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Nicene and Post Nicene-Fathers, Vol. I:
The Confessions: Chapter XX

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. 199

Chapter XX.—Concerning Reptiles and Flying Creatures (Ver. 20),—The Sacrament of Baptism Being Regarded.

26. Let the sea also conceive and bring forth your works, and let the waters bring forth the moving creatures that have life. 1338 For ye, who “take forth the precious from the vile,” 1339 have been made the mouth of God, through which He saith, “Let the waters bring forth,” not the living creature which the earth bringeth forth, but the moving creature having life, and the fowls that fly above the earth. For Thy sacraments, O God, by the ministry of Thy holy ones, have made their way amid the billows of the temptations of the world, to instruct the Gentiles in Thy Name, in Thy Baptism. And amongst these things, many great works of wonder have been wrought, like as great whales; and the voices of Thy messengers flying above the earth, near to the firmament of Thy Book; that being set over them as an authority, under which they were to fly whithersoever they were to go. For “there is no speech, nor language, where their voice is not heard;” seeing their sound 1340 “hath gone through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world,” because Thou, O Lord, hast multiplied these things by blessing. 1341

27. Whether do I lie, or do I mingle and confound, and not distinguish between the clear knowledge of these things that are in the firmament of heaven, and the corporeal works in the undulating sea and under the firmament of heaven? For of those things whereof the knowledge is solid and defined, without increase by generation, as it were lights of wisdom and knowledge, yet of these self-same things the material operations are many and varied; and one thing in growing from another is multiplied by Thy blessing, O God, who hast refreshed the fastidiousness of mortal senses; so that in the knowledge of our mind, one thing may, through the motions of the body, be in many ways 1342 set out and expressed. These sacraments have the waters brought forth; 1343 but in Thy Word. The wants of the people estranged from the eternity of Thy truth have produced them, but in Thy Gospel; because the waters themselves have cast them forth, the bitter weakness of which was the cause of these things being sent forth in Thy Word.

28. Now all things are fair that Thou hast made, but behold, Thou art inexpressibly fairer who hast made all things; from whom had not Adam fallen, the saltness of the sea would never have flowed from him,—the human race so profoundly curious, and boisterously swelling, and restlessly moving; and thus there would be no need that Thy dispensers should work in many waters, 1344 in a corporeal and sensible manner, mysterious doings and sayings. For so these creeping and flying creatures now present themselves to my mind, whereby men, instructed, initiated, and subjected by corporeal sacraments, should not further profit, unless their soul had a higher spiritual life, and unless, after the word of admission, it looked forwards to perfection. 1345



Gen. 1.20.


Jer. 15.19.


Ps. 19:3, 4. The word “sound” in this verse (as given in the LXX. and Vulg.), is in the Hebrew קַוָּם, which is rightly rendered in the Authorized Version a “line” or “rule.” It may be noted, in connection with Augustin’s interpretation, that the word “firmament” in the first verse of this psalm is the רָקִיעַ of Gen. 1.7; translated in both places by the LXX. στερέωμα. The “heavens” and the “firmament” are constantly interpreted by the Fathers as referring to the apostles and their firmness in teaching the word: and this is supported by reference to St. Paul’s quotation of the text in Rom. 10.18: “But I say, Have they not heard? Yes, verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.”


Gen. 1.4.


See end of note 17, p. 197, above.


“He alludes to Baptism in water, accompanied with the word of the gospel; of the institution whereof man’s misery was the occasion.”—W. W.


See sec. 20, note, above.


“He means that Baptism, which is the sacrament of initiation, was not so profitable without the Lord’s Supper, which ancients called the sacrament of perfection or consummation.”—W. W. Compare also sec. 24, note, and p. 140, note 3, above.

Next: Chapter XXI

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