THE REST OF AUGUSTINE'S WORKS REVIEWED.
Tracts on i He two tracts on Lying, addressed to Consentius, Lying. demonstrate the soundness of tbe author s views in morality. Such indeed is the connexion between
* After examining Augustine's writings concerning tbe Donatists, particularly the letters 48, -*>o, 61, and 127, and the narrative of Possidonius, I have endeavoured to compress into this chapter the substance of the historical information which they contain, without troubling myself or the reader with particular citations. I have done 00 this occasion, what 1 profess to do generally, to the best of my ability, namely, formed my judgment on original evidences, and not on the opinions and reasonings of any modern whatever. Laborious task! compared with the ease of copying oth«r historians; invidious also, because it often obliges one to correct modem representations ( But it is the tank of a real historian.
one part of divine truth and another, that those who havethejustestandthelargestviewsofGospehgra.ee, have always the most exact and extensive ideas of moral duty, and what is more, exemplify them in life and conversation. For the same self-righteousness, which tarnishes the lustre of divine grace, always induces its votary to curtail the demands of the divine law, to adulterate it with pride and the love of the world, and to render a thousand things allowable in practice, which an humble and holy soul must abhor. We have seen what vague and dangerous notions of veracity had begun to prevail during the progress of superstition, from which even such men as Ambrose and Chrysostom were not exempt; and that what are called pious frauds had in some instances been esteemed laudable. Augustine in the treatise before us, defines lying to be " The saying of one thing and thinking of another;" and in all cases, even for the most pious and salutary purposes, be excludes lying as unchristian. The second chapter of the epistle to the Galatians had been perversely interpreted io that part of it which relates to the dissimulation of Peter*. He rescues the divine oracles from the abuse, and demonstrates from the most express and determinate decisions of the New Testament, that all deceit of the tongue is wicked. The task was worthy of him who was the principal instrument of the revival of godliness in the church | .
* Aug. opera, torn. iv. page fi. Paris edition, 1571.
.J* In this Chapter, the other works of Augustine, which have net fallen under our consideration in the preceding Chapters, are considered, so far as I think them worthy of the reader's particular attention. Those parts of his voluminous writings-, which are either mere repetitions of what has heen elsewhere illustrated, or seem not to convey any interesting instruction, or handle subjects which have been much better treated by those who have had th« advantage of later improvements, are omitted. —The book of Meditations, though more known to English reader* than any other of the works ascribed to Augustine, on account ol the translation of it into our language by Stanhope, *eems not to be bis, both on account of its style, which is
His treatise on faith and works was written to °"Failh- obviate the Antinomianism, which some were in his time desirous of introducing. Men, who still persevered in their sins, desired to be baptized ; and there were those who supported their unreasonable wishes, and thought it sufficient to teach them, after baptism, how they ought to live, still holding out a hope to their minds, that they might be saved as by fire, because they had been baptized, though they never repented of their sins. In answer to these dangerous abuses, our author shows, that the true saving faith works by love, that the instruction of catechumens includes morals, as well as doctrines; that the labour of catechizing is exceedingly profitable to the church, and that persons ought to be catechized before they receive baptism, that they may know how vain it is to think of being eternally saved without holiness. He justly observes, that the eunuch's answer to Philip, " I believe that Jesus is the Son of God," virtually and radically involved in it, a knowledge of the true character of the person and offices of Christ, and of the qualities which belong to his members. He supports his doctrine by Scripture authority, particularly by that of St. James in his second chapter; and against those who say. that they would believe in Christ and come to him, and are hindered, he observes, " We do not prohibit such as are willing, from coming to Christ, but we prove by their own practice that they are not willing to come to Christ; nor do we forbid them to believe in Christ, but demonstrate that they are not
tentious, concise, abrupt, and void of any of those classical elegancies, which now and then appear in our author's genuine writings, and also on account of the prayers to deceased Sainti which it contains. This last circumstance peculiarly marks it to have been of a later date than the age of Augustine. Frauds of this kind were commonly practised on the works of the fathers in the monastic times. For the most part, however, this book may be read with profit by the serious reader, because of the devotional spirit in which it resembles the genuine works of Augustine.
willing to believe in Christ, who suppose that adul- Cent. terers can be his members." On the whole, he ^reprobates the most dangerous notion of the possibility of baptized persons being saved in their sins, and recommends strongly an attention to churchdiscipline, and to the wholesome practice of catechizing, showing through the whole a zeal for the cause of holiness, and a fear of men's abusing the doctrines of grace*.
In a small treatise to Simplician the aged bishop Treatise to of Milan, who was both the instructor and the SimPliciBQ successor of Ambrose, he undertakes to solve the difficulties usually grounded on the ninth chapter to the Romans. And he defends the doctrine of divine grace in his usual manner. His remarks on ' It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy,' will deserve to be transcribed. " It is not said, it is not of him that is unwilling and despises, but of God who hardens.— Nothing is done by God to make men worse; only that is not bestowed by him upon some men, which might make them better. Since human society is connected by giving and receiving, who does not see, that no man is accused of iniquity, who exacts what is due to himself, or remits the same? This idea of equity is impressed on us by the Divinity. All men die in Adam, being one mass of iniquity : this death may be called a debt due to Divine Justice, which, whether it be exacted, as with some, or remitted, as with others, there is no iniquity f."
The treatise on catechising the ignorant deserves On Cateto be read both for the solid and pious vein of in- clll"m?struction which runs through it, and also for the light which it throws on the customs of the church. It appears, that whoever desired to be admitted into the church, was obliged to attend the catechist; and the work, in our author's manner of practising it, was very important. The person, to whom he writes * Id. p. 18. f Id. p. 147.
Chap- had expressed a concern, because he could not "IL please himself in his manner of speaking. Augustine observes, that this may easily happen, even when there is no particular fault in our manner of exhorting. He owns that it was generally the case with himself. And that the reason is, the mind of a serious preacher or catechist conceiving in one glance a beauty and weight in his subject, to express which his words are too slow or inadequate, he feels ashamed and disappointed; yet, continues Augustine, he ought not to conclude, that his words are lost, or that they appear as mean to the hearers, as they do to himself. " We see, says he, but in a glass darkly, and we must patiently labour to make greater improvement in divine life. Yet it is desirable to catechise with a cheerful spirit and with sensible comfort in one's own mind. This, however, is the gift of God."
In the method of catechising, he recommends to begin with narration, to give to the pupils a clear and succinct view of the great facts, relative to our religion, both in the Old and New Testament, and to dwell more largely on the more important, and only glance at those which are less so. In the whole manner of doing this, the teacher should have his eyes steadily fixed on the great end, Love, and refer every thing, which he relates, to the plan, of divine love in the gift of Jesus Christ, describing the fall and the redemption, and the method of God in winning back the apostate spirits of men to love him, in return for his free love to us in Jesus Christ. Yet he observes, that without fear of Divine wrath, there can be no motive for sinners to approach to the God of love, or any sufficient inducements to engage their minds to seek him. Nor should the catechist be too shy in conveying his instructions, because the catechumen's motives may be merely worldly. It often happens, says he, through the mercy of God, that he, who applied to us for instruction with carnal views, is brought to feel the Cent. value of that, of which at first he only made pre- v' tence. But it would be useful, if the catechist could know beforehand what was the frame of the catechumen. If he cannot, he must interrogate him himself, and regulate his discourse by the answers he receives. If the catechumen owns, that fear of Divine wrath for sin, or the terror of some powerful awakening admonition from God, has led him to apply for information, the catechist has then the fairest opening for instruction.
When he has finished his narration, he should add exhortation, laying open the hope of resurrection, and the awful views of divine judgment, of heaven and hell. He should arm the catechumen against the scandals and temptations to which he may be exposed from the perverseness of heretics, the malice of open enemies, or the evil lives of nominal Christians. And he is particularly to be directed, amidst all the precepts given him how to please God and live a holy life, not to trust in any of his works, but in the grace of God alone.
If the person hath had a liberal education, he must not be offended by a tedious and diffusive view of things respecting the facts of Christianity, though a fuller display of the 6ame facts will be needful for the unlearned.—The discourse must be varied ; it will be necessary in some things to be more large, as in others to be more brief. For instance, in guarding him against the pride of learning, and in forming his taste, he will need to be seriously instructed to avoid faults of a moral rather than those of a literary nature, and to dread the want of grace in his words and deeds, rather than a solecism or barbarism in language, and to take particular care not to despise illiterate Christians.
He hath already hinted at one discouragement with which the catechist is apt to be affected. Another is, that whereas he would rather himself read or hear things useful for his own improvement, he is obliged repeatedly to have recourse to things, which to himself are now no longer necessary. No doubt this is one cause in all ages, why so few love the office of instructing the ignorant. Those who themselves are ignorant, are not fit to instruct, and those who are knowing, are apt to be above the task. A pastor, he observes, is engaged in some agreeable study, and is told that he must proceed to catechise. He is vexed, that the course of his work is interrupted, and from the agitation of his mind, is less fitted to discharge the work itself.
Hence, he concludes, it is necessary that the teacher should himself learn those things, which may exhilarate his own mind: for God loveth a cheerful giver. He adds, that the meek and charitable example of the Son of God should to this end be placed before him, to shame him out of his pride and impatience ; that if indeed we have any more useful study to prosecute, respecting ourselves, we may then expect that God will speak to us in it more powerfully, when we have undertaken cheerfully to speak for him as well as we could to others; and that the tediousness of that trite and plain road of catechising should be smoothed by divine love in the heart; and that when we consider that we are poor judges of the best order of things, and how much better it is to leave the direction of times and seasons with the all-wise God, we shall not take it amiss, that the providential calls of duty disturbed the order which we had prescribed to ourselves, and that, in short, his will took place before ours.
In interrogating the catechumen, he is to be asked, whether he means to be a Christian for the sake of this life or the next. And one of the most important cautions to be given him is, that he desire to be a Christian solely on account of eternity.
Me concludes with the form of a catechetical Cent.. instruction, which is itself no mean sermon, com- t v' , prehending the very essentials of the Gospel salvation by Jesus Christ through faith *, the most important doctrines connected with the most material Christian duties.—But enough of this subject: let those pastors, with whom religion is mere form, read and blush, and lefarn and imitate.
In his treatise on Patience f, he is solicitous to Treatise on show that its origin is from divine grace, and that 1,aUenceit is a virtue, in its whole nature, distinct from any thing seemingly resembling it, which may arise from natural resources. To pave the way to an illustration of this thought, he starts an objection, natural enough to an infidel mind : " If men, to gratify their secular desires, can without divine grace, by the mere strength of nature, endure patiently the greatest hardships, why may not men by the same strength endure afflictions through the love of eternal life ?" In answer to this, he observes, that the stronger men's desires are after worldly things, the more firmly and resolutely will they endure hardships to obtain the gratification of their selfish desires, whether riches, praise, or whatever else. In like manner, the more sincerely they love heavenly things, the more cheerfully will they endure what they are called to suffer on their account. Now worldly desire originates from the human will, is strengthened by the delight which the mind takes in worldly objects, and is confirmed by custom. But the love of God has no such origin; it is not from ourselves, it is altogether by the Holy Ghost given to us. And he goes on to show, that electing grace, not in consequence of any works of man, but previous to them all, while he is ungodly and without strength, chooses him to salvation, and bestows on him the whole power to will and to do, and is itself the first and decisive source of all the * Id. p. 217. f. Id. p. 243.
good which he does, which good is all along assisted, supported, and maintained to the end, and at length rewarded hereafter.
It is not in commenting on the Scriptures, that the peculiar excellencies of Augustine appear. The fanciful mode of Origen vitiated the whole plan of exposition, from his days to the Reformation. Yet, Augustine has far less of it, and enters more precisely into the sacred oracles than most of the fathers of his time; but he does this better in expounding a particular point of doctrine, which he has before him, than in any of his orderly comments. His exposition of the Psalms is full of pious sentiments, and he breaks out from time to time into beautiful and pathetic observations. He Sees Christ every where in the Psalms, though he is not always happy in his manner of expounding the passages. On his exposition of St. John's Gospel, similar observations may be made. It cannot, however, be denied, that extremely imperfect as his expositions are, they have been highly useful to the church, because the lights which they contained were not only beneficial to pious men in the dark ages, but afforded also much assistance to the reformers, when a more judicious and intelligent vein of interpretation took place. Treatise on His treatise on Christian doctrine* deserves to be doctrine1 Perused throughout by young ministers; for the purpose of forming the taste and directing the manner, as well as enlightening the understanding, and warming the heart of him who undertakes to instruct mankind. As a preacher, Augustine doubtless excelled; bat his excellence lay in exhibiting that which was useful to the vulgar, not that which was entertaining to the learned. Perhaps, in no age was the pastoral taste more depraved, than it is in the present. A highly finished, elaborate and elegant style, is looked on as the perfection of a Christian speaker; and the manner, father than the matter, is the chief object. It is not * Tom. iii. beginning.
considered, that an artificial and polished arrange- Cent. ment of sentences is lost on a vulgar audience; and vthose who affect it, are, it is to be feared, little moved themselves with the importance of divine things, and are far more solicitous for their own character as speakers, than for the spiritual profit of their hearers. Yet in no age did God Almighty ever more clearly show, by the effects, what was agreeable in his sight. What a number of learned and elaborate sermons have been preached to no purpose ! even the truth of the doctrine that is in them is rendered, in a great measure, useless by the wisdom of words, with which it has been clothed : While plain artless colloquial addresses to the populace, by men fearing God, and speaking of divine things in fervour and charity, have been attended
With DEMONSTRATION OF THE SPIRIT AND 0*
Power, and souls have been rescued, through their means, from sin and Satan. Classical and ornamental knowledge is not the first thing to be aimed at by a pastor. If he is yet very young, his time indeed is laudably employed in cultivating his faculties in this respect. And if his genius for eloquence be strong and acute, he will soon learn the justest rules sufficiently for the purpose of his profession. There is indeed an eloquence in the Scriptures, but it is an eloquence adapted to the subject, plainly divine. A pastor who has talents for speaking, attended with superior learning and endowments, will study to attain "a diligent negligence," that he may never overshoot the capacities of his audience, either by refined reasonings or by artificial elegancies of diction. Plain, downright, above all things perspicuous and intelligible, without being rude or clownish, he will descend to the lowest comprehension of his audience; and his grandeur and sublimity will appear in things, not in words. He will gladly give up his reputation to the fastidiousness of critics; for he has souls to bring into Christ's fold, and is
Chap- not solicitous of the praise of men. He will show, V*L . without designing it, from time to time, that he Can speak more elaborately, and more elegantly; but eloquence will follow his subject, not go before it . This will be the plan of a man of genius and learning in the work of the pulpit: he will humble himself, that Christ may be exalted. But Christ can do his work by workmen of slower and more ordinary capacities, and he often has done so*.
I have not wandered from the subject of Chris
* Augustine knew how to practise his own rules of eloquence, and two instances related by himself show him, notwithstanding the defective taste of his age, to have been no mean orator. While he acted as a presbyter at Hippo, under Valerius his bishop, he was appointed by him to preach to the people, in order to reclaim them from riotous feasting on solemn days. He opened the Scriptures, and read to them the most vehement rebukes. He besought them by the ignominy and sorrow which they brought upon themselves, and by the blood of Christ, not to destroy themselves, to pity him who spake to them with so much affection, and to show some regard to their venerable old bishop, who, out of tenderness to them, had charged him to instruct them in the truth. " I did not make them weep f, says he, by first weeping over them, but while I was preaching, their tears prevented mine. Then I own I could not restrain myself. After we had wept together, I began to entertain great hope of their amendment." He now varied from the discourse he had prepared, because the present softness of their minds seemed to require something different. In fine, he had the satisfaction to find the evil redressed from that very day.
The other occasion was this : " We must not imagine," says he, " that a man has spoken powerfully, when he receives much applause. This is sometimes given to low turns of wit, and merely ornamental eloquence. But the sublime overwhelms the mind with its vehemence, it strikes them dumb; it melts them into tears. When 1 endeavoured to persuade the people of Caesarea to abolish their barbarous sports, in which, at a certain time of the year, they fought publicly for several days, I said what I could; but while I heard only their acclamations, I thought I had done nothing; when they wept, I entertained a hope that the horrible custom which they had received from their ancestors would be abolished.—It is now upwards of eight years since that time, and by the grace of God they have ever since been restrained from the practice." Here was true eloquence, and, what is of far more consequence, true piety in a preacher. Ep. 29. to Alypius.
Tian doctrine, handled by Augustine. What I Cent. have mentioned are in a great measure his ideas *. > One important rule he adds, which, though plain to every serious mind, is too much overlooked by many. " Let our Christian orator," says he, " who would be understood and be heard with pleasure, pray before he speak. Let him lift up his thirsty soul to God, before he pronounce any thing. For since there are many things which may be said, and many modes of saying the same thing, who knows, except he who knows the hearts of all men, what is most expedient to be said at the present hour ? And who can cause us to speak what we ought, and as we ought, unless he in whose hands we and our words are ? And, by these means, he may learn all that is to be taught, and may acquire a faculty of speaking as becomes a pastor. At the hour itself of speaking a faithful spirit will think his Lord's words adapted to his circumstances: ' Think not what or how ye shall speak, for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.' If the Holy Spirit speak in those who are delivered up to persecutors for Christ, why not also in those who deliver Christ to learners ? But, on the other side, if any say, that men need to know no rules nor follow any studies, if the Holy Ghost make men teachers, it might be said also, men need not to pray, because our Lord saith, ' Your Father knoweth what ye have need of before ye ask him ;' and at this rate the rules of St. Paul to Timothy and Titus might be superseded. Prayer and study therefore should go hand in hand; and the two epistles to Timothy and that to Titus are of standing authority in the church, and ought to be deeply meditated upon by every one who undertakes the office of a teacher."
The whole treatise deserves to be studied by Excellence junior pastors ; the fourth book particularly ; in the of Booklv * B. iv.
Chap- latter part of which he lays down the three sorts of , style so judiciously described by Cicero, exemplifies them by Scripture instances, and instructs his young Christian orator how to adapt them to the nature of the subjects which lie before him.
Augustine His treatise on the Trinity* is very elaborate.
Triuu*. Perhaps all that has ever been said in any age, in vindication and explanation of that great mystery, is contained in this book. It is in perfect unison with the expositions and sentiments of all the pious men who preceded him, and particularly with the views of Novatian in his treatise on the same subject. Whether the writers were of the general church or dissenters, they are perfectly unanimous in confessing the Trinity in unity, and in proving the doctrine from Scriptures, and in leaving something after all inexplicable in the subject; but in a manner congruous to the incomprehensibility of the Divine essence. Augustine does full justice indeed to the argument, but it must be confessed, he goes too far; he loses both himself and his readers, by metaphysical subtilties and vain attempts to find analogies and similitudes, yet with a spirit so humble and cautious, as to separate carefully his conjectures from divine truth, and to leave the authority of Scripture unviolated. He, who has leisure, may peruse the whole work with profit. The humble and serious spirit of the author appears particularly in the several prefaces to its parts, and in the prayer at the close, an extract of which is as follows: " O Lord our God, we believe in thee the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. For the Truth would not have said, Go, baptize all nations, in the name, &c. if thou wert not a Trinity. Nor wouldest thou command us to be baptized in the name of him who is not God. I have soughtthee, and examined and laboured much in composing this treatise. My God, my only hope, hear me, lest, through weariness, I cease to seek * Tom. iii.
thee. Thou, who wilt be found, and hast given me Cent. increasing hope of finding thee, give me strength to ^ . seek thee. Before thee are my strength and my weakness. Preserve that and heal this. Before thee are my knowledge and ignorance. Where thou hast opened to me, uphold me, when I enter ; where thou hast shut up, open to me when I knock. I would remember thee, understand thee, love thee. Augment in me these things, till thou perfectly form me anew. I know it is written, in the multitude of words, there wanteth not sin: but I would to God I spake only concerning thy word, and in praising thee ; I should then do what is acceptable in thy sight, though 1 spake much. For thy Apostle would not have directed his son in the faith to preach the word, and to be instant * in season, out of season, were not this the case. Free me, O God, from the much inward speaking, which, while I fly to thy mercy, I feel in my miserable soul. For my thoughts are not silent when my tongue is. Many, alas ! are my thoughts, which thou knowest to be vain. Grant me not to consent to them ; and, if my nature delights in them, grant me to disapprove and not to dwell on them, even in a slumbering manner. Nor let them be so strong, as to proceed to any thing active; let my will, my conscience, be safe from them under thy defence. When we come to thee, many of those things we now say, shall cease, and thou shalt remain alone all in all, and we shall without end say one thing, praising thee in one, being made one in thee. What is thine in these books, may thine acknowledge; if there be any thing of mine, may thou and thine forgive ?"
On Augustine's Sermons, I shall make only one g"8"^'"6' remark. The reader would not think them to be the works of the learned and eloquent author of the City of God. But we must remember, that in them he was addressing not scholars, but the populace. * 2 Tim. iv.
They are plain and simple, but weighty and serious. He follows his own pastoral rules, and is himself the preacher he describes.
Amidst the many arduous and laborious employments of Augustine, in support of the doctrines of Christianity, and in the pastoral care, he yet found time to manage a large epistolary correspondence, a great part of which is preserved, and some specimens of it shall close this chapter.
The correspondence between him and the famous Jerom, the monk of Palestine, begins with the 8th, and ends with the i gth epistle. The principal subject of it was the reprehension of St. Peter by St. Paul, mentioned in the 2d chapter to the Galatians. Jerom, following the stream of the Greek expositors, who had gone before him, and who imitated the vicious mode of Origen, had asserted, that Paul could not seriously blame Peter for that which he had practised himself, in the circumcision of Timothy, and that, therefore, his rebuke of Peter was an officious lie, in which the two Apostles understood one another in private, and that the design was to deceive the people with a charitable view. Jerom*, it seems, carried his admiration of both the Apostles to a superstitious excess, and could not bear to think of Peter being really found fault with for dissimulation. To maintain the honour of Peter, he is driven to undertake the vindication of deceit, when employed for a charitable purpose, and, what is worse, to fix the stain of a lie on a part of the revealed word of God, and to represent Paul, when writing by inspiration, as guilty of falsehood. Such mean and dangerous views attend superstition and self-righteous formality ! I have not seen a practical case, which more evidently showed the low declining state of godliness in these times.
Augustine, jealous of the honour of the divine word, and sensible of the danger of admitting * Tom. ii. from p. 9 to 19. 1* •
falsehood, either into the books of inspiration, or into Opposed by common life, with the same zeal that moved him to Aus<"«'»ewrite against lying of all sorts, undertakes to clear up the subject, and, with great accuracy, explains the whole transaction, in the manner which we sawstated in the former volume*. Two essential points of Christianity are connected with his exposition, namely, the doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ JesUs, and the duty of abstaining from deceit of the tongue of all kinds. All along, however, he treats the aged presbyter with a modesty becoming a junior.
Jerom is chafed to find himself contradicted, de- Jerom is fends his interpretation by the authority of Origen, d,*Ple,,1ed, its inventor, and seems to rebuke the daring spirit of Augustine, for venturing out of the common road, and advises him, if he burned with a strong desire of glory, rather to seek out some champion of his own age, with whom he might contend, than to molest him, who was a worn-out veteran. The angry monk seems to have measured the temper of the bishop of Hippo by his own. Learned as he undoubtedly was, he was still more distinguished for vain glory than for learning, and seems to have known too little of that sincere love of truth, which is connected with humility, the love of God, and the desire of leading souls to heaven, and is unmixed with all selfish considerations ; a love which, doubtless, reigned in the breast of Augustine.
Augustine finding that he had, though without Christian design, given offence, answered to this effect: " In ",lldncs»
0*0 ' t and mode
your letters I find many proofs of your kindness, and ration of some marks of your disgust.—Far be it from me to Auf5"stmebe offended ; I shall rather have reason to be thankful, if I be instructed and corrected by your correspondence. But, dearest brother, you would not think that I could be hurt by your answers, if you did not feel yourself hurt by my writings. As I * Vol. I. p. 30.
cannot believe that you would think of hurting me unjustly, it remains that I own my fault, in having offended you by those letters, which I cannot deny to be mine. Why do I strive against the stream, and not rather ask pardon ? I beseech you, therefore, by the gentleness of Christ, that if I have offended you, you would forgive, lest you be induced by hurting me in return, to render evil for evil." He goes on in a strain of mildness very uncommon among controversialists, and I observe nothing in the whole course of the debate, (which is far too long to quote,) that ought justly to give offence to Jerom. So unreasonably has our author been censured for heat and temerity, by writers who seem not to have been much acquainted with his works*. But these are faults vastly remote from Augustine, nor do I know any human author, ancient or modern, who dealt in controversy, so remarkably free from censoriousness and malignity. " I was much affected, says he, with the conclusion of your letter, in which you say, I wish I could embrace you, and by mutual conference teach or learn something. I say, for my part, I wish at least we lived nearer one another, that we might confer together more easily by letter. For I see there neither is nor can be so much knowledge of the Scriptures in me as in you. If I have any ability this way, I employ it in the service of God. Nor have I leisure, because of ecclesiastical occupations, to attend to more Scriptural studies than those which relate to the pastoral care."
In the same letter he deeply laments the fierce quarrel which had arisen between Jerom and Ruffinus, and which, at that time, made a great noise in the Christian world. " I confess I was much affected, that so grievous a discord should arise between two such intimate friends, united in a bond
• How delusive, and yet how common a thing is it, to form our idea of characters from the report of others, rather tliaa from our own knowledge and careful investigation!
of union, well known to almost all the churches, Cent. I saw in your letters what pains you took to mode- > v. . rate your anger. Wo to the world because of offences ! Truly that Scripture is fulfilled, Because iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold. But why do I lament this of others, since I know not what I myself shall do ? I may with difficulty, perhaps, know myself at present, but what I shall be hereafter I know not.—While I am refreshed with your kind words, I am again stimulated with the keenest grief, to see two men, to whom God had given to suck the honey of his word together in the sweetest friendship, fall into such a state of virulent hostility. Wo is me, I would fall at your feet, I would weep as long as I could, I would entreat as much as my affections would permit, now each one for himself, now both for each other, and for others, and particularly the weak for whom Christ died, who now behold your animosities with great danger of hurt to themselves.—But I tell you that my concern was really deep and strong, when I found you were really offended with me, and it has led me to be more prolix, perhaps, than I ought."
This is a specimen not only of the moderate temper, but also of the ardent charity, which every where appears in the writings of this author. Jerom himself was moved, and begs that the debate might be closed on both sides. And he appears ever after to have both esteemed and loved Augustine.
The people of Madaura sent a person, named Message t* Florentius, to Augustine, with a letter, desiring his fofnthe" assistance in some secular affair. The inhabitants of this place were as yet devoted to idolatry, and, " " through an insincerity very common with profane and careless minds, theyaddressed theirepistle, "To Father Augustine, in the Lord, eternal salvation;" and closed it with these words, " We wish you, Sir, in God and his Christ, for many years to rejoice in
your clergy." It behoved not him, who had written a book in defence of strict unequivocal truth in all things, to pass these compliments unnoticed. He tells the Madaurians* that he had, as far as God permitted, attended to the business of Florentius, and then proceeds to expose the inconsistency of such professions with their idolatrous practices. On the first sight of them he owns he was suddenly struck with a belief of their conversion, or at least with a hope, that they desired to be converted by his ministry. " I asked the bearer of your letter, says he, whether ye were Christians, or desired so to be. By whose answer I was grieved, that the name of Christ was,toyou,becomeanobjectofderision. ForIcould not think that there was any other Lord, except the Lord Christ, through whom a bishop could properly be called father. If ye wrote this with sincerity, what hinders you from seeking salvation in the same Lord, by whom ye salute us ? If ye wrote thus with a jocose deceitfulness, do ye impose on me the care of your business, in such a manner that instead of extolling with due veneration, ye insult by your flattery, that Name, through which I have power to do any thing for you ? Dearest brethren, know that I speak this with inexpressible concern for you, believing that a rejection of my warning will aggravate your condemnation." He goes on to lay open briefly, but strongly, the evidences of Christianity : and then tells them, that " there is an invisible God, the creator of all things, whose greatness is unsearchable ; that there is a person ft by whom the invisible Majesty is exhibited, the Wokd, equal to him who begat him ; and that there is a Sanctity, the sanctifier of all things which are done in holiness, the inseparable and undivided communion of the invisible Deity and the Word. Who * Ep. 42.
f I use the word Person, because I can scarcely otherwise express the author's meaning ; but it is proper to tell the reader that there is nothing for it in the original.
can look, with a serene and sincere mind, at this Being- of beings, which I have laboured to express, though unable to exhibit with accuracy, and in beholding, forget himself, and obtain eternal salvation, unless, confessing his sins, he pull down all the mountains of his pride, and lower himself to receive God his teacher ? Therefore the Word humbled himself, that we might more fear to be elated with the pride of man, than to be humbled after the example of God. Christ crucified is our object. Nothing is more potent than divine humility.—I beseech you, if ye named Christ not in vain, in your epistle, that I' may not have written this in vain. But if ye did it in unthinking gaiety of heart, fear him whom the subject world now expects its Judge. The affection of my heart, expressed in this page, will be a witness at the day of judgment, to comfort you, if ye believe, to confound you, if ye remain in infidelity."
The Madaurians, I suppose, expected not such a letter. It deserved to be in part laid before the reader, as a proper example of the open, manly, affectionate method in which Christians should reply to unmeaning compliments, or polite dissimulation. Maximus, a grammarian, answered by a letter*, partly complimentary, partly satirical, the most specious sentiment of which is, that Pagans and Christians, all believing one God, mean much the same thing. Augustine, in reply, gives him to understand, that the subject requires not levity, but seriousness, and that, by the help of the one living and true God, he will discuss these things more at large, when he shall perceive him to be in good earnest, giving him to understand, that the Christians in Madaura worshipped none but the living and true God.
A letter to Macedonius, concerning the road to w^"d|,t true felicity f, deserves the serious perusal of every nins. * Ep. 43. f Ep. 52.
proud philosopher. Men who seek happiness from themselves, though Christians in form, are in effect, on the same plan as the ancient Stoics, whose proud pretences are justly ridiculed in this letter. Our author owns, that extreme torments would make life miserable, if the subject of them were destitute of hope, even though he were possessed of some virtues. He describes the way of felicity to lie through a course of humility, of faith, of the love of God and our neighbours, and of the hope of a future life of bliss.
In reply to Dioscorus *, he justly guards him against the curious and presumptuous spirit of philosophizing, and dares to pronounce, in opposition to Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, and several others of the fathers, that Christian piety needs not the assistance of secular instruction, but ought to depend solely on the Scriptures, and he cautions his friend against the pride of secular learning, representing humility to be the first, the second, the third, the all in true religion, as Demosthenes said of delivery in oratory. Here is another point, in which we see the revival of apostolical truth in the West, by the grace of God, under the hand of Augustine.
In his letter to Proba, on prayer f, he gives a sound and judicious exposition of the Lord's prayer; and observes, that it is so full and comprehensive, that though a man may pray in other words, and those of great variety, yet every lawful subject of prayer may be reduced to one or other of the petitions which it contains. Proba was a rich widow, and had a numerous family ; and when we consider the large extension and fashionableness of the monastic spirit at that time, it seems an instance of candour in Augustine, that he does not hint to her a word of advice to follow the custom of the religious in that age, but contents himself with directing her to serve God in her present station. He • Ep. 56. f Ep. in.
advises her to be a Desolate Widow* in her Cent.
frame and spirit, looking for heavenly things, not 1 ,
earthly, and shows within how small a compass our prayers for temporal things ought to be confined.
As a remedy against much speaking in prayer, he advises to utter short and quick ejaculations, rather than long-continued petitions, if the mind be not in a fervent state ; but if the spirit be intent and vigorous, the petitions, he thinks may be prolonged without any danger of offending against our Lord's precept in the Sermon on the Mount. And he speaks in an instructive manner on the office of the Holy Spirit, as interceding for the saints with unutterable groanings. The great object in prayer, he observes, should constantly be, the enjoyment of God ; and he adds, that however inadequate the believer's conceptions be, yet he has a distinct idea of his object; so distinct, that you can never impose on a real saint by offering him something else in the room of it. He knows what he wants, and he knows that this or that is not the thing which he wants. The whole epistle, if we except a few fanciful expositions, after the manner of Origen, is excellent, and breathes a superior spirit of godliness.
One Cornelius wishing to receive from him a con- Comoiatoty solatory letter, on account of the loss of his wife f, Comeiim. Augustine, who knew that, notwithstanding this request, he lived in the excess of uncleanness, tells him, in allusion to the words of Cicero against Catiline, " I could wish to be gentle, I could wish, in so great dangers, not to be negligent, but can a bishop patiently hear a man, who lives in sin, with greediness asking for a panegyric on his godly spouse, to mitigate his sadness on account of her decease ?" He goes on to exhort him to repentance, with as much severity as might be expected from a faithful pastor of the mildest temper.
In the close of a letter to Florentina t, he £?lt"}°
* 1 Tim. v. 5. f Ep. 125. % Ep. 132.
Chap, reminds her, " that though she had learned some( v^1, , thing salutary from him, yet she ought firmly to remember, that she must be taught by the inner Master of the inner man, who shows in the heart the truth of what is said, because neither is he that planteth any thing, nor he that watereth." While such views of divine teaching prevailed in the church, even all the ashes of superstition could not extinguish the fire of true godliness. It is the infelicity of our times, that not only the profane, but many serious persons are not a little irreverent in their ideas of spiritual illumination ; and when I think of the miserable effects of this temper on the human mind, I am at a loss to determine whether I most dislike the childish superstitiousness of Augustine's age, or the proud pretensions to rationality of the present. To so much greater a degree has profaneness advanced under the latter than under the former. Letter to The letter to Edicia* deserves to be attended to EdlC",- as characteristic of the taste of the times. This woman had, unknown to her husband, made a vow of perpetual continency. In so great reputation, however, were such practices at that time, that her husband consented afterwards to her resolution, and they still lived together, though he would not suffer her to assume the habit of a nun. Some time after, two travelling monks imposed on her simplicity to such a degree, that she gave nearly all her property to them, though she had a son of her own by her husband. Augustine reminds her of St. Paul's direction, which she had broken f : and it is indeed observable, with what wisdom, even the most occasional rules of the divine word are delivered, as the breach of them is ever attended with mischievous consequences. He finds fault with her vow in the first place, because made without her husband's consent, and with her disposal of her property in the second place for the same reason; and, as the * Ep. 199. f 1 Cor- *'»* 5
husband, incensed at her folly, had now fallen into Cent. libidinous practices, he teaches her to humble her- t y* self deeply before God, as having been a great instrument of his fall, and directs her to submit to her husband, to entreat his forgiveness, and to use every healing method in her power. The whole subject is an instance of piety and good sense struggling in the bishop of Hippo, against the torrent of absurdity and fashionable superstition.
At Calama, a colony in Africa, the Pagan interest seems to have much predominated ; so that, notwithstanding the imperial laws inhibiting their public rites, the party performed a religious solemnity in the city, and came with a crowd of dancers before the church. The clergy endeavouring to prevent this, the church was attacked with stones. The insult was repeated, and Christians found themselves unable to obtain justice. Their buildings were burned and plundered, one Christian was killed, and the bishop was obliged to hide himself. And so deep-rooted was the prejudice of the colony against Christianity, that the magistrates and men of rank chose to be tame spectators of these enormities. One person alone, a stranger, but as it seems a character of great influence, interposed, saved many Christians, whose lives had been in imminent danger, and recovered much of their property which had been plundered; whence Augustine justly concludes*, how easily the whole mischief might have been checked, had the magistrates done their duty. Nectarius, a Pagan of the place, wrote a neat and genteel letter to the bishop of Hippo, begging his interest with the reigning powers to prevent, as much as possible, the punishment of the guilty. Augustine states to him the facts, as above, and appeals to his conscience, whether it was possible or right for government to overlook such crimes. He shows, that Christians lived in peace * Ep. 202.
Chap, and good will toward all men, and that he would do the best he could to procure such a temperature of justice and mercy, as might prevent the repetition of these evils, and induce Pagans to take care of their best interests. He tells him, that he himself had been at Calama lately, and had taken occasion to warn them of the danger of their souls. They heard his exhortation, and entreated his interest. " But God forbid,-' says he, " that it should be any pleasure to me to be supplicated by those who refuse to supplicate our Lord." As Nectarius himself, had spoken of his love to his country, Augustine is not sparing in his admonitions to him, to seek an acquaintance with a heavenly country, and preaches to him the truth and excellency of the Gospel, as well as exposes, in his usual manner, the futility of Paganism.