Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin: Chapter 3
Chapter 3.—Of the Same Argument.
Let us take, then, the case of a wise man, such that his rational soul is already partaker of the unchangeable and eternal truth, so that he consults it about all his actions, nor does anything at all, which he does not by it know ought to be done, in order that by being subject to it and obeying it he may do rightly. Suppose now that this man, upon counsel with the highest reason of the divine righteousness, which he hears with the ear of his heart in secret, and by its bidding, should weary his body by toil in some office of mercy, and should contract an illness; and upon consulting the physicians, were to be told by one that the cause of the disease was overmuch dryness of the body, but by another that it was overmuch moisture; one of the two no doubt would allege the true cause and the other would err, but both would pronounce concerning proximate causes only, that is, corporeal ones. But if the cause of that dryness were to be inquired into, and found to be the self-imposed toil, then we should have come to a yet higher cause, which proceeds from the soul so as to affect the body which the soul governs. Yet neither would this be the first cause, for that doubtless was a higher cause still, and lay in the unchangeable wisdom itself, by serving which in love, and by obeying its ineffable commands, the soul of the wise man had undertaken that self-imposed toil; and so nothing else but the will of God would be found most truly to be the first cause of that illness. But suppose now in that office of pious toil this wise man had employed the help of others to co-operate in the good work, who did not serve God with the same will as himself, but either desired to attain the reward of their own carnal desires, or shunned merely carnal unpleasantnesses;—suppose, too, he had employed beasts of burden, if the completion of the work required such a provision, which beasts of burden would be certainly irrational animals, and would not therefore move their limbs under their burdens because they at all thought of that good work, but from the natural appetite of their own liking, and for the avoiding of annoyance;—suppose, lastly, he had employed bodily things themselves that lack all sense, but were necessary for that work, as e.g. corn, and wine, and oils, clothes, or money, or a book, or anything of the kind;—certainly, in all these bodily things thus employed in this work, whether animate or inanimate, whatever took place of movement, of wear and tear, of reparation, of destruction, of renewal or of change in one way or another, as places and times affected them; pray, could there be, I say, any other cause of all these visible and changeable facts, except the invisible and unchangeable will of God, using all these, both bad and irrational souls, and lastly bodies, whether such as were inspired and animated by those souls, or such as lacked all sense, by means of that upright soul as the seat of His wisdom, since primarily that good and holy soul itself employed them, which His wisdom had subjected to itself in a pious and religious obedience?
Next: Chapter 4
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