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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III:
Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin: Chapter 2

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 2.—God, Although Incomprehensible, is Ever to Be Sought. The Traces of the Trinity are Not Vainly Sought in the Creature.

2. For God Himself, whom we seek, will, as I hope, help our labors, that they may not be unfruitful, and that we may understand how it is said in the holy Psalm, “Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. Seek the Lord, and be strengthened: seek His face evermore.” 938 For that which is always being sought seems as though it were never found; and how then will the heart of them that seek rejoice, and not rather be made sad, if they cannot find what they seek? For it is not said, The heart shall rejoice of them that find, but of them that seek, the Lord. And yet the prophet Isaiah testifies, that the Lord God can be found when He is sought, when he says: “Seek ye the Lord; and as soon as ye have found Him, call upon Him: and when He has drawn near to you, let the wicked man forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” 939 If, then, when sought, He can be found, why is it said, “Seek ye His face evermore?” Is He perhaps to be sought even when found? For things incomprehensible must so be investigated, as that no one may think he has found nothing, when he has been able to find how incomprehensible that is which he was seeking. Why then does he so seek, if he comprehends that which he seeks to be incomprehensible, unless because he may not give over seeking so long as he makes progress in the inquiry itself into things p. 200 incomprehensible, and becomes ever better and better while seeking so great a good, which is both sought in order to be found, and found in order to be sought? For it is both sought in order that it may be found more sweetly, and found in order that it may be sought more eagerly. The words of Wisdom in the book of Ecclesiasticus may be taken in this meaning: “They who eat me shall still be hungry, and they who drink me shall still be thirsty.” 940 For they eat and drink because they find; and they still continue seeking because they are hungry and thirst. Faith seeks, understanding finds; whence the prophet says, “Unless ye believe, ye shall not understand.” 941 And yet, again, understanding still seeks Him, whom it finds; for “God looked down upon the sons of men,” as it is sung in the holy Psalm, “to see if there were any that would understand, and seek after God.” 942 And man, therefore, ought for this purpose to have understanding, that he may seek after God.

3. We shall have tarried then long enough among those things that God has made, in order that by them He Himself may be known that made them. “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” 943 And hence they are rebuked in the book of Wisdom, “who could not out of the good things that are seen know Him that is: neither by considering the works did they acknowledge the workmaster; but deemed either fire, or wind, or the swift air or the circle of the stars, or the violent water, or the lights of heaven, to be the gods which govern the world: with whose beauty if they, being delighted, took them to be gods, let them know how much better the Lord of them is; for the first Author of beauty hath created them. But if they were astonished at their power and virtue, let them understand by them how much mightier He is that made them. For by the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionably the Maker of them is seen.” 944 I have quoted these words from the book of Wisdom for this reason, that no one of the faithful may think me vainly and emptily to have sought first in the creature, step by step through certain trinities, each of their own appropriate kind, until I came at last to the mind of man, traces of that highest Trinity which we seek when we seek God.



Ps. 105:3, 4Ps. 5:3, 4


Isa. 55:6, 7Isa. 55:6, 7


Ecclus. 24.29Ecclus. xxiv. 29


Isa. 7.9Isa. vii. 9


Ps. 14.2Ps. xiv. 2


Rom. 1.20Rom. i. 20


Wisdom 13.1-5Wisd. xiii. 1-5

Next: Chapter 3

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