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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter VII.—That the Holy Spirit Brings Us to God.

8. Hence let him that is able now follow Thy apostle with his understanding where he thus speaks, because Thy love “is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us;” 1182 and where, “concerning spiritual gifts,” he teacheth and showeth unto us a more excellent way of charity; 1183 and where he bows his knees unto Thee for us, that we may know the super-eminent knowledge of the love of Christ. 1184 And, therefore, from the beginning was He super-eminently “borne above the waters.” To whom shall I tell this? How speak of the weight of lustful desires, pressing downwards to the steep abyss? and how charity raises us up again, through Thy Spirit which was “borne over the waters?” To whom shall I tell it? How tell it? For neither are there places in which we are merged and emerge. 1185 What can be more like, and yet more unlike? They be affections, they be loves; the filthiness of our spirit flowing away downwards with the love of cares, and the sanctity of Thine raising us upwards by the love of freedom from care; that we may lift our hearts 1186 unto Thee where Thy Spirit is “borne over the waters;” and that we may come to that pre-eminent rest, when our soul shall have passed through the waters which have no substance. 1187



Rom. 5.5.


1 Cor. 12:1, 31.


Eph. 3.14-19.


“Neque enim loca sunt quibus mergimur et emergimus.”


Watts remarks here: “This sentence was generally in the Church service and communion. Nor is there scarce any one old liturgy but hath it, Sursum corda, Habemus ad Dominum.” Palmer, speaking of the Lord’s Supper, says, in his Origines Liturgicæ., iv. 14, that “Cyprian, in the third century, attested the use of the form, ‘Lift up your hearts,’ and its response, in the liturgy of Africa (Cyprian, De Orat. Dom. p. 152, Opera, ed. Fell). Augustin, at the beginning of the fifth century, speaks of these words as being used in all churches” (Aug. De Vera Relig. iii. ). We find from the same writer, ibid. v. 5, that in several churches this sentence was used in the office of baptism.


“Sine substantia,” the Old Ver. rendering of Ps. cxxiv. 5. The Vulgate gives “aquam intolerabilem.” The Authorized Version, however, correctly renders the Hebrew by “proud waters,” that is, swollen. Augustin, in in Ps. cxxiii. 5, sec. 9, explains the “aqua sine substantia,” as the water of sins; “for,” he says, “sins have not substance; they have weakness, not substance; want, not substance.”

Next: Chapter VIII