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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXIII.—That to Have Power Over All Things (Ver. 26) is to Judge Spiritually of All.

33. But that he judgeth all things answers to his having dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowls of the air, and over all cattle and wild beasts, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. For this he doth by the discernment of his mind, whereby he perceiveth the things “of the Spirit of God;” 1379 whereas, otherwise, man being placed in honour, had no understanding, and is compared unto the brute beasts, and is become like unto them. 1380 In Thy Church, therefore, O our God, according to Thy grace which Thou hast accorded unto it, since we are Thy workmanship created in good works, 1381 there are not only those who are spiritually set over, but those also who are spiritually subjected to those placed over them; for in this manner hast Thou made man, male and female, 1382 in Thy grace spiritual, where, according to the sex of body, there is not male and female, because neither Jew nor Greek, nor bond nor free. 1383 Spiritual persons, therefore, whether those that are set over, or those who obey, judge spiritually; not of that spiritual knowledge which shines in the firmament, for they ought not to judge as to an authority so sublime, nor doth it behove them to judge of Thy Book itself, although there be something that is not clear therein; because we submit our understanding unto it, and esteem as certain that even that which is shut up from our sight is rightly and truly spoken. 1384 For thus man, although now spiritual and renewed in the knowledge of God after His image that created him, ought yet to be the “doer of the law, not the judge.” 1385 Neither doth he judge of that distinction of spiritual and carnal men, who are known to Thine eyes, O our God, and have not as yet made themselves manifest unto us by works, that by their fruits we may know them; 1386 but Thou, O Lord, dost already know them, and Thou hast divided and hast called them in secret, before the firmament was made. Nor doth that man, though spiritual, judge the restless people of this world; for what hath he to do to judge them that are without, 1387 knowing not which of them may afterwards come into the sweetness of Thy grace, and which continue in the perpetual bitterness of impiety?

34. Man, therefore, whom Thou hast made after Thine own image, received not dominion over the lights of heaven, nor over the hidden heaven itself, nor over the day and the night, which Thou didst call before the foundation of the heaven, nor over the gathering together of the waters, which is the sea; but he received dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and over all cattle, and over all the earth, and over all creeping things which creep upon the earth. For He judgeth and approveth what He findeth right, but disapproveth what He findeth amiss, whether in the celebration of those sacraments by which are p. 202 initiated those whom Thy mercy searches out in many waters; or in that in which the Fish 1388 Itself is exhibited, which, being raised from the deep, the devout earth feedeth upon; or in the signs and expressions of words, subject to the authority of Thy Book,—such signs as burst forth and sound from the mouth, as it were flying under the firmament, by interpreting, expounding, discoursing, disputing, blessing, calling upon Thee, so that the people may answer, Amen. The vocal pronunciation of all which words is caused by the deep of this world, and the blindness of the flesh, by which thoughts cannot be seen, so that it is necessary to speak aloud in the ears; thus, although flying fowls be multiplied upon the earth, yet they derive their beginning from the waters. The spiritual man judgeth also by approving what is right and reproving what he finds amiss in the works and morals of the faithful, in their alms, as if in “the earth bringing forth fruit;” and he judgeth of the “living soul,” rendered living by softened affections, in chastity, in fastings, in pious thoughts; and of those things which are perceived through the senses of the body. For it is now said, that he should judge concerning those things in which he has also the power of correction.



1 Cor. 2.14.


Ps. 49.20.


Eph. 2.10.


Gen. 1.27.


Gal. 3.28.


In his De Civ. Dei, xi. 3, he defines very distinctly (as he does in other of his writings) the knowledge received “by sight”—that is, by experience, as distinguished from that which is received “by faith”—that is, by revelation (2 Cor. 5.7). He, in common with all the Fathers who had knowledge of the Pagan philosophy, would feel how utterly that philosophy had failed to “find out” (Job 11.7) with certitude anything as to God and His character,—the Creation of the world,—the Atonement wrought by Christ,—the doctrine of the Resurrection, as distinguished from the Immortality of the Soul,—our Immortal Destiny after death, or “the Restitution of all things.” As to the knowledge of God, see Justin Martyr’s experience in the schools of philosophy, Dialogue with Trypho, ch. ii.; and on the doctrine of Creation, see p. 165, note 4. On the “Restitution of all things,” etc., reference may be made to Mansel’s Gnostics, who points out (Introd. p. 3) that “in the Greek philosophical systems the idea of evil holds a very subordinate and insignificant place, and that the idea of redemption seems not to be recognised at all.” He shows further (ibid. p. 4), that “there is no idea of the delivery of the creature from the bondage of corruption. The great year of the Stoics, the commencement of the new cycle which takes its place after the destruction of the old world, is but a repetition of the old evil.” See also p. 164, note 2, above.


Jas. 4.11.


Matt. 8.20.


1 Cor. 5.12.


See sec. 29, note.

Next: Chapter XXIV

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