the next book, and here we should set a limit to this long-windedness.
The growth of the Roman Empire was not due to fate, nor to the stars, but to the providence of the one true God.
5.1. So the cause of the greatness of the Roman empire is neither chance nor fate, according to their view or opinion who say those things are due to chance which either have no causes, or causes that do not come in a rational order, and those things are due to fate, which happen beyond the will of God and men by the necessity of a certain order. Definitely, human kingdoms are established by Divine Providence. If someone attributes them to fate for the reason that he calls the will and power of God by the name of "fate": let him keep his view, but correct his language. For why does he not say right away what he will say later when someone asks him what he means by fate? For when men hear the word, according to the usual way of speaking they understand nothing but the force of the position of stars—what sort it is when someone is born or conceived. Some make this independent of the will of God, others say it depends on his will. But they who think the stars decide independently of the will of God, what we do, or what good things we have or what evils we endure should be repelled from the ears of all, not only the ears of those who hold the true religion, but even those who want to be worshippers of any sort of gods, even though false ones. For what does this opinion bring about except that no God at all be worshipped or prayed to.
But we are not now arguing against these, but against those who, to defend those whom they call gods, oppose the Christian religion. But they who say that the position of the stars, which determines of what sort each man is and what good or evil come to him, depends on the will of God: if they think the same stars have this power given them by Him supreme power so as to decide these things according to their own will—they do great injustice to the heavens, for they think that in its brilliant senate and senate house, as it were, crimes are determined to take place, such that if any earthly city had determined them, by decree of the human race, it should have been overturned. What sort of judgment is there left for God about the deeds of men when a heavenly necessity lies on them—since He is the Lord of both stars and men?
Or if they do not say that the stars, by power received by the supreme God, decide these things as they will, but that in bringing on such necessities they just carry out His orders: should we think in this way about God Himself, a way we saw was improper to think about the will of the stars?
The natural virtues of some of the Romans merited an empire as a reward.
5.12. So let us see what Roman morals there were, and why the true God saw fit to help them to increase the empire, God in whose power are even earthly kingdoms...So the ancient and first Romans, so far as their history teaches and shows, although like other nations (excepting only the Hebrew people) worshipped false gods, and immolated victims not to God but to demons, yet "they were greedy for praise, and liberal with money; they willed to have immense glory, honorable riches"—this they most ardently loved, for the sake of this they wanted to live, for this they did not hesitate to die: they suppressed other desires for the sake of this one great desire...He who hears these words of Cato or Sallust may think that most or all were such as the ancient Romans were said in praise to be. That is not true. Otherwise the things that he likewise writes would not be true, the things I mention in the second book of this work, where he says that already from the beginning there were injustices on the part of the stronger, and because of them, a secession of the plebs from patricians, and other dissensions at Rome, and that they (the patricians) dealt fairly and moderately after the expulsion of the kings only as long as there was fear from Tarquin, until the grave war that had arisen with Etruria because of him was finished. After that, the patricians afflicted the plebs with servile command, beat them in royal fashion, drove them from their lands, and leaving others outside, held power alone. The end of these discords, when the ones wanted to dominate, the others were unwilling to serve, came during the second Punic war, because against grave fear began to press them and to restrain their spirits from those disturbances by another greater care, and to bring back civil harmony. But great things were carried on by a certain few, who were good in their own way and so, by tolerating and moderating the evils, the state grew, thanks to the providence of a few good men...So Cato praised the virtue of a few who strove for glory, honor, and empire in the true way, that is, by virtue itself. Hence there was hard work at home, as Cato said, so that the treasury was rich, but private fortunes were slender. So, after morals became corrupt, he said that there was, on the contrary, vice: neediness in the public treasury, riches in the private fortunes.
Roman love of praise, though an excess in itself, served well in suppressing other vices.
5.13. Therefore, when the kingdoms of the East had been brilliant for a long time, God willed that there be a Western kingdom, which would be later in time, but more brilliant in extent and greatness of empire; and He granted it precisely to such men to overcome the grave evils of many nations, to men who for the sake of honor, praise and glory took thought for their country, in which they sought for glory itself, and did not hesitate to put its welfare ahead of their own, as they suppressed the desire of money and many other vices for that one vice, the love of praise.
If they did so much for an earthly city, what should we do for the heavenly city?
5.16. But the reward of the saints is far different, who bear reproaches even here for the truth of God, which is odious to the lovers of this world. That city is eternal, where no one is born, since no one dies. In it there is true and full felicity—not a goddess, but the gift of God. From it we have received the pledge of faith, as long as we, being on pilgrimage, sigh for its beauty. In it the sun does not rise over the good and the wicked, but the sun of justice protects only the good. In it there will not be hard work to enrich the public treasury, leaving private resources scanty—for there is the common treasure of truth. And so the Roman empire was enlarged for human glory not only so that such a reward might be given to such men, but also that citizens of that eternal city, as long as they are in pilgrimage here, might look diligently and soberly at those examples, and see how much love is due to the fatherland above for the sake of eternal life if an earthly city was so loved by its citizens for the sake of human glory.
The Roman rule of conquered peoples was not harmful to them.
5.17. As far as this mortal life goes, which is lived and done in a few days: what difference does it make under whose rule man lives, man who is going to die, if they who rule do not force him into impious and wicked things? Or did the Romans do any harm to the nations which they subjugated and put under their laws, except that it was done by immense destruction in war? If it had been done peacefully, it would have been more successful; but then there would have been no place for Victory—no one conquering, where no one had fought—would not the Romans and other nations be in the same condition? Especially that would have been true if that had been done at once which was done later, namely, that all in the Roman empire would receive the society of citizenship and be Roman citizens; and so that would have belonged to all, which before belonged to a few. Except that the plebs that did not have its own lands would live at public expense. Thus its sustenance would have been more pleasantly provided by good administrators of the state than wrung from the conquered.
For I do not see at all what difference it makes for well being and good morals—surely the very dignities of men—that some conquer, others are conquered—except for that most empty pride of human glory, in which "they have received their reward" who burned with huge desire for glory, and waged hot wars. Are their own lands exempt from tax? Are they allowed to learn what others are not? Are there not many senators in other lands who do not even know what Rome looks like? Take away the boasting, and all men, what are they, but just men? But even if the perversity of the world permitted that the better should be the more honored—not even then should human honor be considered great, for it is a smoke without substance. But let us use even in these things the kindness of the Lord our God; let us consider what great things they scorned, what they endured, what desires they subjected for the sake of human glory, those who merited to receive it as the reward for such virtues: and let this too help us to crush pride, so that since that city, in which it is promised we will reign, is as far distant from this one as the sky is from the earth, as eternal life is from temporal joy, as solid glory is from empty praises, as the society of the angels is from the society of mortals, as the light of Him who made the sun and moon is from the light of the sun and moon—since this is so, citizens of so great a fatherland should not seem to themselves to have done something great, if to attain it they have done some good work, or have endured some evils, since they (the Romans) did and suffered such great things for this earthly city which they already had; especially since that asylum of Romulus, into which impunity for all crimes gathered a throng to found that city, has some shadowy similarity to the remission of sins, which gathers citizens to the eternal fatherland.
If, as even the pagans admit, the gods are so restricted in power over even earthly things; how can they give eternal life?
6.1. As for the rest, who could stand hearing it said and claimed that those gods, of whom I mentioned some in book IV, can give eternal life to anyone, when single duties over slight things are assigned (by the Romans) to each? Or will those very learned and keen men, who boast they have done a great service in writing what god should be asked for what thing so that no one will foolishly—as is done in comedies—ask Bacchus for water, or wine from the Lymphs—will these men authorize any man praying to the "immortal gods" to say, when he has asked the Lymphs for wine and they have told him: "We have water—ask for wine from Bacchus" will they authorize one to say: "If you do not have wine, at least give me eternal life?" What is more absurd than this monstrosity? Will not those gigglers (for they are supposed to be quick to laugh) say to the one who prays (unless, like the daemones, they want to deceive): "O man, do you think we have life in our power, when you hear we do not have even the vine?"
So it is very impudent stupidity to ask for or hope for eternal life from such gods, who are said in such a way to take care of small parts of this trouble-filled and very short life, and what pertains to helping and supporting it, that if someone asks from one what is in the care of another, it is so out of place and absurd that it seems like the nonsense of farces. When this is done by actors who know what they are doing, it rightly gets a laugh in the theatre. But when it is done by fools who do not know better, it deserves a laugh still more in real life.
So these learned men have diligently searched out and entrusted to memory what god or goddess one should pray to for what (as pertains to those gods whom the cities established), for example, what should be asked of Bacchus, what of the Lymphs, what of Vulcan, and so on for the other gods, of whom I mentioned some in book IV, and thought some should be passed over. But if it is a mistake to ask for wine from Ceres, or bread from Bacchus, or water from Vulcan, or fire from the Lymphs—how much more insane should we consider it if anyone prays to any of those gods for eternal life!
Therefore if, when we asked which of those gods or goddesses should be thought capable of conferring an earthly kingdom, it was found to be very foreign to the truth to think that even earthly kingdoms can be established by any of those many false divinities; is it not most insane impiety to believe that eternal life—which beyond any doubt or comparison is to be preferred to all earthly kingdoms—can be given to anyone by any one of them?
The reason why such gods seemed incapable of giving even an earthly kingdom is not that they are great and lofty and this (kingdom) is something small and lowly which they, in such sublimity, might not deign to take care of—but rather, no matter how much one may rightly look down on the transitory peaks of an earthly kingdom, out of consideration of human frailty, yet, such gods appeared quite unworthy to be entrusted with the work of giving out and conserving them.
And so, if (as the things we treated in the previous books showed) no one of that crowd of so-called plebeian or so-called noble gods is fit to give a mortal kingdom to mortals, how much less can one of them make immortals out of mortals!
Varro, most learned of Roman theologians, would have served the gods better had he written nothing.
6.2. Who sought out these things more carefully than Marcus Varro? Who found them out more learnedly? Who considered them more attentively? Who distinguished these things more keenly? Who wrote them out more diligently and fully? He, though less pleasing in expression, yet is so filled with learning and views that in all knowledge which we call secular (what they call liberal) he teaches one who is eager for content as much as Cicero delights one who is eager for words...He read so many things, that we are surprised he could have had time to write; he wrote so many things, that we scarcely believe anyone could have read them all—he, I say, the man so great in ability, and so great in learning, if he had been an attacker and destroyer of the divine things he wrote about, and had said they pertained not to religion but to superstition: I doubt if he could have written in those books so many laughably contemptible, and detestable things.
Seneca's vigorous condemnation of civil theology.
6.10. The freedom that Varro lacked, so that he did not dare to openly criticize the urban theology (which is so similar to the theatrical), this freedom was not totally (but only in part) lacking to Annaeus Seneca, whom we find by certain indications flourished at the time of our Apostles. For he had that freedom in his writings, but not in his way of life. For in that book which he wrote against superstitions, he criticizes that civil and urban theology much more copiously and vehemently than Varro did the theatrical and mythical. For when he discussed idols, he said: "People dedicate the sacred immortal and inviolable gods in cheap, stiff material, and they give them the appearance of men and beasts and fishes—some even with mixed sex, and with hybrid bodies. And they call them divinities—but if one of them suddenly came to life and met them, it would be called a monster.
Then a bit later, when in praising natural theology he had reviewed, the views of several philosophers, he put the question to himself and said: "At this point someone may say: Should I believe the sky and earth are gods, and that there are some gods above the moon, others below it. Should I put up with Plato, or Peripatetic Strato one of whom made a god without a body, the other without a soul? And he answers himself: What then? Do the dreams of Titus Tatius or Romulus or Tullus Hostilius seem more true? Tatius dedicated a Sewer goddess, Romulus dedicated Woodpecker and the Tiber, Hostilius dedicated Fear and Paleness—very ill reactions of men, one of which is the disturbance of a terrified mind, the other not even a disease but a color. Will you rather believe these are divinities and welcome them to the sky?"
What was the basis for Varro's list of select gods? The unselect ones are logically greater.
7.3. Since then we see the select gods themselves, in these tiny tasks which are assigned bit by bit to many gods, working like a senate with the plebeians, and since we find that some gods, who were not chosen for the select list, handle much greater and better things than do the select gods—we can only think that it was not because of more outstanding tasks of administration in the world that they were called select and special, but because it happened that they became better known to the people. Hence Varro himself says that lack of nobility befell certain father and mother gods, just as it does to men.
If then Felicity perhaps should not be among the select gods, because they came to that nobility not be merit but by chance, then at least Fortune should have a place among them or even ahead of them, for she, they say, is the goddess who assigns proper gifts to each one not by reason, but just as it happens, at random. She should have had the top place among the select gods, among whom she specially showed her power, since we see they were selected not for outstanding virtue, not for rational happiness, but, as their worshippers think, by the blind power of Fortune. For that most eloquent man Sallust perhaps had the very gods in mind when he said: "But definitely, Fortune rules in everything; she makes famous or obscure rather out of whim than by reason." For they cannot find the reason why Venus is famous and Virtue is obscure, since the Romans consecrated both divinities—and their merits are not to be compared. Or if what more people seek deserves to be made noble—and more seek Venus than Virtue, then why was the goddess Minerva made famous, and the goddess Money obscure? In the human race avarice entices many more than skill, and even among the craftsmen themselves, one rarely finds a man who does not put his craft up for sale for money, and what pay can be had from a thing is always more esteemed than the thing itself.
So, if this selection of gods was made by the judgment of the foolish mob, why was not the goddess Money preferred to Minerva, since many craftsmen are such for the sake of money? But if the distinction was made by a few wise men, why was Virtue not preferred to Venus, since reason far prefers her?
At least, as I said, Fortune herself who—as they claim who give her most credit—rules over everything and makes everything famous or obscure rather by whim than by reason, if she had so much power over the gods that by her blind judgment she made famous or obscure those whom she wished, she should have had the chief place among the select gods, since she had the chief power over the gods themselves. Or should we think that Fortune had nothing other than bad Fortune, so that she did not get a place? So she was against herself, she who did not become noble, while making others noble.
The Roman's treated the unselect gods better than the select gods; no stage plays charged them with crimes.
7.4. Some seeker of nobility and fame might congratulate those select gods, and declare them fortunate, if he did not see them selected more to be insulted than to be honored. For their very lack of nobility hid the lowly crowd of gods, so it would not be overwhelmed with reproach. For we laugh, when we see them divided up by the figments of human opinion, in a division of labor, like special collectors of certain taxes, or like workers in the silver quarter in which one vessel before being completed goes through the hands of many craftsmen, though one perfect craftsman could have done it completely. But the thought is that that is the only way to make provision for the multitude of workers, namely, that individuals should each learn quickly and easily just one part of the task, so that all will not have to become perfect craftsmen slowly and with difficulty.
However, scarcely is there one of the unselect gods found who incurred infamy by any crime; while there is hardly one of the select gods who did not receive the brand of some great shame. The select gods did not stoop to the lowly tasks of the unselect; but unselect did not come to the high crimes of the select.
I cannot readily think of anything about Janus that pertains to reproach. And perhaps he was such, he may have lived very innocently and quite remote from misdeeds and crimes. When Saturn was fleeing, he kindly received him; he shared his kingdom with his guest, even so that each of them would each found a city, the one, the Janiculum, the other, Saturnia. But those seekers of every impropriety in the worship of the gods, on finding his life less shameful, made him shameful with the monstrous deformity of his image, now making him two-faced, now even four-faced, as if twins. Or did they mean this, that since most of the select gods by doing shameful things had lost face, the more innocent he was, the more "facey" he might appear?
Varro's "Natural" explanation of Jupiter as Pecunia.
7.12. How elegantly they explain this title! Varro says: "He is called Money (Pecunia) because everything belongs to him." O great explanation of a divine name! Really, he to whom all things belong, is most cheaply and insultingly called Money. For compared to all things that are contained in the sky and earth, what is money at all in all the things that are possessed by men on the title of money? But no wonder, avarice put this name on Jupiter, so that whoever loves money may seem to himself to love not just any god, but the very king of them all.
Varro himself was not certain of anything.
7.17. And just as they do not explain these things which I have mentioned as examples, so for other things, they do not explain but rather complicate them. According as the rush of erring opinion drives them, so do they jump in and jump back hither and thither, hence and thence, so that Varro himself preferred to doubt everything rather than to affirm anything as certain. For when he had finished the first of his last three books on "the certain gods", when he was beginning to speak in the second of these books about "the uncertain gods" he said: "When in this book I put down doubtful opinions about the gods, I should not be criticized. For he who thinks a judgment can and should be made, will do it himself when he hears me. But I could more readily be led to call into doubt the things I said in the first book, than to make anything definite out of the things that I will now write."
And so he made uncertain not only the book on "the uncertain gods" but even the one on "the certain gods". But in the third book on "the select gods", after saying in preface what he thought needed to be said on the basis of natural theology, and when he was about to go into the vanities and insane lies of this civil theology, in which not only truth did not lead him, but also the authority of the ancestors weighed him down, he said: "I will write in this book on the public gods of the Roman people, to whom they have dedicated temples and have made them distinguished with many statues; but as Xenophanes of Colophon wrote, "I will put down what I think, not what I am sure of. For it is for men to have opinions on these things—for a god to know." So in trembling he promises a discussion of things he does not grasp, or firmly believe, but rather supposes, and hesitates about, when he is going to speak of things instituted by men. For though he knew that there is a sky and earth, that the sky gleams with stars, that the earth is fertile with seeds and so on, and though he definitely believed that this whole natural structure is administered by some invisible and most powerful force—yet he could not affirm about Janus, that he himself was the world, or find out about Saturn how he could be both the father of Jupiter and yet become subject to the reign of Jupiter, and so on for other such things.
Let other pagan theologies bow down before Plato's.
8.5. If then Plato said that the one who imitates, knows, and loves this God is the wise man, and is blessed by participation in Him—what need is there to discuss the other philosophers? No philosophers have come closer to us than they have. So let not only that mythical theology, delighting in the souls of the impure with the crimes of the gods yield to Plato, but also let that civil theology yield, in which impure daemones seducing people given to earthly pleasures wanted them to consider human errors as their divine honors, and aroused their worshippers by very unclean interests to look at stage representations of their crimes as worship of the gods, all the while making a more delectable sight for themselves out of the spectators. Whatever things are decently done in the temples are defiled when joined to the obscenity of the theatres, and whatever shameful things are done in the theatres, are praised when joined to the foulness of the temples. ...But let other philosophers too...yield to these such great knowers of so great a God.
The right attitude towards such theologies as Plato's.
8.10. For although a Christian man, educated only in literature of the Church, may not know the name of the Platonists, and may not know that two kinds of philosophers wrote in Greek, the Ionians and the Italians, yet he is not so deaf in human affairs as not to know that philosophers profess to have either zeal for wisdom or wisdom itself. Yet he bewares of those who philosophize according to the elements of this world, not according to God, who made the world. For he is warned by the precept of the Apostle, and faithfully hears what was said: "Beware so no one may deceive you through philosophy, and empty seduction, according to the elements of the world." Then, so he will not think they are all like that, he hears the same Apostle say about some of them: "For what is known of God is clear to them; for God has made it clear. For His invisible things are made known from the beginning of the world, being made known through the things of creation—and also His eternal power and divinity." And in speaking to the Athenians, when he had said a great thing about God, which few could understand—that in Him "we live and move and have our being"—he added: "Just as certain of yours have said." He knew well that they were trying to avoid error; for in the place where it was said that God had manifested His invisible things to be seen through the things of creation, in the same place it was also said that they did not worship God rightly, since they gave divine honors, due to Him alone, also to other things, improperly: "Since, knowing God, they did not glorify Him as God or give thanks, but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened. For while they said they were wise, they became stupid, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of an image of a corruptible man, and of birds, and of animals, and of snakes"—in this he clearly meant the Romans and Greeks and Egyptians, who boast of the name of wisdom. But we will discuss this with them later. However, inasmuch as they agree with us about the one God, the author of this universe, who is not only incorporeal above all bodies, but incorruptible above all souls, our beginning, our light, our good—in this we put them (Platonists) ahead of the others.
The teaching of the Platonists on three classes of spirits.
8.14. They say that there is a threefold division of all the living things that have a rational soul into gods, men, and daemones. The gods have the highest place, men the lowest, and the daemones the middle. For the abode of the gods is in the sky, of men, on the earth, of the daemones, in the air. Just as they have varied dignities of place, so also varied dignities of natures. Therefore the gods are superior to men and daemones; but men are placed below gods and daemones in order of element, and also in difference of merits. So the daemones in the middle, just as they are to be put after the gods—living beneath them—so also they are to be preferred to men—living above them. They have immortality of body in common with the gods, but passions of soul in common with men. So, they say, it is not strange that they enjoy the obscenities of stage plays and the imaginings of poets, since they are subject to human emotions, from which the gods are far removed, and foreign in every way. From this we gather that Plato, in detesting and prohibiting the imagining of poets did not deprive the gods, who are all good and lofty, of the pleasure of stage plays, but the daemones.
The daemones are not our superiors, nor are they worthy of worship.
8.15. So, far be it from us that any really religious soul, subject to God, should think, on hearing these things, that daemones are better than him because they have better bodies. Otherwise he would prefer even many beasts to himself since they surpass us in keenness of senses, and in quick and ready motion, and in strength of muscles, and in long-lived stability of bodies. What man will be equal to eagles and vultures in eyesight? Who will be equal to dogs in sense of smell? Who will be equal to rabbits, stags, and all birds, in speed? Who will be equal to lions and elephants in physical strength? Who will be equal to snakes in long life—for they are even said to put off old age with their skin, and to come back to youth. But just as we are better than all these by reasoning and understanding, so also we ought to be better than the daemones in living well and honorably.
But to be so moved by the loftiness of place—because daemones live in the air, while we live on earth—as to think we ought to prefer them to ourselves on this score, is totally ridiculous. For in this way we would prefer all birds to ourselves. But they will object, birds when they are tired from flying, or have to refresh their bodies with food, make for the earth for rest or food, which the daemones do not do. So: would they decide that birds excel us, and daemones excel even birds? But if that is very insane to think, there is no reason why we should think that because of living in a higher place the daemones are worthy to have us subject ourselves to them in religion.
Why worship daemones, from whose vices we pray to be freed?
8.16. And so, as to the fact that daemones are living beings: they have this in common not only with men, but also with gods, and cattle; as to the fact that they are rational in mind: this is in common with gods and men; as to the fact that they are endless in time: this is in common with only the gods; as to the fact that they are capable of passion in the body: this is in common with men alone; as to the fact that their bodies are in the air: they alone have this.
Therefore, as to the fact that they are living beings, this is not great: cattle are too. As to the fact that they have rational minds, this is not above us, for we have them too. As to the fact that they are unending in time, what good is it, if they are not blessed? For better is temporal happiness than miserable eternity. As to the fact that they are capable of passion, how is that above us, since we are too, and would not be such, were we not miserable? As to the fact that their bodies are in the air, how much should we value that, since the nature of any sort of soul is to be preferred to every body; and so the worship of religion, which is due from the soul, is by no means due to a thing that is inferior in soul. But if among the things that they say belong to the daemones, they would mention virtue, wisdom, happiness, and say they had these eternally, and in common with the gods, then certainly they would say something to be hoped for, and valued highly. But even then, we should not worship them as God, but instead worship Him from whom we would know they had received these things. How much less then are these beings that live in the air worthy of divine honor which are rational—and so can be miserable; and capable of passion—and so are actually miserable; and are endless in time, so that they cannot come to the end of their misery.
It is ridiculous to imagine such daemones as mediators.
8.18. In vain then did Apuleius, and others of the same view, give them (daemones) this honor, so putting them in the air between the ethereal sky and the earth that "since no god associates with man" (which they assert Plato said) the daemones may bear our prayers to the gods, and from them may bring back granted requests to men. For they who think thus consider it improper for gods to associate with men, and men with gods; but they think it right for daemones to associate with both gods and men, to bring up petitions from here, to bring back granted prayers from there; so that, I suppose, a chaste man, foreign to magic arts, should employ them as patrons so that the gods will hear him, though the daemons love the things that this man is more worthy for not loving, so that the gods really should listen to him more readily and gladly. For the daemones love the shamefulness of the stage, which modesty does not love; they love in black magic a thousand arts of doing harm, which innocence does not love. Therefore: both modesty and innocence, if they want to obtain anything from the gods, cannot do so by their own merits, but only through the intervention of their enemies!
There is no reason why he (Apuleius) should try to justify the imaginings of poets and the mockeries of the theatre. For we have against these things their master, Plato, of such great authority among them, if human shame deserves so ill of itself as not only to love shameful things, but even to think them pleasing to divinity.
Apuleius makes clear that all daemones are wicked.
9.3. What then is the difference between good and wicked daemones? The Platonist Apuleius, in a general discussion of them, in which he says so many things about their bodies that live in the air, was silent about the virtues of their souls, which they would have if they were good. So he kept silent about the cause of blessedness, but could not be silent about the indication of misery, but he confessed that their mind, in which he says they are rational, does not even, being imbued and fortified with virtue, hold out against irrational passions, but instead that they, like stupid minds, are tossed about on the stormy blasts of passions. For his words on this point are as follows: "The poets commonly, not far from the truth, represent certain of the gods (daemones)as lovers or haters of certain men; they say that they favor and exalt some, but oppose and afflict others; so they take pity and are angry, and they are upset and rejoice, and endure every aspect of a human soul, and waver in similar movement of heart through all the sea tides of the mind. All these disturbances and storms are far removed from the tranquility of the celestial gods."
There is no doubt in these words, is there, that he said that not just the lower parts of their souls, but the very minds, in which the daemones are rational is upset by a storm of passions like a blustery sea? And so the daemones are not even to be compared to wise humans, who calmly resist these disturbances of
soul, from which human weakness is not immune, even though they suffer them as a result of the condition of this life, and do not give in to them so as to do or approve anything that would get them off the path of wisdom and the law of justice. But the daemones are to be compared to stupid immoral mortals, being like them not in body, but in morals—not to mention that they are worse, since they are inveterate in evil, and incurable as a result of the penalty due them—and they waver on the very sea of the mind, as he said, and do not take a stand in any part of their soul by truth and virtue, by which one resists turbulent and evil emotions.
Christ is the true Mediator, who freed us from the power of daemones.
9.15. If then—a thing that is thought much more credibly and really—all men, as long as they are mortal, must be miserable, we must look for a mediator, who should be not only man but also God, so that the blessed mortality of this mediator by coming in between may lead men from mortal misery to blessed immortality. He should not omit becoming mortal, but not remain mortal. For He became mortal not by weakening the divinity of the Word, but by taking on the weakness of the flesh. But He did not remain mortal even in the flesh, which He raised from the dead. For He Himself is the fruit of His own mediation, so that neither should they stay permanently in even the death of the body for whose deliverance He became mediator.
And so the mediator between us and God needed to have a transient mortality, and a permanent blessedness, so that through that which is passing, He might fit with those who are to die, and transfer them from the dead to that which does not pass. Therefore, the good angels cannot be mediators between miserable mortals and blessed immortals, since they themselves are both blessed and immortal. Wicked angels could be in between in that they are immortal with the angels, miserable with men. But opposite to these is the good mediator, who against the immortality and misery of the daemones willed to be mortal for a time, and yet was able to remain blessed forever. And so He destroyed those proud immortals, miserable harmful ones, by the humility of His death and the goodness of His blessedness they might not boast of their immortality and so seduce men into misery, men whose hearts He cleansed by faith, and delivered from their most unclean domination.
There are no good daemones, but there are angels.
9.19. But now, so we may not seem to quibble about words too—for some of those demon worshippers, as I would call them—among whom is Labeo—claim that some call angels those whom they call daemones; I see I must discuss good angels, whose existence they do not deny, but prefer to call them good daemones instead of angels. But we, as Scripture says, according to which we are Christians, read that there are good angels and bad angels—but never do we read of good daemones. Rather, wherever in those writings this name is found, whether they be called daemones or daemonia, only evil spirits are meant. And peoples everywhere have followed this way of speaking to such an extent that even out of those who are called pagans—who contend that many gods and daemones should be worshipped—there is no one so literary and learned as to dare to praise even a slave saying: "You have a daemon." Rather, whoever wants to speak thus cannot doubt that he will be understood as doing nothing but cursing.
Why then should we need—after seeing the ears of so many are offended that practically everyone is used to hearing this word (daemones) only in a bad sense—why then should we need to explain what we have said, when we can use the word angels, and so avoid the offense found in the name of daemones.
Not even angels are really mediators: Christ is.
9.23. So there is no need to argue much over the name, since the reality is so clear as to be far from any tiny doubt. But they are not pleased that we say that some out of the number of blessed immortals are sent as angels to announce the will of God to men, for they say that this ministry is carried on not by those whom they call gods (that is, the immortal and blessed ones) but by daemones whom they call immortal, but do not dare to call blessed too, or at least they call them immortal and blessed in such a way as to call them good daemones, not gods placed on high and remote from human contact. So, although it seems to be a dispute only about the name, yet so detestable is the name of daemones that we should by all means remove it from the holy angels.
But now let this book be closed in such a way that we know that the immortal and blessed ones, by whatever name they be called, who are yet made and created, are not mediators to bring immortal beatitude to miserable mortals, by whom they are separated by both differences. But those who are in the middle, by having immortality in common with those above, and misery in common with those below, since they are miserable by the merit of their malice, can rather envy us the blessedness that they lack, instead of providing it for us. So the friends of daemones bring no worthy reason why we should worship those as helpers whom we should rather avoid as deceivers.
In the next book with the help of God we will show more diligently that of whatever sort they be, and whatever they should be called, those whom they say are good, and so are not just immortal, but also are to be worshipped by sacred rites and sacrifices as blessed gods, so we may attain a blessed life after death—we will show that they want no one but the one God to be worshipped by such a service of religion, that one God by whom they were created, and by whose participation they are blessed.
The angels wish us to be happy with them and so forbid us to worship them.
10.7. Rightly those immortal and blessed ones, who are established in the heavenly abode, who rejoice in the participation in their Creator, by whose eternity they are firm, by whose truth they are certain, by whose gift they are holy, since they mercifully love us mortal and miserable ones so that we may be immortal and blessed, they do not want us to sacrifice to them, but to Him, whose sacrifice they know they are along with us. For with them we are one City of God, to which the Psalm says: "Very glorious things are said of you, City of God." Part of that City is in pilgrimage in us, part, in them, helps us. From the City above, where the will of God is the intelligible and unchangeable law, from the curia above, as it were (for there care is taken for us) that holy Scripture descends to us, ministered through angels, in which we read: "He who sacrifices to the gods will be uprooted, unless he sacrifice to the Lord alone." Such great miracles have testified to this Scripture, to this law, to such precepts, that it is clear enough to whom those immortal and blessed ones wish us to sacrifice, who want us to have what they have.
Theurgy stands self-condemned; but the works of God, often done through angels out of those who are called pagans—who contend that many gods and daemones10.12 But since so great and such things are done by thee arts (theurgy) as to go beyond the bounds of human ability: what is left except that we should prudently understand that those things which are marvelously predicted or done in a divine way, and yet are not referred to the worship of the one God—to adhere to Him simply, as even the Platonists admit and testify in many ways, is the only beatific good—these things are the mockeries of evil daemones and deceiving impediments, which should be shunned by true piety.
But whatever marvels are divinely done, whether through angels or in any other way so as to commend religious worship of the one God, in there is blessed life, we must believe that they are done either by or through those who love us in truth and piety, with God Himself working in them.
For we should not listen to those who say that the invisible God does not work visible miracles, since even they admit He made the world, which they surely cannot deny is visible. So, whatever miracle is done in this world, it is surely less than the entire world, that is the sky and earth and all things in them, which surely God made. Just as He Himself who made them, so too the manner in which He made them is hidden and incomprehensible to man. So although the miracles of visible natures have become commonplace since we have seen them so often, yet, when we look at them with wisdom, they are greater than the most unusual and rare marvels. For man is a greater miracle than every miracle that is done through man. Therefore God, who made the visible sky and earth, does not disdain to work visible miracles in the sky or earth to arouse a soul still given to visible things to worship Him who is invisible. But when and where He does so—the unchangeable decision is within Him, in whose arrangement times that are still going to be have been already made. For when He makes things in time, He is not moved, nor does He know things to be done in a way different from that in which He knows things already done. Nor does He hear those who invoke Him differently from the way in which He knows they will invoke Him. For even when His angels hear, he hears in them, and as in His true temple, not made by hands as in His holy men, and the commands contained in His eternal law take place in time.
We should believe angels who tell us to worship God alone, instead of daemones who seek worship for themselves
10.16. Which angels then should we believe about blessed and eternal life? Should we believe those who want to be worshipped themselves, calling for sacred rites and sacrifices from mortals, or those who say all this worship is due, with true piety, only to God the Creator of all things by whose contemplation they are blessed, and promise we will be blessed? For that vision of God is a vision of such great beauty, and so worthy of such great love, that Plotinus does not hesitate to say that a man lacking this, but endowed with any other goods is most unhappy. Since then certain angels arouse us to worship of Him while other angels urge us by marvelous signs to worship themselves as gods, and this happens in such a way that the ones forbid worship to themselves, but the others do not dare to prohibit worship of Him—let the Platonists answer which we should rather believe, let any philosophers whosoever answer, let the theurgists, or rather, destruction—workers reply—for they are all more worthy of such name—finally let men answer—if any sense of their nature, in that they were created rational, lives in them at all—let them answer, I say: should there be sacrifice to the gods or angels who order sacrifice to themselves, or to that One to whom they order it who prohibit it for themselves and for the other angels?
If neither the one nor the other kind of angel worked any miracles, but merely commanded, the ones, that there be sacrifice to themselves, but the others would forbid it for themselves and order it only to the one true God—piety itself ought to be able to distinguish, which of these came from the arrogance of pride, and which from true religion.
I will say still more: if only they moved human souls by marvelous deeds who ask sacrifices for themselves, but the others who forbid that, and order sacrifice only to the one God would do no visible miracles at all: definitely, not by any bodily sense, but by reason, we should prefer the authority of the latter.
But since God, to commend the utterances of His truth, has arranged to work greater, more certain, more brilliant miracles through those immortal messengers who preach not their own pride but His majesty, so that those who want sacrifice for themselves could not easily convince weak devout persons of false religion by showing certain marvels to their senses: who would want to be so foolish as not to choose to follow the true things, where he finds greater things to marvel at?
The angels—and St. Paul—forbade worship for themselves, and told us to offer visible sacrifices as signs of the invisible offering of hearts.
10.19. But they who think that these visible sacrifices are fitting for other gods, but for Him the invisible and greater and better God, invisible and greater and better sacrifices are fitting, such as are the dutifulness of a pure mind and good will: they really do not know that these things (the interior dispositions) are signified by the visible things, just as sounding words are signs of things. Wherefore just as in prayer and praise we direct meaningful voices to Him, to whom we offer the realities themselves that are signified in our heart: so in sacrificing, we should know that a visible sacrifice should be offered to no other than to Him, whose invisible sacrifice we ought to be in our hearts.
Then all the angels, and the higher powers, more powerful in goodness itself and piety favor us and rejoice with us, and help us as much as they can. If we want to give these things to them, they do not accept them, and when they are sent to men in such a way that their presence is felt, they openly forbid. There are examples in the holy letters. Certain men thought that honor should be given to angels in adoration or sacrifice, which is due to God, but the angels stopped and warned them, and ordered to give this to Him to whom alone they know it is right to give it. Holy men of God imitated the holy angels. For Paul and Barnabas in Lycaonia, after working a miraculous cure, were thought to be gods, and the Lycaonians wanted to immolate victims to them. But they pushed it aside with humble piety, and announced to them the God in whom they should believe. Nor do those deceptive proud ones demand it (sacrifice) for themselves for any other reason except that they know it is due to the true God. For it is not really true, as Porphyry and some others think, that they delight in the odors of bodies, but they delight in divine honors. For they have a great abundance of smell all around them and if they want more, they can make more for themselves. But the spirits that arrogate divinity to themselves are delighted not by the smoke of just any body, but by a suppliant soul which they can deceive and subject and rule over, cutting off the road to the true God, so man may not be His sacrifice while sacrifice is offered to any but Him.
Christ Himself, though the Incarnate Son of God, rather offered the sacrifice of Himself to God, than demanded sacrifice to Himself as man.
10.20. Hence that true Mediator who inasmuch as He took the form of a slave became the Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, though in the form of God He receives sacrifice along with the Father with whom He is one God, yet in the form of a slave He preferred to be a sacrifice rather than to receive one, so that no one might think, on such an occasion, that sacrifice should be offered to any creature. And hence He is the priest, He is the one who offers, He is the offering. He willed that the daily sacrament of this thing be the sacrifice of the Church which, since it is the body of Himself, the Head, learns through Him to offer itself. The ancient sacrifices offered by the saints were manifold and varied signs of this true sacrifice, in which this one thing was prefigured through many things, as if one thing be said in many words, so that much might be taught without weariness. All false sacrifices have given way to this supreme and true sacrifice.
We learn from Scripture that there is a City of God. Now we take up the origin of the two cities.
11.1. We speak of a City of God, to which that Scripture testifies which, not by chance feelings of souls, but clearly by the arrangement of the supreme Providence, subjected all kinds of human minds to itself, excelling in divine authority above the writings of all nations. For there it is written: "Glorious things are said of you, City of God"; and in another Psalm we read: "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the City of our God, in His holy mountain, increasing the exultations of the whole earth;" and a bit farther on in the same Psalm: "just as we have heard, so also we have seen, in the City of the Lord of hosts, in the City of our God; God founded it forever;" and similarly in another Psalm: "The onrush of the river gladdens the City of God; the Most High has sanctified His tabernacle; God in its midst, will not be moved." By these and similar testimonies—to mention all would be too long—we have learned that there is a certain City of God, whose citizens we have desired to be by that love which its Founder inspired in us. The citizens of the earthly city prefer their gods to this Founder of the holy City, not knowing that He is the God of gods, not of false gods, that is, impious and proud gods, —who are deprived of His unchangeable light which is common to all, and because of this are reduced to a sort of needy power, and follow as it were their private powers and seek divine honors from their deceived subjects—but He is the God of pious and holy gods, who are delighted rather to subject themselves to Him the one God, rather than to have many be subject to them, and to worship God instead of being worshipped in place of God.
But we have given an answer to the enemies of this holy City in the ten previous books, as much as we could, with the help of our Lord and King. But now, recognizing what is still expected of me, and not forgetting what I owe, I will begin to discuss—relying everywhere on the help of its Lord our king—the origin, course (in time) and mixed and intertwined as it were. And first I will tell how the beginnings of these two cities came forth in the differences of the angels.
Time began when the world began.
11.6. For if we make the right distinction of eternity and time—saying that time is not without some variable change, but in eternity there is no change—who is there who would not see that there would have been no times unless a creature was made which would change something by some movement, such that since one thing and another of this movement and change, which could not be simultaneously present, would come and go, time would be the result, in shorter or longer intervals. Since then God, in whose eternity there is no change at all, is the creator and orderer of times, I do not see how He could be said to have created the world after a span of time, unless we say that before the world there already was some creature, by whose changes time could run.
But if the sacred and absolutely truthful writings say this: that in the beginning God made the sky and the earth, in such a way that He is understood to have made nothing previously—for He would have been said to make that in the beginning, if He had made anything before all the other things He made—beyond doubt, the world was not made in time but along with time. For that which happens in time happens after some time and before another time. But there could be no past, because there was no creature by whose changeable movements time could run. but the world was made along with time, if in its founding a changeable movement was made like the order of those six or seven days seems to be, in which morning and evening are mentioned, until everything God made on these days is finished on the sixth day, and on the seventh day, the rest of God is spoken of in great mystery.
God created the angels, probably on the first day.
11.9. Now, since I have decided to speak of the beginning of the holy City, and have thought I should say first what pertains to the holy angels who are a large part of this City, and all the more blessed in that they were never away from it—now I will take care to explain sufficiently what the divine testimonies provide on this point. When the sacred writings speak of the founding of the world, they do not clearly say whether or in what order, the angels were created. But if they were not left out, they were meant either in the name of the heavens, where it says "In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth, : or rather, they are meant by the word light. I do not think they were passed by because it is written that God rested on the seventh day from all His works which He made, while the book itself begin thus: "In the beginning God made heaven and earth" in such a way that He seems to have made nothing before heaven and earth. Since then He began with heaven and earth, and since the earth itself, which He made first as Scripture says farther on, was invisible and unformed, since light had not yet been made—for darkness was over the face of the abyss, that is, over a certain indistinct confusion of land and water (for where there is no light, there must be darkness), —and since all things then were arranged in creation that are mentioned as done in the six days: how could the angels have been passed by, as if they were not among the works of God from which He rested on the seventh day?
Even though it is not passed by, yet it is not clearly expressed at this point that the angels are the work of God; but elsewhere holy Scripture testifies this in a very clear voice. For in the hymn of the three men in the furnace, when it had been said early in the hymn: "All works of the Lord bless the Lord", in the enumeration of the same works the angels were named too; and in a Psalm it is sung: "Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise Him in the heights; praise Him all His angels, praise Him all His powers; praise Him sun and moon, praise Him all stars and light; praise Him heavens of heavens, and let the waters that are above the heavens praise the name of the Lord; for He spoke, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created." Here too it is very openly and divinely said that the angels were made by God, when, after they were mentioned among other things in the heavens, the statement is made relative to all of them: "He spoke, and they were made."
But who will dare to think the angels were made after all the things that are mentioned on the six days? But even if someone be so foolish, that Scripture of equal authority rejects that vanity, in which God said: "When the stars were made, all my angels praised me with a loud voice." So then the angels already existed when the stars were made. but they (the stars) were made on the fourth day. We should not say then, should we, that the angels were made on the third day? Far from it. For it is evident what was made on that day: for the earth was separated from the waters, and those two elements received the distinct species of their own kind, and the earth produced whatever inhered in it radically. We should not say, should we, on the second day? Nor even this. for then the firmament was made between the upper and the lower waters, and was called sky; in this sky the stars were made on the fourth day. Certainly then, if the angels pertain to the works of God of those days, they are that light which received the name of day; so as to teach its unity, it was not called the first day, but one day.
There are two cities of angels, to both of which men belong. Each city is distinguished by adhering to or turning from God.
12.1. Before I speak of the creation of man, where the origin of the two cities will appear, so far as pertains to the class of rational mortals, just as in the book before this it was seen to appear in the angels: first I see I need to say certain things about the angels themselves to show, so far as we can, that it is not unfitting or incongruous to say that there is a society for both angels and men, so that there are not four societies (two of angels, two of men) but rather two cities, that is societies, one in the good, the other in the wicked, including in each case both angels and men.
We must not doubt that the contrary desires of good and bad angels arose not from different natures or principles—since God, the good author and creator of all substances created each—but from their wills and desires, since some persist firmly in the good that is common to all, which is God Himself, and in His eternity, truth, and love; but others, delighted rather with their own power, as if they were the supreme good for themselves, flowed down from the higher beatific good that is common to all, to their own things, and having the pride of self-exaltation in place of most high eternity, the shrewdness of vanity in place of most certain truth, the desire for factions in place of undivided love, became proud, deceptive, envious.
For the cause of the blessedness of the ones is adhering to God; so the cause of the misery of the others is to be understood to be the opposite, not adhering to God. Therefore if one asks why the ones are blessed, the right answer is: Because they adhere to God. And if it is asked why the others are miserable, the right answer is: Because they do not adhere to God. For there is no good for a rational and intellectual creature by which it is blessed except God. And so although not every creature can be blessed—for beasts, wood, stones and such things are incapable of this gift—yet that creature that is capable is such not of itself, for it was created out of nothing, but from Him by whom it was created. For it is blessed by attaining that whose loss causes misery. But He who is blessed not by another other good, but by Himself, cannot be miserable for this reason: He cannot lose Himself.
The fact that God made man in time does not mean a change in God: this was the carrying out in time of an eternal decree.
12.15. It is not strange is it, that in wandering in these circles, they find neither entrance nor exit? For they do not know from what start the human race and this our mortality began, nor what is its end. For they cannot penetrate the depth of God by which, although He Himself is eternal and without a beginning, yet He started time from some beginning, and made man, who He had never before made, in time, and yet did not do it out of a new sudden decision, but by an immutable and eternal decree. Who can trace this untraceable depth, and scrutinize the inscrutable, according to which God made temporal man, before whom there never was a man, and did it not by a changeable will in time, and multiplied the human race starting with one? For the Psalm itself after saying earlier: "You Lord, will keep us and guard us from this generation into eternity" and then, striking struck back at those in whose foolish, impious doctrine there is no eternity of liberation and blessedness left for the soul, added at once: "The impious walk in a circle" as if it were said to it: "What then do you believe, feel, understand? We should not think, should we, that suddenly God decided to make man, whom he had never made before in a previous infinite eternity—God to whom nothing new can happen, in whom there is nothing changeable? So the Psalm at once replies, speaking to God Himself: "According to your depth, you have multiplied the sons of men." It means: Let men think what they think, and hold what opinions and discuss what they will; but "according to your depth", which no man can know, "you have multiplied the sons of men." For it is indeed very deep to have always been, and yet to have willed to make man, never before made, starting at some time—and yet not to have made a change of plan or will.
God created one man as the origin of the whole race, and made man's eternity depend on man's obedience here.
12.22. Now that we have explained, so far as we can, this very difficult question about the eternity of God creating new things without any newness in His will, it is not hard to see that what was done was much better, namely, that He multiplied the human race from the one man, whom He made first, than if He had begun with many. For He made some living things solitary, as it were, wandering alone, that is, those that prefer solitude, such as are eagles, kites, lions, wolves and others, but He made still others gregarious, those that prefer to live in flocks and herds, such as are doves, starlings, stags, fallow-deer and others. In these cases He did not propagate the whole species from individuals, but ordered many to arise simultaneously. But He created man one and sole, man, whose nature He made somehow in between that of angels and animals, in such a way that if man would subject himself to his Creator as to his true master, and keep His command in devout obedience, he would pass into the company of the angels and attain an unending blessed immortality without passing through death. But if man would offend his Lord God, proudly and disobediently using his free will, he would be destined to eternal punishment after death. Yet God did not make just one man alone without human company. He made him this way to teach more forcefully the unity and bond of harmony of human society, since men would be bound together not only by likeness of nature, but even by affection of relationship. He did not even will to make the woman herself, who was to be joined to the man, in the way He made the man—but He made her from him, so that the whole human race would be entirely from one human.
Man would have been preserved from death if he had not sinned.
13.1. After dealing with very difficult questions about the beginning of our world and the start of the human race, now the plan of things calls for us to discuss the fall of the first man, or rather, the first men, and the origin and propagation of human death. For God had not made men like the angels, so that even if they sinned they could not die at all. He made them such that after performing their duty of obedience an angelic immortality and blessed eternity would follow without passing through death; but such that if they were disobedient, death would strike them with most just condemnation—as we already said in the book before this.
There are two kinds of death, physical and spiritual.
13.2. I see I must speak a bit more precisely about the kinds of death. For although the human soul is correctly called immortal, yet it has also a certain kind of death. For it is said to be immortal in that in a certain small way it does not cease to live and feel; while the body is called mortal for the reason that all life can desert it, and it does not live at all by its own power. So the death of the soul takes place when God deserts it, just as the death of the body happens when the soul deserts it. So there is death of the whole man, of both parts, when the soul that is deserted by God deserts the body. Then neither does the soul live from God, nor does the body live from the soul. That further death, which the authority of the divine Scriptures calls the second death, can follow this sort of death of the whole man.
Why Baptism removes spiritual but not physical death.
13.4. If anyone wonders why we suffer death itself if it is the penalty of sin, whose guilt is taken away by grace: this question was taken up and answered in another work of our, which we wrote "On the Baptism of Infants." There we said that the experience of separation from the body remains for the soul, even when the bond of guilt is removed, because if bodily immortality followed at once on the Sacrament of regeneration, faith itself would be weakened. For faith is faith when one waits in hope for that which he does not yet see in reality. In the greater ages (of the Church) even the fear of death had to be overcome by the strong struggle of faith—a thing that stands out greatly in the holy martyrs. There would surely be no victory in this struggle, no glory—for there could not be a struggle at all—if after the bath of regeneration the holy ones could no longer suffer bodily death. Who would not run with little ones to be baptized for the very reason of escaping dissolution from the body? And so faith would no longer be proved by an invisible reward, in fact, there would not any longer be any faith, for at once it would both seek and obtain the reward of its work.
But as it is, by a greater and more marvelous grace of the Savior, the penalty of sin is turned into the service of righteousness. For there (in paradise) it was said to a man: You will die if you sin. But now it is said to the martyr; Die, rather than sin. Then it was said: If you transgress the commandment you will surely die; now it is said: If you refuse death, you will transgress the commandment. That which then was to be feared, to avoid sin, now must be taken on to avoid sin. Thus through the unspeakable mercy of God even the very penalty of vice passes into the armory of virtue, and even the punishment of the sinner becomes the merit of the just man. For then death was acquired by sinning; now justice is fulfilled by dying. This is the case in the holy martyrs to whom the persecutor gives a choice of either deserting the faith or suffering death. For the just prefer to suffer in believing that which the first wicked ones suffered because they did not believe. For if they had not sinned, they would not have died; but these will sin if they do not die. Therefore they died because they sinned; these do not sin because they die. It came about through their fault that there is a penalty (of death); by this penalty it now comes about that there is not fault. Not that death became anything good, which before was evil, but God gave such grace to faith that death, which is clearly the opposite of life, became the means of passing through to life.
God threatened Adam with both deaths if he sinned.
13.12. When then it is asked which death God threatened to the first men if they transgressed His command and did not keep obedience—the death of the soul, or the death of the body, or the death of the whole man, or that which is called the second death—we must reply: all deaths. For the first death consists of two, the second is total, consisting of all. For just as the whole earth consists of many lands, and the universal church of many churches: so the universal death consists of all deaths. For the first death consists of two deaths, one of the soul, the other of the body; so that it is the first death of the whole man when the soul without God and without the body pays a penalty for a time. But the second death comes when the soul without God but with the body pays eternal penalties. When then God said to that first man whom He had placed in paradise, in regard to the forbidden food; "On whatsoever day you eat of it, you will really die", that threat included not only the first part of the first death (in which the soul is deprived of God), nor only the latter part (where the body is deprived of the soul), nor only the complete first death (where the soul separated from the body and from God is punished)—but the threat included whatever of death there is, even to the final death, which is called second death, beyond which there is nothing further.
By sin Adam lost grace, and since he had refused to serve God, his body rebelled against his own reason.
13.13. For after that transgression, at once divine grace deserted them, and they were confused over the nudity of their bodies. So they covered the organs of which they were ashamed with fig leaves, which probably were the first things they found in their confusion. Formerly these were the same organs, but not a source of shame. So they sensed a new movement of the disobedience of their flesh, as the reciprocal penalty of their disobedience. For the soul that had perversely loved its liberty and had disdained to serve God was deprived of the former obedience of the body; and because it had deserted its higher Master by its own will, it was not able to hold its lower servant to its own will, nor did it have its flesh subject in every way, as it could have had, if it itself had stayed subject to God. For then the flesh began to desire against the spirit—with which struggle we are born, dragging along the origin of death and in our limbs and vitiated nature, its strife, or victory from the first sin.
The City of God lives according to God. The City of the world lives according to human weakness.
14.4. When, then, man lives according to man, not according to God, he is like the devil; for not even an angel should live according to angel, but according to God, so as to stand in the truth, and speak the truth from His truth, not to speak the lie from his own. For the same Apostle says of man in another place: "But if the truth of God abounded in my lie..." He spoke of the lie as ours, the truth, as God's. When, therefore, man lives according to the truth, he does not live according to himself, but according to God. For it is God who said: "I am the truth." But when he lives according to himself, that is, according to man and not according to God, definitely he lives according to a lie. Not that man himself is a lie, since his author and creator is God, who is surely not the author and creator of the lie, but because man is made to be right in such a way that he should live not according to himself, but according to Him by whom he was made, that is, that man should do His will, not his own will. Not to live in the way one is made to live—that is a lie. For one wishes to be blessed even when not so living as to be able to be. What is more lying that this will?
Hence not in vain can all sin be said to be a lie. For sin is not done except by that will in which we want to have it be well with us, or are unwilling that it be ill with us. Therefore that is a lie which, when it is done so that it may be well with us, instead the result is that it is ill with us: or it is that which though it is done so that it may be better with us, as a result instead it is worse with us. How does this happen, except that for it to be well for man comes from God, whom man deserts by sinning—it does not come from man himself, for a man sins by living according to himself?
So in regard to what we have said that two cities arose, diverse and contrary to each other, because some lived according to the flesh, some according to the spirit—this can also be expressed by saying that some live according to man, some according to God.
Emotions are evil only if wrongly used.
14.9. Since this is the case, since we should lead a right life, so as to come by it to a blessed life, a right life has all those emotions in right order, a perverse life has them in a perverse order. but the blessed and likewise eternal life will have a joy that is not only right but also certain; but it will have no fear or grief. Hence it now begins to be clear of what sort the citizens of the City of God ought to be in this pilgrimage in which they live according to the spirit, not according to the flesh, that is, according to God, not according to man—and of what sort they are going to be in that immortality to which they are on pilgrimage. But the city, that is, the society, of impious ones, who live not according to God, and who follow the doctrines of men or demons in the cult of a false divinity and the contempt of the true divinity—that city is shaken by these evil emotions as by diseases and disturbances. And if that city has some citizens who seem as it were to moderate and temper such emotions, they are so proud and self-exalted in their impiety that the less griefs they have, the greater their swellings (of pride). And if some, with a vanity that is the greater, the rarer it is, love the fact that they are aroused and excited by nothing at all, and are bent and inclined by no emotion: they lose all humanity instead of attaining true tranquillity. For something is not right just because it is hard, nor is it sound because it is stupid.
By sin man attempts to set himself up as a god.
14.13. Man did not fail in such a way as to be altogether nothing, but so that being inclined to himself, he was in a lesser way than when he adhered to Him who supremely is. So to leave God and be in oneself, that is, to please oneself is not to be entirely nothing, but to approach being nothing. Hence the proud according to the holy Scriptures are called by another name: those who please themselves. For it is good to have one's heart lifted up—but not to oneself, which pertains to pride, but to the Lord, which pertains to obedience, which is found only in the humble. So there is something about humility which in a wonderful way makes the heart lifted up, and there is something about self-exaltation that makes the heart go downward. This to be sure seems almost contrary, that self-exaltation goes downward and humility upward. But devout humility makes one subject to the superior, and there is nothing superior to God. Hence humility exalts one, in making one subject to God. But self-exaltation, which is a fault, by that very fact rejects being subject, and falls from Him than whom there is nothing higher—and so it becomes lower, and that which is written comes true: "You cast them down when they lifted themselves up." For it does not say: "When they had lifted themselves up" so that first they would be lifted up and then cast down—but rather, when they were being lifted up, then they were cast down. For lifting oneself up is already being cast down.
Hence as to the fact that now humility is very greatly commended in and to the City of God in pilgrimage in this world, and is especially proclaimed in its king, who is Christ, and as to the fact that the vice opposite to this virtue, as sacred Scripture says, especially rules in its enemy, who is the devil—definitely this is the great difference by which the two cities of which we speak are distinguished, that is, the society of devout men, and the society of the impious—each with the angels pertaining to it—in which in the one comes forth love of God, in the other, love of self.
So the devil would not have caught man in a manifest and open sin, in which what God had prohibited was done, unless man had already begun to be pleasing to himself. Hence what was said delighted him: "You will be like gods." They could have been that better by adhering in obedience to the supreme and true Principle, not by being their own principle through pride.
The penalty of sin was both just and fitting.
14.15. Because, then, God who commanded was scorned, God who had created man, who had made him to His own image, who had put him in charge of other animals, who had placed him in paradise, who had provided an abundance of all things and of well-being, who had not burdened man with many or great or difficult commands, but instead had supported him, for the wholesomeness of obedience with one very brief and light command in which He reminded that creature that would profit by free service that He was the Lord—because of this, a just condemnation followed, and such a condemnation that man, who if he had kept the command would have been spiritual even in the flesh, became carnal even in the mind, and such that he who in his pride had pleased himself was by the justice of God given over to himself—but not in such a way that he, man, would be entirely in his own power, but so that he, disagreeing even with himself under him to whom he had consented in sinning, would spend a miserable servitude in place of the freedom he had desired, and having died willingly in the spirit, he would be destined to die unwillingly in body, being a deserter of eternal life, and condemned even to eternal death, unless grace would free him.
Whoever thinks this sort of condemnation is excessive or unjust surely does not know how to measure how great was the iniquity in sinning where there was so great a facility of not sinning. For just as we rightly proclaim the obedience of Abraham great because a very difficult thing was commanded, to kill his son; so the disobedience in paradise was all the greater in that what was commanded was a thing of no difficulty. And just as the obedience of the second man was the more to be praised, in that He became obedient even to death, so the disobedience of the first man was the more detestable in that he became disobedient even to death. For when the penalty for disobedience is great, and the thing commanded by the Creator is easy: who can sufficiently explain how great an evil it is to disobey in a thing so easy, with a command made with such power, with the terror of so great a punishment? Finally, to be brief, in the punishment of sin what was repaid to disobedience but disobedience? For what else is men's misery but his disobedience against himself.
Why did God give free will?
14.27. Therefore sinners, both angels and men, do nothing that impedes "the great works of the Lord, sought out for all His wills", since He who providently and omnipotently distributes to each his own things, knows how to use well not only the good, but also the evil. And hence why should not God make good use of the bad angel who was so condemned and hardened by the merit of his first evil will that he no longer had any good will, and permit him to tempt the first man, who had been created right, that is, having good will? For man was so made good that if he trusted in the help of God, he would conquer the evil angel; but if he would proudly please himself and desert his creator and helper God, he would be conquered. He would have a good merit in a right will helped by God, but a bad merit in deserting God with a perverse will. For man could not even trust in the help of God without the help of God—but yet he did not fail to have in his power to recede from these benefits of divine grace by pleasing himself. For just as to live in this flesh without the help of food is not in man's power, but it is in his power not to live—they who kill themselves do thus—so too to live well was not in man's power without the help of God even in paradise. but it was in his power to live wickedly, but with a happiness that would not last, and with a very just penalty to follow. When then God was not ignorant of this future fall of man, why should He not permit him to be tempted by the ill will of the envious angel? Not that God was uncertain that man would be conquered, but yet He foresaw that from his seed, helped by His grace, that same devil was to be conquered by the greater glory of the Saints. And so it was that neither did anything of future events escape the notice of God, nor did He, by foreseeing, compel anyone to sin. And He showed by the outcome to both men and angels what was the difference between human presumption and His help. For who would dare to believe or say that it was not in God's power that neither angel nor man would fall? But He preferred not to take this away from their power, and so to show how much evil pride could work, and how much good His grace could work.
The character of the two cities.
14.28. And so two loves made two cities: love of self even to contempt of God made the earthly city; love of God even to contempt of self made the heavenly city. The one glories in itself, the other in the Lord. The one seeks glory from men; for the other, God, the witness of conscience, is the greatest glory. The one lifts up its own head in its own glory; the other says to its God: "You are my glory, the one who lifts up my head." Lust for power rules over the one in its princes or in the nations it subjugates; in the other, men serve each other in love: the rulers, in providing well for subjects, the subjects in obeying. The one in its mighty men loves its own strength, the other says to its God "I will love you, O Lord, my strength." And so in the one its wise men living according to man pursue the goods of body or soul or both, or, those who could know God, "did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened; for saying they were wise"—that is, when pride dominated over them as they exalted themselves in their "wisdom"—they became foolish, and they changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man and birds and four-footed things and snakes"—for they were either leaders of the people or followers in adoring images of this kind—"and they worshipped and served the creature instead of the Creator, who is blessed forever." But in the other there is no wisdom for man except the devotedness by which the true God is rightly worshipped, waiting for this reward, in the society of holy men and angels too, "that God may be all in all."
The division of the two cities after Adam began with Cain and Abel.
15.5. So the first founder of an earthly city was a fratricide; for he killed his brother, a citizen of the eternal city in pilgrimage on this earth because he was overcome with envy. So it is not strange that so much later, in founding that city which was to be the head of this earthly city of which we speak, and was to rule over so many nations—it is not strange that a sort of image of its own kind corresponded to the example (of Cain) and to the archetype, as the Greeks call it. For there, as a certain poet of theirs told the deed:
The first walls were drenched with a brother's blood. For thus was Rome founded when Roman history testifies that Remus was killed by his brother Romulus—except that both of them were citizens of the earthly city. Both sought glory from establishing the Roman state, but both wanted so much glory that he could not have it unless he were alone. For he who wanted to boast of ruling would rule less if his power were diminished by having a living partner. So, in order that just one might have the rule, his companion was taken away—and that which would have been less but better in innocence, grew for the worse by crime.
But the other brothers, Cain and Abel, did not share a similar desire for earthly things, nor did one envy the other because the power of the one who killed the other would have been narrower if both had ruled—for Abel did not want power in that city which his brother was founding—but he envied him with that diabolical envy with which the wicked envy the good—for no reason except that the ones are good the others evil. For in no way does the possession of goodness become less when a sharer comes in or stays—rather, the possession is goodness if the undivided love of companions shares it, the more widely, the more harmoniously. Really, he will not have that possession who is unwilling to have it in common, and he will find it the more ample, the more amply he can love a sharer in it. So what arose between Remus and Romulus shows how the earthly city is divided against itself; but what arose between Cain and Abel shows the enmities between the two cities, that of God, and that of men.
Why the sacrifice of Cain was rejected.
15.7. It is not easy to see in what Cain displeased God. But since John the Apostle in speaking of these brothers said: "Not like Cain, who was belonged to the evil one, and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because his works were evil, but his brother's were just "—hence we can see that God did not look with favor on his gift because in that very thing he made a bad division, giving God something of his own, but himself to himself. All these do this who follow not the will of God, but their own will, that is, they live not with a right, but with a perverse heart, and yet offer God a gift by which they think He can be bought, so as not to help to heal their evil desires, but to fulfill them. And this is the characteristic of the earthly city, to worship God or gods by whose help it may rule in victories and earthly peace—not out of love of taking care, but out of desire of dominating. For the good use the world so as to enjoy God; but the wicked, on the contrary, want to use God to enjoy the world. And yet they already believe that He exists and even takes care of human affairs. They are much worse who do not even believe this.
The purpose of the Old Testament Genealogies.
15.8. Now I see I should defend that narrative—so Scripture may not be incredible—which says a city was built by one man at a time when there seem to have been not more than four men on earth, or rather, three, after brother killed brother: that is, there was the first man, the father of all, and Cain himself, and his son Enoch, for whom the city was named. But those who are disturbed at this do not notice sufficiently that the writer of this sacred history did not consider it necessary to name all the men who could have existed then, but only those the purpose of his work called for. For it was the purpose of that writer—through whom the Holy Spirit was working—to come through successions of certain generations propagated from one man to Abraham, and then, from his seed, to the people of God, in which being distinct from other nations, there would be prefigured and foretold all the things foreseen in the Spirit as coming in regard to that city whose rule will be eternal, and about its King and also Founder, Christ. This would be written in such a way that the other society of men would not be passed over, which we call the earthly city; enough would be said so that the City of God would become clear also by comparison with its adversary.
When, therefore, divine Scripture in speaking of the number of years which those men lived concludes by saying about each one: "And he begot sons and daughters, and all his days" were a certain number of years, "and he died"—because Scripture does not name those same sons and daughters, we should not think, should we, that throughout so many years which they lived in the first part of this age, very many men could not have been born, by whose multitudes even many cities could have been founded?
But it pertained to God, under whose inspiration these things were written, to go through and distinguish these two societies in their diverse generations, so that the generations of those living according to man would be listed separately from those of the sons of God, that is, men living according to God. This was done up to the flood, where the distinction and growing together of the two societies is told—a distinction, in that the generations of each are mentioned separately, one coming fro m the brother-killer Cain, the other from him who is called Seth, for he had been born of Adam in place of him whom his brother killed—a growing together because as the good declined for the worse, all became such that they were destroyed by the flood except for one just man called Noe, and his wife, three sons and three daughters-in-law. These eight men merited to escape through the ark from that devastation of all mortals.
Abel, Seth and Enos are types of the City of God.
15.18. Scripture says: "And a son was born to Seth, and he called his name Enos; he hoped to call on the name of the Lord God." Thus cries out the witness of truth. Therefore man, the son of the resurrection, lives in hope; he lives in hope, as long as the City of God is in pilgrimage here, the City which is born of the faith in the resurrection of Christ. For those two men, Abel, which means grief and his brother Seth, which means resurrection, prefigured the death of Christ and His life from the dead. Out of this faith the City of God is begotten, that is, a man who hoped to call on the name of the Lord God. "For we are saved by hope" says the Apostle. "But a hope that is seen, is not hope. For what one sees, why should he (still) hope for it? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait in patience." Now who thinks this lacks the depth of a mystery? Surely Abel did not fail to hope to call on the name of the Lord God, Abel whose sacrifice Scripture recalls was so acceptable to God? Surely Seth himself did not fail to hope to call on the name of the Lord God, Seth of whom it was said: "God has raised up for me other seed in place of Abel"? why then is that assigned specially to this one, that which is known to be common to all the devout, except because it was proper that he who, coming from the father of the generations for the better part, that is, the heavenly city, is mentioned as arising first—that he should prefigure man, that is, the society of men that lives not according to man in the possession of earthly happiness, but according to God in the hope of eternal happiness?
Nor was it said: "He hoped in the Lord God" or "He called on the name of the Lord God", but it says "He hoped to call on the name of the Lord God." What does this mean "He hoped to call on" except that it is prophecy that a people would arise that according to the election of grace would call on the name of the Lord God? This is the same thought as that which the Apostle understood, when said by another prophet, as referring to the people that pertains to the grace of God: "And it will be: Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." For by the fact that it is said: "And he called his name Enos, which means man" and then it is added: "He hoped to call on the name of the Lord God"—by this it is sufficiently clear that man should not put his hope in himself—for we read elsewhere: "Cursed is everyone who puts his hope in man"—and so he should not put hope in himself either, so he may be a citizen of that other City, which is not dedicated in this time, that is, in the course of this mortal age, according to the son of Cain, but it is dedicated in that immortality of eternal blessedness.
The ark was a type of the Church.
15.26. Now the fact that Noe, a just man, as truthful Scripture says of him, and perfect in his own generation—not in the way the citizens of the City of God are to be perfected in that immortality in which they will be made equal to the angels of God—was ordered by God to make an ark in which with his wife, sons and daughters-in-law, and with the animals which by command of God entered the ark he was to be delivered form the devastation of the flood—beyond doubt this is a figure of the City of God in pilgrimage in this world, that is, the Church, which is saved through the wood on which hung the Mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
For the measures themselves of its length and height and width stand for the human body, in whose reality He was announced as coming, and did come. For the length of the human body from top to toe is six times as much as the width from one side to the other side, and ten times as much as the height measured on a side from back to stomach; as if one would measure a supine or prone man: he is six times as long from head to foot as he is wide from right to left, or left to right, and ten times as much as he is high above the ground. Hence the ark was made 300 cubits in length and 40 in width and thirty in height. And as to the fact that it had a door in the side, surely that is the wound, when the side of the crucified one was pierced with a lance; for those who come to Him enter by this way, because from there the sacraments flowed by which believers are initiated. And as to the fact that it was ordered to be made of squared timbers—this stands for the life of the saints, stable on all sides. For whichever way you turn a square, it will stand. And the other things that are said in the construction of the same ark stand for things of the Church.
The mystical significance of the sons of Noe.
16.2. But now that the effect of things has taken place later, the things that were hidden are quite clear. For who in diligently and intelligently looking at them does not recognize (their fulfillment) in Christ? For Sem, from whose seed Christ was born in the flesh, whose name is fragrant everywhere, means named. But what is more named than Christ, whose name already is fragrant everywhere, so that in the Song of Songs, in its early prophecy, it (the name of Christ) is compared to ointment poured out; in whose houses, that is churches, the breadth of the gentiles dwells. For Japheth means breadth. But Cham, which means hot, the middle son of Noe, as though separating himself from each side, and remaining in between, being neither in the first fruits of the Israelites, nor in the fullness of the gentiles: what does he stand for but the race of heretics, hot not with the spirit of wisdom, but with impatience in which the hearts of heretics commonly are fervid, and disturb the peace of the saints? But these things turn out for the advantage of those making spiritual progress, according to the saying of the Apostle: "It is necessary that there be heresies, so that those who are approved may become manifest among you." Hence it is also written: "The learned son will be wise, and he will use the imprudent as his servant." For many things that pertain to the Catholic faith, when they are agitated by the hot restlessness of heretics, are considered more diligently and understood more clearly and are preached more urgently, to defend them against the heretics. And so the question stirred up by the enemy is the occasion for learning.
The pride of Babylon wished to reach the heavens.
16.4. That city which is called confusion, is Babylon, whose marvelous construction even the history of the gentiles mentions. For Babylon means confusion. Hence we gather that that giant Nebroth was its founder, which was briefly intimated above, where, when Scripture spoke of him, it said the beginning of his power was Babylon, that is, the city that had the principality over other cities, where the abode of royal power would be as in the mother city; even though that city was not completed to such a measure as proud impiety was planning. For they planned an excessive height, said to be up to the sky, either of one tower that was built as chief among the others, or of all the towers, which are signified by the singular number just as we say soldier, and mean a thousand soldiers; as we say frog and locust: for thus was named the multitude of frogs and locusts in the plagues with which Moses struck the Egyptians. But what would human and vain presumption have done, of whatever kind and whatsoever size it would lift up a mass to the sky against God? When would it pass all the mountains? When would it go beyond the space of this cloudy air? What harm, finally, could any exaltation—spiritual or bodily—have done against God? Humility builds the safe and true way to the sky, lifting up the heart to the Lord, not against the Lord, as the giant was said to be "a hunter against the Lord."
Of what sort was the penalty? Since the domination of the one who commands lies in his tongue, it was there that pride was condemned, so that the one commanding might not be understood by man, who did not want to understand God's order so as to obey it.
The significance of the birth and circumcision of Isaac.
16.26. Here there are more open promises about the call of the gentiles in Isaac, that is, in the son of the promise, which signifies grace, not nature—since a son was promised of an old man and a sterile old woman. For even though God causes the natural course of procreation, yet, where the work of God is evident, when nature is defective and failing, there grace is more evidently understood. And because this (the birth of sons by grace) was to happen not by generation but by regeneration, for that reason at this time circumcision was commanded, when a son was promised to Sarah. And as to the fact that not only sons, but also home-born slaves and bought slaves are to be circumcised—this testifies that this grace pertains to all. For what else does circumcision signify except nature renewed, putting off oldness? And what else does the eighth day stand for but Christ, who rose after the week was complete, that is, after the Sabbath. The names of the parents are changed too: all things resound newness, and the New Testament is foreshadowed in the Old. For what is that which is called the Old Testament but the hiding of the New? And what else is that which is called the New but the unveiling of the Old?
The significance of the sacrifice of Isaac.
16.32. Among these things—to mention all would be too long—Abraham is tried in regard to immolating his beloved son Isaac, so that his devout obedience might be proved, to be brought to the knowledge of the ages, not to God. For not every temptation is to be blamed—that by which one is proved is even to be congratulated. And in general, the human soul cannot become known to itself unless it gives a reply as to its strength, not in words, but in experience, with temptation as it were putting the question. In this, if it recognizes the gift of God, then it is devout, then it is made solid with the firmness of grace, instead of being blown up with the emptiness of boasting. For surely Abraham would never have believed that God would be delighted with human victims—and yet, when the divine command thundered forth, he should obey, not argue. However Abraham is to be praised for believing at once that his son would rise after being immolated. For God had said to him, when he was unwilling to carry out the wish of his wife about casting out the maidservant and her son: "Your seed shall be called in Isaac." And surely the text continues and says: "And the son of this maidservant, I will make into a great nation, for he is your seed." How then was it said "Your seed shall be called in Isaac, " when God also calls Ishmael his seed? The Apostle explaining the meaning of the words "Your seed shall be called in Isaac" said "That is, not those who are sons of the flesh are sons of God, but the sons of the promise are counted as seed." And so the sons of the promise, that they may be the seed of Abraham, are called in Isaac, that is, are gathered in Christ by the call of grace.
So the devout father, faithfully holding on to this promise, because it had to be fulfilled through him whom God ordered to be killed, did not doubt that he could be given back after being immolated who was able to be given when not hoped for. Thus it was understood too in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and thus explained. It says: "In faith Abraham went ahead, being tried in regard to Isaac, and offered his only begotten, he who received the promises, to whom it was said: 'Your seed shall be called in Isaac.' He thought that God can raise even from the dead." Hence it adds: "For this reason he also received him back as a likeness"—a likeness of whom, except of Him of whom the Apostle says: "He did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over for all of us"? Therefore Isaac too, just as the Lord carried His cross, so he carried the wood to the place of sacrifice, the wood on which he was to be placed. Finally, because Isaac was not to be killed, after the father was forbidden to strike, who was that ram by whose immolation the sacrifice was completed with meaningful blood? For when Abraham saw it, it was held by its horns in the bush. Who was prefigured by it but Jesus, before being immolated, crowned by Jewish thorns.
The significance of Jacob's blessing on Juda.
16.41. So if, because of the Christian people in which the City of God is in pilgrimage on earth, we look for the flesh of Christ in the seed of Abraham, leaving aside the sons of the concubines, we meet Isaac; if we seek it in the seed of Isaac, leaving aside Esau (who is also Edom) we meet Jacob who is also Israel; if we seek it in the seed of Israel himself, leaving aside the others we meet Juda, because from the tribe of Juda Christ arose. And hence when Israel, about to die in Israel, was blessing his sons, let us listen to how he prophetically blessed Juda. he said: "Juda, your brothers will praise you. Your hand is on the back of your enemies; the sons of your father will fall down before you. Juda is the cub of a lion: who will arouse him? A prince will not be lacking from Juda, and a leader from his thigh until the things come that are laid up for him; and He will be the one the nations await; he will bind his colt to the vine, and the colt of an ass, in sackcloth. He will wash his robe in wine, and his garment in the blood of the grape. His eyes are tawny from wine, and his teeth are whiter than milk." I explained these things in disputing against Faustus the Manichee, and I think it sufficient, so far as the truth of this prophecy is clear. There the death of Christ is predicted by the word for sleeping, and His power in death—not necessity—by the word lion. He Himself proclaims this power in the Gospel saying: "I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it up again. No one takes it from me; but I lay it down, and I take it up again." Thus the lion roared, thus He fulfilled what He said. That which is added about His resurrection pertains to the same power: "Who will arouse Him?" that is, no man, but He Himself will do it, who also said of His body: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will rebuild it." Moreover the very type of death, that is, lifting up on the cross, is understood in the one word "You went up". The Evangelist explains what follows, "lying down you went to sleep" when he says: "And bowing His head, He gave up the spirit;" or at least his burial is meant, in which He lay down and slept, and from which no man aroused him, as the prophet did some, and He aroused others, but as if from sleep, He Himself got up. His garment, which He washes in wine—that is, cleanses from sins in His blood, the sacrament of which those who are baptized know, whence He added: "And his garment in the blood of the grape"—what is it but the Church? And the words "his eyes are tawny from wine" point to His spiritual ones, inebriated with His cup, of which the Psalm sings: "And your inebriating chalice—how excellent it is!" "And His teeth are whiter than milk"—the milk which little ones drink, according to the Apostle, that is, nourishing words, since they are not yet ready for solid food.
So He is the one for whom were laid up the promises to Juda. Until they would come, princes, that is, kings of Israel, were not lacking from that line. "And He will be the one the nations await"—this is clearer just by looking that it can become by explanation.
There are three classes of prophecies in the Old Testament.
17.3. Therefore, just as those divine oracles to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and whatever other prophetic signs and words there are in the early parts of Scripture, so also the rest of the prophecies, from the time of the kings, pertain partly to the nation descended from the flesh of Abraham, and partly to that seed of his in whom all nations are blessed as coheirs of Christ, through the New Testament, to possess eternal life and the Kingdom of Heaven. So they pertain partly to that handmaid who begets into slavery, that is, the earthly Jerusalem which is in servitude with its sons, but partly to the free City of God, that is, the true Jerusalem, which is eternal in heaven, whose sons living according to God, are in pilgrimage on the earth. But there are certain things in these prophecies which are understood to pertain partly to both—in the proper sense to the handmaid, in the figurative sense to the free woman.
The change of kings and priests prefigured the New Testament replacing the Old.
17.4. When, then, the course of the City of God came to the time of the kings when David, after Saul's rejection obtained the kingship first in such a way that his descendants thereafter would reign in the earthly Jerusalem in a long line—this provided a figure (by actions signifying and foretelling that which is not to be passed over in silence) of the change of things to come, pertaining to the two Testaments, the Old and the New, in which the priesthood and kingship were changed by a new and eternal Priest and likewise King, who is Christ Jesus. For the rejection of the priest Heli and the substitution of Samuel for the service of God, (serving as both priest and judge) and the rejection of Saul and the establishment of David in the kingship, prefigured what I have said. Also, Anna, the mother of Samuel, who at first was sterile and later was gladdened by fecundity, seems to prophesy the same thing when exultantly she poured forth her thanks to the Lord at the time she gave back to God the boy who had been born and weaned—with the same devotion in which she had vowed him.
17.7 I do not doubt that what follows should be understood of this: "And Israel will be divided into two, " that is, into Israel the enemy of Christ, and Israel adhering to Christ; or, into Israel pertaining to the handmaid, and Israel pertaining to the free woman. For these two kinds were together at first, as if Abraham still adhered to the handmaid, until the sterile woman, fecund by the grace of Christ, would cry out: "Cast out the handmaid and her son."
We know that Israel was divided into two because of the sin of Solomon, during the reign of his son Roboam, and that it remains divided, each part having its own king, until that whole people was overthrown and transported (into exile) by the Chaldeans, with great devastation. But what was this to Saul since, if something of that sort was to be threatened, it should have been threatened to David himself instead, whose son was Solomon?
Finally, now the Hebrew people is not divided, but is dispersed through the lands, indifferently sharing in the same error. But that division which God threatened to the kingdom and people under the person of Saul, who represented them, is eternal and unchangeable, and is signified by what follows: "And He will not turn or repent; for He is not like man so as to repent; he (man) threatens and does not hold to it." That is, man threatens and does not hold; but not God, who does not repent as man does. For where we read that He repents, a change in things is meant, while divine foreknowledge remains unchangeable. So where He is said not to repent, we understand there is no change.
The promise made to David about his son refer in their fullness to Christ rather than to Solomon.
17.8. He who thinks this, so great a promise, was fulfilled in Solomon is greatly mistaken. For he notices this saying: "He will build a house for me"—since Solomon did build that most noble temple—but he does not notice the words: "Faithful will be his house and his kingdom forever before me." Let him pay attention then and see the house of Solomon full of foreign women worshipping false gods, and the king himself, once wise, seduced and cast down into the same idolatry by them. And so let him not dare to think God promised this lyingly, or that He could not foresee that Solomon and his house were going to be such. We should not hesitate about this, not even if we did not yet see these things fulfilled in Christ our Lord, who was made from the seed of David according to the flesh—so we would not vainly and emptily look here for another, as the carnal Jews do. For they to such an extent to understand that the son whom they read as promised to king David in this passage was not Solomon that even though He who was really promised has been so clearly manifested, they still, with marvelous blindness still say they are hoping for another.
For there was indeed some image of future things even in Solomon, in that he built the temple, and had peace according to his name (for Solomon means peaceful), and in the start of his reign he was wonderfully praiseworthy. But he in his own person gave a shadowy prophecy of Christ the Lord—but he was not Christ. Hence certain things are written about him (Solomon) in such a way as if they were predicted about him, while holy Scripture, giving prophecies even by actions, in a certain way sketches in him the figure of things to come. For besides the books of divine history, where his reign is narrated, Psalm seventy-one is inscribed with the title of his name. In it so many things are said that cannot at all fit him, but do most obviously fit Christ the Lord, that it is fully evident that in Solomon there was some foreshadowing of the future, but in Christ the reality itself was present. For it is known what were the boundaries of Solomon, and yet we read in that psalm, not to mention other things: He will rule from the sea to the sea, and from the river to the boundaries of the earth"—which we see is fulfilled in Christ. For He took the beginning of His reign from the river, when He was baptized by John and began to be recognized by his disciples, who called him not only Master but even Lord.
Nor was there any other reason why Solomon began to reign while his father David was still alive—a thing that happened to no other of those kings—except that from this also it might be clear that it was not he (Solomon) whom the prophecy pointed to which said, in speaking to his father: "And it will happen, when your days are fulfilled and you sleep with your fathers, I will raise up your seed after you, who will be from your body, and I will prepare the kingship for him." How then because of the following words: "He will build a house for me" should we think Solomon was prophesied, and not instead because of the preceding words, "when your days are fulfilled and you sleep with your fathers, I will raise up your seed after you"—because of these we should see that a different peaceful one" was promised, who is foretold as to come not before the death of David, as Solomon did, but after it. For after howsoever long an interval of time Jesus Christ would come, for certain, He was to come after the death of David, to whom He was so promised. He would build a house for God, not of wood and stones, but of men, such as we rejoice that it is being built. For the Apostles says to this house, that is to the faithful of Christ, "For the temple of God is holy, which you are."
The true peace is not that which Solomon had, but that which will be given in the City of God in Heaven
17.13. Whoever hopes for this, so great a good, in this world, and on the earth, is foolish. Or will anyone think that it was fulfilled in the reign of Solomon? For Scripture does speak of that peace, in a foreshadowing of the future. But careful provision was made against such a supposition when after it was said, "And the son of iniquity will not go on to humiliate him" at once it was added, "As from the beginning, from the days in which I established judges over my people Israel." For starting at the time when they received the promised land, there were judges set up over that people before there began to be kings there. And certainly, the son of iniquity—that is, foreign enemies—did humiliate it throughout the period in which we read that peace alternated with wars. And we find there periods of peace longer than what Solomon had—he reigned forty years. For under that judge who is called Aod, there were eighty years of peace. So we must definitely not think that the times of Solomon were predicted in this promise—still less the times of any other king. For no one of them reigned in such peace as he. Nor did that people ever so hold its kingdom that it was not anxious that it might be subjected by enemies, since in such a changeability of human affairs, never has such security ever been granted to any people that it did not fear hostile invasions in this life. So that place that is promised of such peaceful and secure dwelling is eternal, and is due to those who are eternal, in the free mother Jerusalem, where there really will be a people Israel. For this name means "seeing God". It is out of desire for this reward that a life in faith is to be led in this trouble-filled pilgrimage.
The Roman Empire is the new Babylon.
18.22. To be brief, the city of Rome was founded as another Babylon, the daughter of the previous Babylon. Through it pleased God to subdue the earth, and to bring it into one society of polity and laws, and to make it peaceful far and wide. For already there were strong and brave peoples, trained in arms, which would not easily yield, and to subdue them there was need of great dangers and no small devastation on both sides, and dreadful labor. For when the kingdom of the Assyrians subdued almost all Asia, even though it was done by wars, it could not have been in wars so harsh and difficult, because the people were still unskilled in resisting, and they were not so many or so great. For after that great and universal flood, when in the ark of Noe only eight men escaped, not much more than a thousand years had passed before Ninus subdued all Asia except for India. But Rome did not so quickly and easily subdue so many nations of the East and West, which we see subject to the Roman Empire, since because they had grown gradually, Rome found them strong and warlike wherever the Empire expanded.
Divine Providence fittingly provided great prophets at the time of the rise of Rome.
18.27. These days extend from Proca, the king of the Latins or from his predecessor Aventinus up to Romulus, now a Roman king, or even to the beginnings of the reign of his successor Numa Pompilius (for Ezechias the king of Juda reigned to that point); and so throughout these times those fountains as it were of prophecy broke out together, when the Assyrian kingdom failed and the Roman began; so that just as at the start of the Assyrian kingdom there was Abraham, to whom most open promises were made of the blessing of all nations in his seed, so too at the time of the western Babylon, under whose rule Christ was to come, in whom those prophecies would be fulfilled, the mouths of prophets who not only spoke but also wrote were loosed to testify to so great a thing to come.
Some of the things prophesied by Osee.
18.28. The more profoundly Osee the prophet speaks, so more labor it is to penetrate his message. But we must take something from there and set it down according to our promise. He said: "It will be, in the place in which it was said to them 'You are not my people'—they will be called sons of the living God." Even the apostles understood this prophetic testimony about the call of the people of the gentiles, who once did not pertain to God. And because that people of the gentiles spiritually is among the sons of Abraham—and so is rightly called Israel—for this reason the prophecy follows and says: "And the sons of Juda and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will establish one principality for themselves, and will ascend from the earth."
That Prophet foretold also the future resurrection of Christ on the third day, as it was proper for it to be foretold in prophetic profundity, when he said "He will heal us after two days, on the third day we will rise."
The City of God from the rebuilding of the temple to the time of Christ.
18.45. After the Jewish people began not to have prophets, without doubt it became worse, precisely at the time at which it was hoping it would be better, since the temple had been restored after the Babylonian captivity. For that was the way that carnal people understood what was foretold through Aggaeus the prophet saying: "Great will be the glory of this newest house, more than that of the first." (But the prophet) showed a bit before that this was said about the New Testament, where he said, clearly promising Christ: "And I will move all nations, and the one desired by all nations will come."
...For this reason that people had no prophets beginning at that time, and was afflicted with many disasters by foreign kings, and by the very Romans, so this prophecy of Aggaeus should not be thought fulfilled in that restoration of the temple...
Then after a few years they merited to have even Herod, a foreign-born king, during whose reign Christ was born. For now the fullness of time had come, signified with prophetic spirit through the mouth of the patriarch Jacob when he said: "A prince will not be lacking from Juda, and a leader from this thigh, until He comes for whom it is laid up; and He will be the one the nations await." So there was not lacking a prince of the Jews from the Jews up to that Herod, whom they received as the first foreign-born king. Therefore, it was the time for Him to come, to whom was laid up that which is promised in the New Testament, that He should be the one the nations awaited. Now it could not be that the nations would expect Him to come, as we see He is expected, to give judgment in the brilliance of power, unless they first believed in Him when He came to suffer judgment in the humility of patience.
Some outside of the Jewish race were also of the City of God.
18.47. Hence whatever foreigner, that is, one not born of Israel, nor received by that people into the canon of sacred books, is read to have prophesied anything about Christ, so far as we know or will know, he can be mentioned for good measure. Not that he is needed, even if he were lacking, but because it is not unsuitable to believe that there were men in other nations too to whom this mystery was revealed, and who were even moved to foretell it, whether they were sharers in the same grace, or not, but instead were taught by wicked angels whom we know confessed Christ when He came, whom the Jews did not recognize.
Nor do I think the Jews themselves would dare to argue that no one pertained to God except the Israelites, from the time that Israel began to be, after the rejection of his elder brother. For there was in actuality no other people that could strictly be called the people of God. But they cannot deny that there were certain men even in other nations who pertained to the true Israelites, the citizens of the fatherland above, not by earthly but by heavenly association. For if they deny, they are easily convinced by the case of the holy and marvelous man from the race of Idumea, was born there, and died there. He is so praised by the divine utterance that; so far as pertains to justice and devotedness, no man of his times is made equal to him.
At the present time, both good and bad are found within the Church.
18.49. So in this wicked age, in these evil days, in which the Church by present humility gains eternal exaltation, and is educated by the goads of fears, the torments of pains, the troubles of sufferings, and the dangers of temptations, rejoicing only in hope when it rejoices rightly, there are many reprobates mixed with the good, and both are gathered up as it were in the net the Gospel mentions, and swim together in this world as in a sea, both kinds being included in the nets, until arrival at the shore, where the wicked will be separated from the good, and in the good, as in His temple, "God will be all in all." Hence we now recognize that His voice is fulfilled who spoke in the Psalm and said: "I announced and spoke, they are multiplied above number." This is taking place now, ever since He announced first through the mouth of His precursor John, and then through His own mouth saying: "Do penance, for the Kingdom of Heaven draws near."
God draws good even from the evil of heresy.
18.51. The devil, seeing the temples of demons being deserted, and the human race running to the name of the liberating Mediator, stirred up heretics who would resist Christian doctrine in the Christian name, as if they could stay indifferently in the City of God without any correction, just as the city of confusion had indifferent philosophers holding varied and opposed opinions. So those who in the Church of Christ hold any sick or evil view, if when corrected, they resist stubbornly, and are unwilling to correct their baneful and deadly doctrines, but persist in defending them, they become heretics, and going out of the Church, are considered as part of the enemy that tries the Church. Even then they are profitable by their very evil to those Catholic members of Christ, for God uses even the wicked well, and "for those who love Him, all things work together for good." For with whatever error they are blinded and depraved in malice, these enemies of the Church, if they obtain the power to afflict the Church in a bodily way give the Church training in patience; but so that even enemies may be loved, they exercise its love or even beneficence, whether they are dealt with by doctrinal persuasion; or fearful discipline. And so the devil, the prince of the wicked city, in stirring up his own vessels against the City of God which is in pilgrimage in this world is not permitted to harm it—for Divine Providence certainly procures for it consolation in prosperity. And so the one is tempered by the other so that we recognize that voice in the Psalm as speaking of precisely this: "According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, your consolations have gladdened by soul." Hence the Apostle said that we are, "Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation."
The City of the World has made its own false gods, but the City of God worships the true God. Both will be separated at the end.
18.54. But now finally let us conclude this book, after discussing up to now sufficiently, and showing what is the mortal course of the two cities, the heavenly and the earthly, from the beginning up to the end. Of these the earthly city made for itself what false gods it willed from any source or even from men, which it would serve in sacrifices. But that heavenly City in pilgrimage on the earth does not make false gods for itself, but it is made itself by the true God, whose true sacrifice it is. Both cities use temporal goods together, or are afflicted together by temporal evils, with different faith, different hope, different love, until they will be separated by the last judgment and each will receive its own end of which there is no end. Now we must discuss the ends of both.
Perfect happiness cannot be had in this world.
19.4. If then we are asked what answer the City of God would make when asked about each of these things, and first, what it feels about the ultimate good and evil: it will respond that eternal life is the supreme good, and eternal death the supreme evil; to attain that life, and to avoid that death, we must live rightly. Hence it is written, "The just man lives by faith"; since we do not yet see our good, so it is necessary that we seek it by faith. And even right living is not of ourselves, unless He helps those who believe and pray, who even gave the very faith by which we believe we need to be helped by Him. But they who put the supreme good and evil in this life, putting the supreme good either in the body or in the soul or in both, and, to speak more explicitly, either in pleasure or in virtue or in both, or in lack of disturbance, or in virtue or in both, or in pleasure and lack of disturbance together, or in virtue, or in both, or in the prima naturae, or in virtue or in both—these persons with marvelous vanity want to be blessed in this world, and by their own power. The Truth laughs at them through the prophet saying: "The Lord knows the thoughts of men", or, as the Apostle Paul set down this testimony: "The Lord knows the thought of the wise, that they are vain."
But virtue itself, which is not among the prima naturae since it is added later, with learning, since this virtue claims for itself the summit of human goods: what is it doing in this world except carrying on perpetual war with vices, not just vices from without, but from within, not with other people's vices, but with our very own—especially that virtue which the Greeks call sophrosyne, but the Latins call temperance, which restrains carnal lusts so they will not drag the consenting mind into all sorts of shameful deeds. For vice does exist, since as the Apostle says, "the flesh desires against the spirit". Virtue is contrary to vice since, as he also says, "The spirit desires against the flesh, for these oppose one another, so that you do not do what you will." What do we want to do, when we wish to be made perfect by attaining the highest good except to no longer have the flesh desiring against the spirit, and not to have that vice in us against which the spirit desires. Since we cannot attain that in this life even though we want it, at least we do this with the help of God, namely, we must not give in to the flesh desiring against the spirit and be dragged by our consent to commit sin. Far be it from us, then, that as long as we are in this internal war, we should think we have attained that blessedness to which we wish to come by conquering. And who is so wise as to have no conflict at all against lusts?
What about the virtue which is called prudence, does it not with all its watchfulness distinguish good things from evil things, so that no error may creep in desiring the one and avoiding the other? And by this it testifies that we are in evils, or that evils are in us. For it teaches that it is evil to consent to sin, and good not to consent to lust so as to sin. But whereas prudence teaches us not to consent to that evil, temperance causes us not to consent. But neither prudence nor temperance removes evil from this life. What about justice whose function is to give to each his own—hence there arises in man himself a certain just order of nature, so that the soul is subject to God, and the flesh to the soul, and so both flesh and soul are subject to God—does not justice show that it is still laboring at this task, instead of resting at the end of work? For the less the soul conceives God in its thoughts, the less it is subject to God; and the more the flesh desires against the spirit, the less the flesh is subject to the spirit. Therefore, as long as there is in us this sickness, this pestilence, this weakness—how shall we dare to say we are already saved, and if not already saved, how are we blessed with that final blessedness? But that virtue whose name is fortitude, in howsoever much wisdom (a man may have) is a most evident witness of the human evils which patience must tolerate. So I marvel at the boldness of Stoic philosophers in contending that these evils are not evils—for they admit that if they are so great that the wise man either cannot or should not put up with them, he is forced to kill himself, and get out of this life. So great is the stupor of pride in these men who think they have the supreme good here and are blessed by their own power, that even if their wise man—that is, the one such as they describe with marvelous vanity—even if he be blinded, made deaf, made dumb, is weakened in his limbs, tormented with pains and even if whatever other of such evils can be spoken of or thought should befall him, by which he is forced to kill himself—even then they are not ashamed to call a life in such evils blessed! O blessed life, which seeks the help of death to finish it!
We can turn the evils of this life into eternal profit.
19.10. But neither are the holy and faithful worshippers of the true most high God secure from their deceptions and manifold temptation. For in this place of weakness and evil days, even that solicitude is not without use, so that that security, where peace is most full and certain, may be sought with more fervent desire. There will be the gifts of nature, that is, the gifts that are given to our nature by the Creator of all natures, which are not only good but eternal, not only in the soul, which is healed by wisdom, but also in the body, which will be renewed by the resurrection. There will be virtues, not struggling against any vices or evils of any sort, but having the reward of victory, eternal peace, which no adversary may disturb...for that is the final beatitude, the end of perfection, which does not have any end to consume it. Now we are said to be blessed, when we have peace, in whatever measure it can be had in a good life; but this beatitude compared to that which we call final beatitude, seems like simply misery. So when we mortal men have this peace, such as it can be here, in mortal affairs, if we live rightly, virtue uses its good things rightly; but when we do not have peace, virtue uses well even the evils which man suffers. But then there is true virtue when it refers all the good things which it uses well, and whatever it does in the good use of good and evil things, and even itself to that goal where we will have such and such great peace that no better or greater can be.
All men aim at peace.
19.12. Whoever considers human affairs and our common nature at all with me recognizes this; just as there is no one who is unwilling to be happy, so there is no one who is unwilling to have peace. For even they who want war want nothing other than to conquer; so they want to come to a glorious peace by war. But what else is victory than the subjection of adversaries? When this is done, there will be peace. So even wars are carried on for the sake of peace, even by those who are eager to exercise warlike prowess in commanding and fighting. Hence it is evident that peace is the goal desired in war. For every man even in making war seeks peace; but no one seeks war in making peace. For even they who want to disturb the peace in which they live do not hate peace, but want it to be changed according to their wishes. So then even if they separate themselves from others in sedition, unless they keep some sort of appearance of peace with their fellow conspirators and confederates, they do not accomplish what they intend. Hence even thieves, in order to be more powerfully and safely hostile to the peace of others, want peace with their companions. But even if there should be one so outstanding in strength, and so shunning companions that he entrusts himself to no ally, and lying in wait alone and prevailing alone, oppressing and rubbing out those whom he can—with those whom he cannot kill, and from whom he wishes to hide what he is doing, even he keeps to some sort of shadow of peace. For in his home with his wife and children and whatever others he has there, he is definitely eager to be at peace. Certainly he is delighted in having them obey his very nod.
What is peace?
19.13. Therefore, peace of the body is the well-ordered balance of parts; peace of the irrational soul (emotional life) is the well-ordered repose of the appetites; peace of the rational soul is the well-ordered harmony of thought and action; peace of body and soul is the well-ordered life and well-being of the living being; the peace of mortal man and God is well-ordered obedience in faith under the eternal law; the peace of men is well-ordered harmony; the peace of a house is the well-ordered harmony of those who live there in commanding and obeying; the peace of a city is the well-ordered harmony of the citizens in commanding and obeying; the peace of the heavenly City is the most highly ordered and most harmonious society of enjoying God and one another in God; the peace of all things is the tranquillity of order. Order is an arrangement of equal and unequal things, assigning its own place to each. So those who are miserable because they are not in peace, inasmuch as they are miserable, lack the tranquillity of order where there is no disturbance. Yet, because they are miserable justly and because they deserve it, in this their very misery they are not outside order—not that they are joined to the blessed, but that they are separated from them by the law of order.
The true goal of man.
19.20. Therefore, since the supreme good of the City of God is eternal and perfect peace—not that through which mortals pass, being born and dying, but in which they remain immortal, suffering no adversity at all—who is there who would deny that that life is most blessed, and would not judge that, in comparison, the life we lead here is most miserable, though it may be filled with howsoever great goods of soul and body and external things. And yet whoever so possesses this life that he refers its use to that goal which he loves most ardently and most faithfully hopes for, can, not absurdly, be said to be blessed even now—but in hope rather than in possession. But possession without that hope is a false blessedness, and a great misery. For one then does not use the true goods of the soul, since true wisdom is lacking there, since it does not direct its intention in what it prudently discerns, carries on bravely, restrains temperately, and justly distributes to that goal where God will be all in all, with certain eternity and perfect peace.
God's judgments now are hard to understand—at the Last Judgment they will be made clear.
20.2. Now however we learn to bear evils calmly, which even the good suffer, and not to make much of good things, which even the evil get. And so even in these things in which divine justice is not clear, divine teaching is salutary. For we do not know by what judgment of God that good man is poor, and that wicked man is rich; by what judgment this one is happy whom we think ought to be tormented with griefs for his debased morals, while another person is saddened whose praiseworthy life makes us think should rejoice; we do not know by what judgment the innocent comes out of court not only unavenged, but even condemned, being oppressed by the wickedness of the judge or buried under false testimonies, while on the contrary, his wicked adversary comes out not only unpunished but even vindicated; or by what judgment this impious man has excellent health, while the devout man wastes away in sickness; how very sound young men are robbers, while infants who could not hurt anyone even by a word are afflicted with the atrocity of various diseases; how someone useful to human affairs is taken away by an early death, while he who it seems should have never been born lives a long time; how one full of crimes is exalted in honors, and the darkness of ignobility hides a man who is beyond complaint—and so for other things of this sort: who can gather them, who can count them? If these things had at least consistency in this very absurdity, so that in this life—in which "man" as the sacred Psalm says "is made like vanity, and his days pass as a shadow"—only the wicked would get these transitory goods, and only the good would suffer such evils—this could be referred to the just judgment, or even the kind of judgment of God, so that they who are not to attain eternal goods, which really make one blessed, would be either deceived by temporal goods, because of their malice, or by the mercy of God would be consoled by temporal goods; and those who are not to suffer eternal torments, would be afflicted for their sins—of whatever size and seriousness—or would be trained by evils to perfect their virtues. But as things really are, since not only are the good in evils, and the evil in good things—which seems unjust—but even very often evils come to the evil and good to the good: the judgments of God become the more inscrutable, and His ways unsearchable.
So howsoever much we fail to know by what judgment God does or permits these things—God with whom there is supreme virtue, supreme wisdom, supreme justice, no weakness, no blindness, no injustice—yet we learn wholesomely not to make much of either good or evil things, which we see are common to the good and the wicked, and to seek those good things that are proper to the good, and to most greatly flee from those evil things which are proper to the wicked. But when we come to the judgment of God whose time is now called strictly the Day of Judgment, and at times the Day of the Lord—then not only the judgments that will be given then, but also whatever things were judged from the beginning, and whatever things are still to be judged up to that time, will be seen as most clearly just. then this too will be made clear, by how just a judgment of God it happens that now many and almost all the just judgments of God escape the senses and thoughts of mortals, though yet in this matter it does not escape the faith of the devout that what is hidden is just.
The correct interpretation of the thousand years in the Apocalypse.
20.7. John the Evangelist spoke about these two resurrections, in the book called Apocalypse, in such a way that the first of them, not being understood by certain of our people, was turned even into certain ridiculous fables. For John the Apostle says in the book we mentioned: "And I saw an angel descend from the sky, having the key of the abyss, and a chain in his hand. And he took hold of that dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, and he bound him for a thousand years, and sent him into the abyss. And he closed and sealed over him, so he should no longer seduce the nations until the thousand years be finished. After that he must be loosed for a short time. And I saw seats and those sitting upon them, and judgment was given. And the souls of those killed for the testimony of Jesus and word of God, and those who did not adore the beast or his image and did not receive his inscription on their forehead or hand, reigned with Jesus a thousand years. The rest of them did not live until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in this first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and Christ, and will reign with Him for a thousand years."
Those who suspected, because of these words of this book, that the first resurrection was to be a bodily one were especially moved, among other things, by the number of a thousand years—as if there must be a Sabbatism, that is, a holy rest after the labors of the six thousand years from the time man was created, and because of the merit of that great sin was sent down from paradise into the troubles of this mortality, so that since it is written: "One day with the Lord is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day, " after six thousand years—like six days—there would follow the seventh, the sabbath, in the last thousand years, to celebrate this sabbath with the resurrection of the saints. This opinion would be somewhat tolerable if some spiritual delights were believed to be going to be at hand for the saints through the presence of the Lord on that sabbath. For even we held this opinion at one time. But since they say that those who rise then will indulge in most immoderate carnal meals, in which there will be so much food and drink that it not only goes beyond all moderation, but is even beyond belief: in no way can any but the carnal believe these things. but those who are spiritual, call those who believe this Chiliasts, using a Greek word. We, forming a word on the pattern of the word, could call them Millenarians. To refute them in detail would be long—rather, now we should show how this Scripture is to be taken.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said: "No one can enter the home of a strong man and snatch his possessions unless first he binds the strong man"—wanting it to be understood that the devil is the strong man because he was able to hold the human race captive. His possessions, however, which he was going to snatch, would be his future faithful ones, whom he (Satan) would possess in various sins and impieties. That this strong one might be bound, that Apostle in the Apocalypse saw "an angel descend from the sky, having the key of the abyss and a chain in his hand. And he took hold of that dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, and he bound him for a thousand years, " that is, he restrained and held back his power from seducing and possessing those who were to be freed. The thousand years can be understood in two ways, so far as occurs to me: either because this goes on in the last thousand years, that is, in the sixth thousand, as on the sixth day—whose latter stretches are now running—with the sabbath to follow which has no evening, that is, in the rest of the saints, a sabbath that has no end—so that he called a thousand years the last part of this thousand years, as one day, which remained up to the end of the world, in the way of speaking in which a part is put down for the whole. Or else he wrote a thousand years for all the years of this world, so that the fullness of time would be marked by the perfect number.
The meaning of the inscription of the beast.
20.9. That which follows "those who did not adore the beast or his image, and did not receive his inscription on their forehead or hand"—we should take it to refer to both the living and the dead. But though we should investigate more diligently who is that beast yet it is not foreign to the right faith to understand it as meaning the wicked city and the people of those who are unfaithful, opposite to the faithful people and the City of God. But his image seems to me to mean his pretence, that is, in those men who as it were profess the faith, but live unfaithfully. For they pretend to be what they are not, and are called Christians not with a true likeness, but with a false image seem to me to mean his pretense, that is, in those men who as it were profess the faith, but live unfaithfully. For they pretend to be what they are not, and are called Christians not with a true likeness, but with a false image. To this same beast there pertain not only the open enemies of the name of Christ and of His most glorious City, but also the cockle which is to be gathered out of His kingdom, which is the Church, at the end of the world. And who are they who do not adore the beast or his image but those who do what the Apostle says: "Do not bear the yoke with the unfaithful"? "They do not adore", that is, they do not consent, they do not subject themselves; "nor receive the inscription" that is, the brand of crime "on their forehead" because of what they profess, "on their hand" because of what they do. Those then who are foreign to these evils, whether still living in this mortal flesh, or dead, reign with Christ already now in a manner suited to this time, throughout this entire interval which is signified by the name of the thousand years.
The prophecy of Isaiah on the destruction and renovation of the earth.
20.21. For he spoke above about the new sky and earth, when he said often and in many ways the things that are promised to the saints at the end. He said: "There will be a new sky and new earth, and they will not be mindful of the former things, nor will it go up into their heart, but they will find joy and exultation in it. Behold, I make Jerusalem exultation, and my people joy; and I will exult in Jerusalem, and rejoice in my people; and no longer will the voice of weeping be heard in it, " and the other things, which certain people try to refer to those carnal thousand years. For figurative expressions are mixed with literal ones in prophetic fashion, so that sober intention may come to the spiritual understanding with a certain beneficial and wholesome labor; while carnal laziness or the slowness of the uneducated and untrained mind, being content with the surface of the letter, may think nothing is to be looked for within. May this be enough about the prophetic words written before this point.
Let those who deny Hell because they cannot explain it, explain also, the mysteries of nature.
21.5. It would be long for me, especially since my purpose is different, to treat of these and other countless marvels which not just the history of done-and-gone things reports, but which places still present contain. But let those faithless ones give an explanation, they who do not believe the Scriptures, since they do not think them divine, because they contain some incredible things, such as that which we are now discussing. For, they say, no reason can admit that flesh could burn and not be consumed, should be in pain and not die—ah! great reasoners, who can give an explanation of everything that is clearly marvelous! So let them explain these few things we have mentioned, such that if they did not know about them and we said they were going to be, doubtless they would believe much less than they now believe us when we say they will come at some time. For which of them would believe us if, just as we say that in the future living human bodies will always burn and feel pain, but yet never die, so also we would say that in the age to come there would be a salt which fire would cause to melt as if in water, and water would make to crackle as if in fire? Or that there would be a stone which would burn the hand of the one who pressed it, or a stone which if once set on fire, could not be extinguished—and so on for the other things which—passing by countless more—I have thought should be mentioned now? So if we said these things would be in the world to come, and the unbelievers would reply: "If you want us to believe those things, explain each one", we would admit we could not, because the weak reasoning power of mortals is overcome by these and similar wonderful works of God. But we would still say that we know that not without reason does the Omnipotent do things which the human mind cannot explain, and that in many things it is unclear to us what He wills, but yet it is most certain that none of them is impossible, whichever He wills. And we would say that we believe Him when He foretells, He whom we cannot believe is without the power, or capable of lying.
To say that any property of a thing is such because of the nature of the thing is not the ultimate explanation.
21.7. Why then cannot God bring it about that the bodies of the dead will rise and the bodies of the damned will be tormented with eternal fire—God who made the world full of countless marvels in the sky, on the earth, in the air, in the waters, especially since the world itself is surely a greater and more excellent marvel than all the things with which it is filled? But those persons with whom or against whom we are speaking, who believe there is a God who made the world, and there are gods made by him who administer the world and work miracles spontaneously, or miracles obtained by cult, rite, or even magic, and do not deny that there are powers in this world, or even insist on them—when we propose to them the marvelous power of other things, which are neither rational animals nor spirits endowed with reason, such as are the few things we have mentioned, they regularly answer: "That is the force of their nature, such is their nature, those are the proper effects of the natures." So the whole reason why the salt of Agrigentum flows in fire and crackles in water is: such is its nature!
Hell is not contrary to the nature of bodies such as they shall then be by the power of the Author of all nature.
21.8. But if they reply that the reason they do not believe what we say about human bodies going to burn forever and never die, is that we know the nature of human bodies was set up quite differently (from what that eternal punishment would require) so that not even that explanation can be given that was given about the marvels of nature so as to say, "Such is its natural power, that is the nature of that thing", but we know that the nature of human flesh is not such (as to be able to take eternal fire)—if they say that, we have an answer for them from Scripture, namely that it is quite different after (original) sin, such as we know it in the woes of this mortality, so that it cannot hold on to life eternally. In a similar way it will be of a very different nature in the resurrection of the dead.
But since they do not believe Scripture, in which it is read of what sort man was in paradise and how free he was from the necessity of death (if they believed this, we should not have to labor with them over the punishment of the damned)—since this is the case, we must bring forth something from the writings of their most learned men to show that a thing can become quite different from what its nature was previously known to be.
In the books of Marcus Varro, called "On the nation of the Roman people" there is something which I will set down here word for word. He said: "In the sky there arose a marvelous portent. For in the most noble star Venus, which Plautus calls Vesperugo, and Home calls Hesperos, saying it is most beautiful, Castor writes that there was so great a portent that it changed its color, size, figure, and course. The same thing had never happened before nor did it happen again. Adrastos of Cyzicus and Dion of Naples, noble mathematicians, say this happened during the reign of Ogyges." Now surely Varro, so great an author, would not call this a portent, unless it seemed contrary to nature. For we say that portents are contrary to nature, but they are not really so. For how is that contrary to nature which happens by the will of God, since surely the will of so great a Founder is the nature, but contrary to the known nature.
Therefore, just as it was not impossible for God to establish what natures He willed, so it is not impossible for Him to change the natures He established, into whatever He wills.
Spirits can suffer from fire.
21.10. Here the question arises: If the fire will be not incorporeal, like pain in the soul, but corporeal, harmful to the touch, so that bodies can be tormented in it: how will there be a punishment in it for evil spirits? For the same fire will be assigned to the punishment of men and devils, as Christ said: "Depart from me, you cursed ones, into eternal fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels." Unless even devils have certain bodies, as learned men have thought, made of this thick and humid air whose movement is felt when the wind blows. If this kind of element could not suffer anything from fire, it would not cause a burn when it is steam-heated in the baths. For before it can cause a burn, it is burned itself, and it causes what it endures.
But if someone asserts that the devils have no bodies: we need not argue with him in a laborious investigation or dispute. For why not say that in marvelous but real ways even incorporeal spirits can be afflicted by the punishment of bodily fire, if the souls of men, which are surely incorporeal, even now can be put within bodily members, and then (after the resurrection) will be able to be bound by the bonds of their bodies inseparably? Therefore, the spirits of devils, or the spiritual devils, will adhere, if they have no bodies, to bodily fires to be punished, not in such a way that the very fires to which they will adhere will be vivified by that union and become living things, made of spirit and body, but, as I said, they will adhere in marvelous, inexpressible ways, receiving punishment from the fires, but not giving life to the fires.
The eternal duration of hell is just.
21.11. Now some of those against whom we are defending the City of God, think it unjust that for sins, however great, one should be condemned to eternal punishment, while the sins took only a little time to commit. As if the justice of any law took care that a man should be punished for only so long as his crime took to commit!
That which it is to take men from this mortal city by the punishment of the first death (capital punishment), is the same as taking men from that immortal city by the punishment of the second death. For just as the laws of this state do not bring back to life anyone who is killed, so neither (do the laws of the City of God) bring back to eternal life one who is condemned by the second death.
But they object: How is that true which your Christ said: "With what measure you will mete, it will be measured again to you" if a temporal sin is punished with eternal punishment? They do not notice that it was said to be the same measure not because of equal space of time, but because of repayment of evil, so that he who did evil, should suffer evil.
Answer to Origen's heresy on the eternity of hell.
21.23. And first we must ask and learn why the Church cannot put up with the arguments of men who promise purgation and pardon to the devil even after the greatest and longest punishments. ...The Lord foretold that in the judgment He would give sentence and say: "Depart from me, you cursed ones, into eternal fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels" (thus he showed that the devil and his angels will burn in eternal fire). And in the Apocalypse it is written: "The devil who seduced them was sent into the pool of fire and sulphur into which went the beast and the false prophet, and they will be tormented day and night forever"—by which words divine Scripture means nothing but that which has no temporal end.
Then what sort of thing is it to suppose eternal punishment stands for fire of (only) a long time, and to suppose eternal life is without end, since Christ in the same passage, in the very same sentence said, referring to both: "Thus these will go into eternal punishment, but the just into eternal life"? If both are eternal, definitely both are either long, but with an end, or both are perpetual without any end.
Faith without good works will not save a man from hell.
21.25. But now we must answer those too who do not promise liberation from eternal fire to the devil and his angels (Origen does not promise it) but not even to all men, but only to those who are washed by baptism, and made partakers of His body and blood, in whatever way they may have lived, in whatever heresy or impiety they may have been. But the Apostle contradicts them saying: "The works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, luxury, serving idols, black magic, enmities, contentions, rivalries, angers, dissensions, heresies, envies, drunkenness, drinking bouts, and things like these; as to which I predict to you, as I have predicted, that they who do such things will not possess the kingdom of God." Now this statement of the Apostle is clearly false if such persons will be delivered after howsoever much time, and will possess the kingdom of God. And if they will never possess the kingdom of God they will be in eternal punishment, for there is no middle place in which one will not be in punishment who is not established in the kingdom.
It is incredible that the whole world should believe the incredible.
22.5. So there are three incredible things, which yet happened. It is incredible that Christ rose in the flesh and ascended into heaven with the flesh; it is incredible that the world should believe so incredible a thing; it is incredible that men who were not noble but were lowly, very few and unlearned should convince the world, and even learned men in it, of so incredible a thing. Out of these three incredible things, those with whom we are discussing are unwilling to believe the first; but they are forced to see the second; and they cannot find out how it happened if they do not believe the third. For the resurrection of Christ and His ascension into heaven with the flesh in which he rose is now preached and believed in the whole world; if it is not credible, how is it believed now in the whole world? If many noble, exalted, learned men had said they saw it, and had taken care to spread what they saw, it would not be wonderful if the world believed them—but that these still are unwilling to believe is very hard. But if, as it really is, the world believed a few obscure, lowly, unlearned men who said they saw it, and wrote—why do a few most obstinate men who are left still not believe the world itself which now believes? The world believed a scanty number of men who were not noble, but lowly and unlearned, since in witnesses so contemptible the divinity itself caused persuasion much more marvelously. For the utterances of those who convinced the world of what they said were not words, but marvelous deeds. For they who had not seen Christ rise in the flesh and ascend with it into heaven, believed those who not merely narrated, not merely spoke, but even worked marvelous signs. For they heard men whom they knew spoke one, or at most two languages, suddenly speaking marvelously in the languages of all nations. They saw a man lame from his mother's womb, at their word, after forty years, stood up sound; they saw handkerchiefs that touched their bodies have power to heal the sick; they saw numerous persons suffering from various diseases placed in a row where they (the apostles) were going to pass, so that the shadow of those (apostles) who walked by would cross them: they saw these persons suddenly receive health, and many other stupendous things done by the apostles in the name of Christ. Finally they saw even the dead rise.
If they (our opponents) admit that these things happened as they are read, lo, to those three incredible things we add so many incredible things: and we heap up such great testimonies of many incredible things so that they may believe one incredible thing that He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven—and not yet do we bend the unbelievers, with their horrendous hardness, to believe.
But if they do not believe that even these miracles were done through the apostles of Christ, so that their preaching of the resurrection and ascension might be believed—then this one great miracle suffices for us, (namely) that the world has believed without any miracles.
Answers to some objections against the general resurrection.
22.20. Banish the thought that the omnipotence of the Creator, in order to raise and bring bodies back to life, could not call back whatever beasts or fire consumed, or what collapsed into dust or ashes, or what was dissolved into liquid, or exhaled into the air. Banish the thought that any fold or secret place of nature should so take anything that escapes our senses that it would hide from the knowledge, or escape the power of the Creator of all things. Cicero, so great an author of theirs, certainly wanting to define God as best he could, said: "There is a certain mind, free and unhindered, separated from all union with mortal things, sensing all things, moving all things, and itself endowed with eternal movement." He found this in the teachings of the great philosophers. So, to speak according to them: how could anything either escape the notice of Him who senses all things, or irrevocably flee from Him who moves all things?
Hence now that question too should be solved, which seems more difficult than the others, in which it is asked: When the flesh of a dead man becomes also the flesh of another living man—to whom will it rather be given back in the resurrection? For if someone, worn out and driven by hunger should eat the bodies of men—an evil which both former history, and the unhappy experience of our own times testifies happened sometimes—will anyone contend, with truthful reason, that the whole was digested through the inner parts, and nothing of it was changed and converted into his flesh, when the very emaciation that was there, and is no longer there, indicates sufficiently what deficiencies were supplied by those foods? But now some things we said above should also be effective in resolving this knot. For whatever flesh hunger has drained way, was surely breathed forth into the air, from which we said that the almighty God can recall what has fled. So that flesh will be returned to the man in which it first began to be human flesh. For it is to be considered as taken by the second man as on loan. Like borrowed money it must be given back to the one from whom it was taken. But his own flesh will be restored to him who had lost it in famine, by Him who can recall even things that have been breathed forth. But even if it had perished totally, and no matter of it remained in any hiding place of nature, the Almighty would restore it from where He willed. But because of the saying of the Truth that: "A hair of your head will not perish", it is absurd to think that when even a hair of a man cannot perish, such large amounts of flesh eaten away and consumed by famine could have perished.
After considering all these things in accord with our poor ability, this conclusion is reached: that in the resurrection of the flesh, the size of bodies will have forever those dimensions which the natural plan of perfect youth or youth which was to be perfected called for, keeping due propriety in the proportions of all members. In order that this proper proportion be preserved, if anything be taken away from any unbecoming enlargement in any part, to be distributed throughout the whole, so that not even that may perish, it is not unreasonable to believe that thence something could even be added to the stature of the body so that that is distributed to all parts to keep propriety, which would be improper if it were beyond measure in one part. Or if someone wishes to argue that each will rise in that stature of body in which he died, we need not resist vigorously—only that all deformity, all infirmity, all slowness, and all corruption be lacking, and whatever else does not become that kingdom, in which the sons of the resurrection and the promise will be equal to the angels of God, if not in body, or in age, at least in happiness.
Heaven is the great Sabbath. Amen.
22.30. That will truly be the greatest Sabbath, having no evening, of which the Lord spoke in the first works of the world, where we read: "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works which He did, and God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work, which God began to do." For we ourselves too will be the seventh day, when we shall be filled and refreshed by His blessing and sanctification. Then, being at rest, we will see that He is God—that which we wanted to be ourselves, when we fell from Him in listening to the seducer, "You will be like gods" and going away from the true God, by whose action we would have been gods by participation, not by desertion. For what did we do without Him except that we failed in His wrath? Being remade by Him, and perfected by greater grace, we will be at rest forever, seeing that He is God, by whom we will be filled, when He will be all in all. For even our very good works, when we understand that they are His rather than ours, will be counted for us to attain this Sabbath. Because if we attribute them to ourselves, they will be servile works whereas Scripture says of the Sabbath: "You shall do no servile work on it." Hence it says through Ezechiel the prophet: "And I gave my Sabbaths to them for a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctify them." We will know this then perfectly, when we will be perfectly at rest, and perfectly will see that He is God.
The very number of ages, as if days, if they are counted according to those periods of time that seem expressed in the Scriptures, will make clear that Sabbatism, since there will be a seventh age. The first age, like the first day, is from Adam to the flood; the second from there to Abraham, not in equality of length of time, but in number of generations—for they have ten each. From there, as Matthew the Evangelist shows, three ages follow up to the coming of Christ, each being filled out with fourteen generations—one age from Abraham to David, the second from him to the captivity in Babylon, the third up to the human birth of Christ. And so there are five in all. The sixth age is now running, to be measured by no number of generations because of what is said: "It is not for you to know the times which the Father has placed in His power." After this, as on the seventh day, God will rest, when He will cause that same seventh day, which we will be, to rest Himself, in God.
To discuss those ages individually would be too long now. But yet this seventh age will be our Sabbath, whose end will not be evening, but the Lord's day, as the eternal octave day, which was made sacred by the resurrection of Christ, prefiguring the eternal rest not only of the spirit but also of the body. There we shall be at rest and we shall see; we shall see and we shall love; we shall love and we shall praise. Behold what will be at the end without end. For what other end is there for us except to come to the kingdom of which there will be no end?
I seem to myself, with the help of the Lord, to have paid the debt of this huge work. Let those for whom it is too little or too much forgive me. Let those for whom it is right, give thanks not to me, but to God, in their congratulations. Amen.
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