Nicene and Post Nicene-Fathers, Vol. I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Confessions: Chapter XVIII
Chapter XVIII.—Of the Lights and Stars of Heaven—Of Day and Night, Ver. 14.
22. Thus, O Lord, thus, I beseech Thee, let there arise, as Thou makest, as Thou givest joy and ability,—let “truth spring out of the earth, and righteousness look down from heaven,” and let there be “lights in the firmament.” 1294 Let us break our bread to the hungry, and let us bring the houseless poor to our house. 1295 Let us clothe the naked, and despise not those of our own flesh. The which fruits having sprung forth from the earth, behold, because it is good; 1296 and let our temporary light burst forth; 1297 and let us, from this inferior fruit of action, possessing the delights of contemplation and of the Word of Life above, let us appear as lights in the world, 1298 clinging to the firmament of Thy Scripture. For therein Thou makest it plain unto us, that we may distinguish between things intelligible and things of sense, as if between the day and the night; or between souls, given, some to things intellectual, others to things of sense; so that now not Thou only in the secret of Thy judgment, as before the firmament was made, dividest between the light and the darkness, but Thy spiritual children also, placed and ranked in the same firmament (Thy grace being manifest throughout the world), may give light upon the earth, and divide between the day and night, and be for signs of times; because “old things have passed away,” and “behold all things are become new;” 1299 and “because our salvation is nearer than when we believed;” 1300 and because “the night is far spent, the day is at hand;” 1301 and because Thou wilt crown Thy year with blessing, 1302 sending the labourers of Thy goodness into Thy harvest, 1303 in the sowing of which others have laboured, sending also into another field, whose harvest shall be in the end. 1304 Thus Thou grantest the prayers of him that asketh, and blessest the years of the just; 1305 but Thou art the same, and in Thy years which fail not 1306 Thou preparest a garner for our passing years. For by an eternal counsel Thou dost in their proper seasons bestow upon the earth heavenly blessings.
23. For, indeed, to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, as if the greater light, on account of those who are delighted with the light of manifest truth, as in the beginning of the day; but to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit, as if the lesser light; 1307 to another faith; to another the gift of healing; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another the discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues. And all these as stars. For all these worketh the one and self-same Spirit, dividing to every man his own as He willeth; 1308 and making stars appear manifestly, to profit withal. 1309 But the word of knowledge, wherein are contained all sacraments, 1310 which are varied in their periods like the moon, and the other conceptions of gifts, which are successively reckoned up as stars, inasmuch as they come short of that splendour of wisdom in which the fore-mentioned day rejoices, are only for the beginning of the night. For they are necessary to such as he Thy most prudent servant could not speak unto as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal 1311 —even he who speaketh wisdom among those that are perfect. 1312 But the natural man, as a babe in Christ,—and a drinker of milk,—until he be strengthened for solid meat, 1313 and his eye be enabled to look upon p. 198 the Sun, 1314 let him not dwell in his own deserted night, but let him be contented with the light of the moon and the stars. Thou reasonest these things with us, our All-wise God, in Thy Book, Thy firmament, that we may discern all things in an admirable contemplation, although as yet in signs, and in times, and in days, and in years.
2 Cor. 5.17.197:1300
Rom. 13:11, 12.197:1301
Rom. 13:11, 12.197:1302
Compare his De Trin. xii. 22–55, where, referring to 1 Cor. 12.8, he explains that “knowledge” has to do with action, or that by which we use rightly things temporal; while wisdom has to do with the contemplation of things eternal. See also in Ps. cxxxv. sec. 8.197:1308
1 Cor. 12.8-11.197:1309
1 Cor. 12.7.197:1310
1 Cor. 13.2. The Authorized Version and the Vulgate render more correctly, “mysteries.” From Palmer (see p. 118, note 3, above), we learn that “the Fathers gave the name of sacrament or mystery to everything which conveyed one signification or property to unassisted reason, and another to faith;” while, at the same time, they counted Baptism and the Lords Supper as the two great sacraments. The sacraments, then, used in this sense are “varied in their periods,” and Augustin, in Ps. lxxiii. 2, speaks of distinguishing between the sacraments of the Old Testament and the sacraments of the New. “Sacramenta novi Testamenti” he says, “dant salutem, sacramenta veteris Testamenti promiserunt salvatorem.” So also in Ps. xlvi. he says: “Our Lord God varying, indeed, the sacraments of the words, but commending unto us one faith, hath diffused through the sacred Scriptures manifoldly and variously the faith in which we live, and by which we live. For one and the same thing is said in many ways, that it may be varied in the manner of speaking in order to prevent aversion, but may be preserved as one with a view to concord.”197:1311
1 Cor. 3.1.197:1312
1 Cor. 2.6.197:1313
1 Cor. 3.2, and Heb. 5.12. The allusion in our text is to what is called the Disciplina Arcani of the early Church. Clement of Alexandria, in his Stromata, enters at large into the matter of esoteric teaching, and traces its use amongst the Hebrews, Greeks, and Egyptians. Clement, like Chrysostom and other Fathers, supports this principle of interpretation on the authority of St. Paul in Heb. v. and vi., referred to by Augustin above. He says (as quoted by Bishop Kaye, Clement of Alexandria, ch. iv. p. 183): “Babes must be fed with milk, the perfect man with solid food; milk is catechetical instruction, the first nourishment of the soul; solid food, contemplation penetrating into all mysteries (ἡ ἐποπτικὴ θεωρία), the blood and flesh of the Word, the comprehension of the Divine power and essence.” Augustin, therefore, when he speaks of being “contented with the light of the moon and stars,” alludes to the partial knowledge imparted to the catechumen during his probationary period before baptism. It was only as competentes, and ready for baptism, that the catechumens were taught the Lords Prayer and the Creed. We have already adverted to this matter in note 4 on p. 89, and need not now do more than refer the reader to Dr. Newmans Arians. In ch. i. sec. 3 of that work, there are some most interesting pages on this subject, in its connection with the Catechetical School of Alexandria. See also p. 118, note 8, above; Palmer, Origines Liturgicæ, iv. sec. 7: and note 1, below.198:1314
Those ready for strong meat were called “illuminated” (see p. 118, note 4, above), as their eyes were “enabled to look upon the Sun.” We have frequent traces in Augustins writings of the Neo-Platonic doctrine that the soul has a capacity to see God, even as the eye the sun. In Serm. lxxxviii. 6 he says: “Daretne tibi unde videres solem quem fecit, et non tibi daret unde videres eum qui te fecit, cum te ad imaginem suam fecerit?” And, referring to 1 John iii. 2, he tells us in Ep. xcii. 3, that not with the bodily eye shall we see God, but with the inner, which is to be renewed day by day: “We shall, therefore, see Him according to the measure in which we shall be like Him; because now the measure in which we do not see Him is according to the measure of our unlikeness to Him.” Compare also Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, c. 4: “Plato, indeed, says, that the minds eye is of such a nature, and has been given for this end, that we may see that very Being who is the cause of all when the mind is pure itself.” Some interesting remarks on this subject, and on the three degrees of divine knowledge as held by the Neo-Platonists, will be found in John Smiths Select Discourses, pp. 2 and 165 (Cambridge 1860). On growth in grace, see note 4, p. 140, above.
Next: Chapter XIX
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