Nicene and Post Nicene-Fathers, Vol. I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Confessions: Chapter VIII
Chapter VIII.—He Argues Against the Same as to the Reason of Offences.
15. Can it at any time or place be an unrighteous thing for a man to love God with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind, and his neighbour as himself? 250 Therefore those offences which be contrary to nature are everywhere and at all times to be held in detestation and punished; such were those of the Sodomites, which should all nations commit, they should all be held guilty of the same crime by the divine law, which hath not so made men that they should in that way abuse one another. For even that fellowship which should be between God and us is violated, when that same nature of which He is author is polluted by the perversity of lust. But those offences which are contrary to the customs of men are to be avoided according to the customs severally prevailing; so that an agreement made, and confirmed by custom or law of any city or nation, may not be violated at the lawless pleasure of any, whether citizen or stranger. For any part which is not consistent with its whole is unseemly. But when God commands anything contrary to the customs or compacts of any nation to be done, though it were never done by them before, it is to be done; and if intermitted it is to be restored, and, if never established, to be established. For if it be lawful for a king, in the state over which he reigns, to command that which neither he himself nor any one before him had commanded, and to obey him cannot be held to be inimical to the public interest,—nay, it were so if he were not obeyed (for obedience to princes is a general compact of human society),—how much more, then, ought we unhesitatingly to obey God, the Governor of all His creatures! For as among the authorities of human society the greater authority is obeyed before the lesser, so must God above all.
16. So also in deeds of violence, where there is a desire to harm, whether by contumely or injury; and both of these either by reason of revenge, as one enemy against another; or to obtain some advantage over another, as the highwayman to the traveller; or for the avoiding of some evil, as with him who is in fear of another; or through envy, as the unfortunate man to one who is happy; or as he that is prosperous in anything to him who he fears will become equal to himself, or whose equality he grieves at; or for the mere pleasure in anothers pains, as the spectators of gladiators, or the deriders and mockers of others. These be the chief iniquities which spring forth from the lust of the flesh, of the eye, and of power, whether singly, or two together, or all at once. And so do men live in opposition to the three and seven, that psaltery “of ten strings,” 251 Thy ten commandments, O God most high and most sweet. But what foul offences can there be against Thee who canst not be defiled? Or what deeds of violence against thee who canst not be harmed? But Thou avengest that which men perpetrate against themselves, seeing also that when they sin against Thee, they do wickedly against their own souls; and iniquity gives itself the lie, 252 either by corrupting or perverting their nature, which Thou hast made and ordained, or by an immoderate use of things permitted, or in “burning” in things forbidden to that use which is against nature; 253 or when convicted, raging with heart and voice against Thee, kicking against the pricks; 254 or when, breaking through the pale of human society, they audaciously rejoice in private combinations or divisions, according as they have been pleased or offended. And these things are done whenever Thou art forsaken, O Fountain of Life, who art the only and true Creator and Ruler of the universe, and by a self-willed pride any one false thing is selected therefrom and loved. So, then, by a humble piety we return to Thee; and thou purgest us from our evil customs, and art merciful unto the sins of those who confess unto Thee, and dost “hear the groaning of the prisoner,” 255 and dost loosen us from those fetters which we have forged for ourselves, if we lift not up against Thee the horns of a false liberty,—p. 66 losing all through craving more, by loving more our own private good than Thee, the good of all.
Deut. 6.5, and Matt. 22.37-39.65:251
Ps. 144.9. “St. Augustin (Quæst in Exod. ii. qu. 71) mentions the two modes of dividing the ten commandments into three and seven, or four and six, and gives what appear to have been his own private reasons for preferring the first. Both commonly existed in his day, but the Anglican mode appears to have been the most usual. It occurs in Origen, Greg. Naz., Jerome, Ambrose, Chrys. St. Augustin alludes to his division again, Serm. 8, 9, de x.Chordis, and sec. 33 on this psalm: To the first commandment there belong three strings because God is trine. To the other, i.e., the love of our neighbour, seven strings. These let us join to those three, which belong to the love of God, if we would on the psaltery of ten strings sing a new song.”—E.B.P.65:252
Ps. 27.12, Vulg.65:253
Next: Chapter IX
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