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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XVIII.—What Error is Harmless in Sacred Scripture.

27. All which things having been heard and considered, I am unwilling to contend about words, 1132 for that is profitable to nothing but to the subverting of the hearers. 1133 But the law is good to edify, if a man use it lawfully; 1134 for the end of it “is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” 1135 And well did our Master know, upon which two commandments He hung all the Law and p. 183 the Prophets. 1136 And what doth it hinder me, O my God, Thou light of my eyes in secret, while ardently confessing these things,—since by these words many things may be understood, all of which are yet true,—what, I say, doth it hinder me, should I think otherwise of what the writer thought than some other man thinketh? Indeed, all of us who read endeavour to trace out and to understand that which he whom we read wished to convey; and as we believe him to speak truly, we dare not suppose that he has spoken anything which we either know or suppose to be false. Since, therefore, each person endeavours to understand in the Holy Scriptures that which the writer understood, what hurt is it if a man understand what Thou, the light of all true-speaking minds, dost show him to be true although he whom he reads understood not this, seeing that he also understood a Truth, not, however, this Truth?



See p. 164, note 2, above.


2 Tim. 2.14.


1 Tim. 1.8.


1 Tim. 1.5.


Matt. 22.40. For he says in his Con. Faust. xvii. 6, remarking on John 1.17, a text which he often quotes in this connection: “The law itself by being fulfilled becomes grace and truth. Grace is the fulfilment of love.” And so in ibid. xix. 27 we read: “From the words, ‘I came not to destroy the law but to fulfil it,’ we are not to understand that Christ by His precepts filled up what was wanting in the law; but what the literal command failed in doing from the pride and disobedience of men is accomplished by grace.…So, the apostle says, ‘faith worketh by love.’” So, again, we read in Serm. cxxv.: “Quia venit dare caritatem, et caritas perficit legem; merito dixit non veni legem solvere sed implere.” And hence in his letter to Jerome (Ep. clxvii. 19), he speaks of the “royal law” as being “the law of liberty, which is the law of love.” See p. 348, note 4, above.

Next: Chapter XIX

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