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On the Profit of Believing

35. But any habits whatever have so great power to hold xvii. possession of men's minds, that even what in them are evil, which usually takes place through excess of lusts, we can sooner disapprove of and hate, than desert or change. Do you think that little hath been done for the benefit of man, that not some few very learned men maintain by argument, but also an unlearned crowd of males and females in so many and different nations both believe and set forth, that we are to worship as God nothing of earth, nothing of fire, nothing, lastly, which comes into contact with the senses of the body, but that we are to seek to approach Him by the understanding only? that abstinence is extended even unto the slenderest food of bread and water, and fastings not only for the day', but also continued through several days together; that chastity is carried even unto the contempt of marriage and family; that patience even unto the setting light by crosses and flames; that liberality even unto the distribution

k cf. Retract, b. i. c. 14. 5. "In would not move unless they were won

another place, where I had made derful, and if they were usual they

mention of the miracles, which our would not be wonderful.' But thia I

Lord Jesus did, while He was here in said because not so great miracles, nor

the Flesh, I added, saying,' Why, say all take place now, not because there

you, do not those things take place are none wrought even now."
now?' and I answered,'Because they 'quotidiana,i.e.eachd;iv till evening.


616 Church authority improves whom it does not perfect.

Ds of* estates unto the poor; that, lastly, the contempt of this Tate whole world even unto the desire of death? Few do these CRE_ things, yet fewer do them well and wisely: but whole

nations approve, nations hear, nations favour, nations, lastly,

love. Nations accuse their own weakness that they cannot do these things, and that not without the mind being carried forward unto God, nor without certain sparks of virtue. This hath been brought to pass by die Divine Providence, through the prophecies of the Prophets, through the manhood and teaching of Christ, through the journeys of the Apostles, through the insults, crosses, blood, of the Martyrs, through the praiseworthy life of the Saints, and, in all these, according as times were seasonable, through miracles worthy of so great matters and virtues. When therefore we see so great help of God, so great progress and fruit, shall we doubt to hide ourselves in the bosom of that Church, which even unto the confession of the human race from [the] apostolic chairTM through successions of Bishops,(heretics in vain lurking around her and being condemned, partly by the judgment of the very people, partly by the weight of councils, partly also by the majesty of miracles,) hath held the summit of authority. iprimasTo be unwilling to grant to her the first place1, is either surely the height of impiety, or is headlong arrogance. For, if there be no sure way unto wisdom and health of souls, unless where faith prepare them for reason, what else is it to be ungrateful for the Diwne help and aid, than to wish to » al. resist authority furnished with so great labour2? And if every atre"s system of teaching, however mean and easy, requires, in order to its being received, a teacher or master, what more full of rash pride, than, in the case of books of divine ;» sacra- mysteries3, both to be unwilling to learn from such as J^t0* interpret them, and to wish to condemn them unlearned? xviii. 36. Wherefore, if either our reasoning or our discourse hath in any way moved you, and if you have, as I believe, a true care for yourself, I would you would listen to me, and with pious faith, lively hope, and simple charity, entrust yourself to good teachers of Catholic Christianity; and cease No Truth lost in accepting the Church's teaching. 617

m He clearly means the Apostolic Unity of the Church, §. 3 and 4. Oxf. office and presidency in general. For Tr. p. 134. and note b. illustration, see St. Cyprian on the

not to pray unto God Himself, by Whose goodness alone Db we were created, and suffer punishment by His justice, and tAtE" are set free by His mercy. Thus there will be wanting to CRE

you neither precepts and treatises of most learned and truly

Christian men, nor books, nor calm thoughts themselves, whereby you may easily find what you are seeking. For do you abandon utterly those wordy and wretched men, (for what other milder name can T use ?) who, whilst they seek lo excess whence is evil, find nothing but evil. And.on this question they often rouse their hearers to enquire; but after that they have been roused, they teach them such lessons as that it were preferable even to sleep for ever, than thus to be awake. For in place of lethargic they make them frantic, between which diseases, both being usually fatal, there is still this difference, that lethargic persons die without doing violence to others; but the frantic person many who are sound, and specially they who wish to help him, have reason to fear. For neither is God the author of evil, nor hath it ever repented Him that He hath done aught, nor is He troubled by storm of any passion of soul, nor is a small part of earth His Kingdom: He neither approves nor commands any sins or wickedness, He never lies. For these and such like used to move us, when they used them to make great and threatening assaults, and charged this as being the system of teaching of the Old Testament, which is most false. Thus then I allow that they do right in censuring these. What then have I learnt? What think you, save that, when these are censured, the Catholic system of teaching is not censured. Thus what 1 had learnt among them that is true, I hold, what is false that I had thought I reject. But the Catholic Church hath taught me many other things also, which those men of bloodless bodies, but coarse minds, cannot aspire unto; that is to say, that God is not corporeal, that no part of Him can be perceived by corporeal eyes, that nothing of His Substance or Nature can any way suffer violence or change, or is compounded or formed; and if you grant me these, (for we may not think otherwise concerning God,) all their devices are overthrown. But how it is, that neither God begot or created evil, nor yet is there, or hath there been ever, any nature and substance, which God either

618 Calmness of spirit needful for religious learning. De begot not or created not, and yet that He setteth us free from


evil, is proved by reasons so necessary, that it cannot at all CRE- be matter of doubt; especially to you and such as you; that ——-'is, if to a good disposition there be added piety and a certain peace of mind, without which nothing at all can be understood concerning so great matters. And here there is no rumour concerning smoke, and I know not what Persian vain fable, unto which it is enough to lend an ear, and soul not subtile, but absolutely childish. Far altogether, far otherwise is the truth, than as the Manichees doat. But since this discourse of ours hath gone much further than I thought, here let us end the book; in which I wish you to remember, that I have not yet beguu to refute the Manichees, and that I have not yet assailed that nonsense; and that neither have I unfolded any thing great concerning the Catholic Church itself, but that I have only wished to root out of you, if I could, a false notion concerning true Christians that was maliciously or ignorantly suggested to us, and to arouse you to learn certain great and divine things. Wherefore let this volume be as it is; but when your soul becomes more calmed, I shall perhaps be more ready in what remains k.

k cf.Rerr.b. 14.6. " But in the in this book written to him I had not

end of the book I say,' But since this yet begun to refute the Manichxans,

discnurse of ours, &c.' This I did not and had not yet attacked those follies,

say in such sort as though I had not nor had I as yet opened any thing great

hitherto written any thing against the concerning the Catholic Church itself;

Manichaeans, or had not committed to because I hoped that after that begin

writing any thing at all about Catholic ning made, I should write to that same

doctrine, when so many volumes before person what I had not yet here

published were witnesses that I had written." not been silent on either subject; but