Nicene and Post Nicene-Fathers, Vol. I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Confessions: Chapter XXI
Chapter XXI.—What He Found in the Sacred Books Which are Not to Be Found in Plato.
27. Most eagerly, then, did I seize that venerable writing of Thy Spirit, but more especally the Apostle Paul; 567 and those difficulties vanished away, in which he at one time appeared to me to contradict himself, and the text of his discourse not to agree with the testimonies of the Law and the Prophets. And the face of that pure speech appeared to me one and the same; and I learned to “rejoice with trembling.” 568 So I commenced, and found that whatsoever truth I had there read was declared here with the recommendation of Thy grace; that he who sees may not so glory as if he had not received 569 not only that which he sees, but also that he can see (for what hath he which he hath not received?); and that he may not only be admonished to see Thee, who art ever the same, but also may be healed, to hold Thee; and that he who from afar off is not able to see, may still walk on the way by which he may reach, behold, and possess Thee. For though a man “delight in the law of God after the inward man,” 570 what shall he do with that other law in his members which warreth against the law of his mind, and bringeth him into captivity to the law of sin, which is in his members? 571 For Thou art righteous, O Lord, but we have sinned and committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, 572 and Thy hand is grown heavy upon us, and we are justly delivered over unto that ancient sinner, the governor of death; for he induced our will to be like his will, whereby he remained not in Thy truth. What shall “wretched man” do? “Who shall deliver him from the body of this death,” but Thy grace only, “through Jesus Christ our Lord,” 573 whom Thou hast begotten co-eternal, and createdst 574 in the beginp. 115 ning of Thy ways, in whom the Prince of this world found nothing worthy of death, 575 yet killed he Him, and the handwriting which was contrary to us was blotted out? 576 This those writings contain not. Those pages contain not the expression of this piety,—the tears of confession, Thy sacrifice, a troubled spirit, “a broken and a contrite heart,” 577 the salvation of the people, the espoused city, 578 the earnest of the Holy Ghost, 579 the cup of our redemption. 580 No man sings there, Shall not my soul be subject unto God? For of Him cometh my salvation, for He is my God and my salvation, my defender, I shall not be further moved. 581 No one there hears Him calling, “Come unto me all ye that labour.” They scorn to learn of Him, because He is meek and lowly of heart; 582 for “Thou hast hid those things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” 583 For it is one thing, from the mountains wooded summit to see the land of peace, 584 and not to find the way thither,—in vain to attempt impassable ways, opposed and waylaid by fugitives and deserters, under their captain the “lion” 585 and the “dragon;” 586 and another to keep to the way that leads thither, guarded by the host of the heavenly general, where they rob not who have deserted the heavenly army, which they shun as torture. These things did in a wonderful manner sink into my bowels, when I read that “least of Thy apostles,” 587 and had reflected upon Thy works, and feared greatly.
Literally, “The venerable pen of Thy Spirit (Logos); words which would seem to imply a belief on Augustins part in a verbal inspiration of Scripture. That he gave Scripture the highest honour as Gods inspired word is clear not only from this, but other passages in his works. It is equally clear, however, that he gave full recognition to the human element in the word. See De Cons. Evang. ii. 12, where both these aspects are plainly discoverable. Compare also ibid. c. 24.114:568
1 Cor. 4.7.114:570
Song of the Three Children, 4 sq.114:573
Rom. 7:24, 25.114:574
Prov. 8.22, as quoted from the old Italic version. It must not be understood to teach that the Lord is a creature. (1) Augustin, as indeed is implied in the Confessions above, understands the passage of the incarnation of Christ, and in his De Doct. Christ. i. 38, he distinctly so applies it: “For Christ…desiring to be Himself the Way to those who are just setting out, determined to take a fleshly body. Whence also that expression, The Lord created me in the beginning of his Way,—that is, that those who wish to come might begin their journey in Him.” Again, in a remarkable passage in his De Trin. i. 24, he makes a similar application of the words: “According to the form of a servant, it is said, The Lord created me in the beginning of His ways. Because, according to the form of God, he said, I am the Truth; and, according to the form of a servant, I am the Way.” (2) Again, creasti is from the LXX. ἔκτισε, which is that versions rendering in this verse of the Hebrew קָנָנִי. The Vulgate, more correctly translating from the Hebrew, gives possedit, thus corresponding to our English version, “The Lord possessed me,” etc. The LXX. would appear to have made an erroneous rendering here, for κτίζω is generally in that version the equivalent for בָרָא, “to create,” while קָגָה is usually rendered by κτάομαι, “to possess,” “to acquire.” It is true that Gesenius supposes that in a few passages, and Prov. viii. 22 among them, קָנָה should be rendered “to create;” but these very passages our authorized version renders “to get,” or “to possess;” and, as Dr. Tregelles observes, referring to MCall on the Divine Sonship, “in all passages cited for that sense, to possess appears to be the true meaning.”115:575
2 Cor. 5.5.115:580
Ps. 62:1, 2.115:582
Matt. 11:28, 29.115:583
1 Pet. 5.8.115:586
1 Cor. 15.9. In giving an account, remarks Pusey, of this period to his friend and patron Romanianus, St. Augustin seems to have blended together this and the history of his completed conversion, which was also wrought in connection with words in the same apostle, but the account of which he uniformly suppresses, for fear, probably, of injuring the individual to whom he was writing (see on book ix. sec. 4, note, below). “Since that vehement flame which was about to seize me as yet was not, I thought that by which I was slowly kindled was the very greatest. When lo! certain books, when they had distilled a very few drops of most precious unguent on that tiny flame, it is past belief, Romanianus, past belief, and perhaps past what even you believe of me (and what could I say more?), nay, to myself also is it past belief, what a conflagration of myself they lighted. What ambition, what human show, what empty love of fame, or, lastly, what incitement or band of this mortal life could hold me then? I turned speedily and wholly back into myself. I cast but a glance, I confess, as one passing on, upon that religion which was implanted into us as boys, and interwoven with our very inmost selves; but she drew me unknowing to herself. So then, stumbling, hurrying, hesitating, I seized the Apostle Paul; for never, said I, could they have wrought such things, or lived as it is plain they did live, if their writings and arguments were opposed to this so high good. I read the whole most intently and carefully. But then, never so little light having been shed thereon, such a countenance of wisdom gleamed upon me, that if I could exhibit it—I say not to you, who ever hungeredst after her, though unknown—but to your very adversary (see book vi. sec. 24, note, above), casting aside and abandoning whatever now stimulates him so keenly to whatsoever pleasures, he would, amazed, panting, enkindled, fly to her Beauty” (Con. Acad. ii. 5).
Next: Book VIII
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