Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
City of God: Chapter 9
Chapter 9.—Of the Perturbations of the Soul Which Appear as Right Affections in the Life of the Righteous.
But so far as regards this question of mental perturbations, we have answered these philosophers in the ninth book 687 of this work, showing that it is rather a verbal than a real dispute, and that they seek contention rather than truth. Among ourselves, according to the sacred Scriptures and sound doctrine, the citizens of the holy city of God, who live according to God in the pilgrimage of this life, both fear and desire, and grieve and rejoice. And because their love is rightly placed, all these affections of theirs are right. They fear eternal punishment, they desire eternal life; they grieve because they themselves groan within themselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of their body; 688 they rejoice in hope, because there “shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is p. 269 swallowed up in victory.” 689 In like manner they fear to sin, they desire to persevere; they grieve in sin, they rejoice in good works. They fear to sin, because they hear that “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” 690 They desire to persevere, because they hear that it is written, “He that endureth to the end shall be saved.” 691 They grieve for sin, hearing that “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 692 They rejoice in good works, because they hear that “the Lord loveth a cheerful giver.” 693 In like manner, according as they are strong or weak, they fear or desire to be tempted, grieve or rejoice in temptation. They fear to be tempted, because they hear the injunction, “If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” 694 They desire to be tempted, because they hear one of the heroes of the city of God saying, “Examine me, O Lord, and tempt me: try my reins and my heart.” 695 They grieve in temptations, because they see Peter weeping; 696 they rejoice in temptations, because they hear James saying, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” 697
And not only on their own account do they experience these emotions, but also on account of those whose deliverance they desire and whose perdition they fear, and whose loss or salvation affects them with grief or with joy. For if we who have come into the Church from among the Gentiles may suitably instance that noble and mighty hero who glories in his infirmities, the teacher (doctor) of the nations in faith and truth, who also labored more than all his fellow-apostles, and instructed the tribes of Gods people by his epistles, which edified not only those of his own time, but all those who were to be gathered in,—that hero, I say, and athlete of Christ, instructed by Him, anointed of His Spirit, crucified with Him, glorious in Him, lawfully maintaining a great conflict on the theatre of this world, and being made a spectacle to angels and men, 698 and pressing onwards for the prize of his high calling, 699 —very joyfully do we with the eyes of faith behold him rejoicing with them that rejoice, and weeping with them that weep; 700 though hampered by fightings without and fears within; 701 desiring to depart and to be with Christ; 702 longing to see the Romans, that he might have some fruit among them as among other Gentiles; 703 being jealous over the Corinthians, and fearing in that jealousy lest their minds should be corrupted from the chastity that is in Christ; 704 having great heaviness and continual sorrow of heart for the Israelites, 705 because they, being ignorant of Gods righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God; 706 and expressing not only his sorrow, but bitter lamentation over some who had formally sinned and had not repented of their uncleanness and fornications. 707
If these emotions and affections, arising as they do from the love of what is good and from a holy charity, are to be called vices, then let us allow these emotions which are truly vices to pass under the name of virtues. But since these affections, when they are exercised in a becoming way, follow the guidance of right reason, who will dare to say that they are diseases or vicious passions? Wherefore even the Lord Himself, when He condescended to lead a human life in the form of a slave, had no sin whatever, and yet exercised these emotions where He judged they should be exercised. For as there was in Him a true human body and a true human soul, so was there also a true human emotion. When, therefore, we read in the Gospel that the hard-heartedness of the Jews moved Him to sorrowful indignation, 708 that He said, “I am glad for your sakes, to the intent ye may believe,” 709 that when about to raise Lazarus He even shed tears, 710 that He earnestly desired to eat the passover with His disciples, 711 that as His passion drew near His soul was sorrowful, 712 these emotions are certainly not falsely ascribed to Him. But as He became man when it pleased Him, so, in the grace of His definite purpose, when it pleased Him He experienced those emotions in His human soul.
But we must further make the admission, that even when these affections are well regulated, and according to Gods will, they are peculiar to this life, not to that future life we look for, and that often we yield to them against our will. And thus sometimes we weep in spite of ourselves, being carried beyond ourselves, not indeed by culpable desire; but by praiseworthy charity. In us, therefore, these affections arise from human infirmity; but it was not so with the Lord Jesus, for even His infirmity was the consequence of His power. But so long as we wear the infirmity of this life, we are rather worse men p. 270 than better if we have none of these emotions at all. For the apostle vituperated and abominated some who, as he said, were “without natural affection.” 713 The sacred Psalmist also found fault with those of whom he said, “I looked for some to lament with me, and there was none.” 714 For to be quite free from pain while we are in this place of misery is only purchased, as one of this worlds literati perceived and remarked, 715 at the price of blunted sensibilities both of mind and body. And therefore that which the Greeks call ἀπαθεια, and what the Latins would call, if their language would allow them, “impassibilitas,” if it be taken to mean an impassibility of spirit and not of body, or, in other words, a freedom from those emotions which are contrary to reason and disturb the mind, then it is obviously a good and most desirable quality, but it is not one which is attainable in this life. For the words of the apostle are the confession, not of the common herd, but of the eminently pious, just, and holy men: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 716 When there shall be no sin in a man, then there shall be this απάθεια. At present it is enough if we live without crime; and he who thinks he lives without sin puts aside not sin, but pardon. And if that is to be called apathy, where the mind is the subject of no emotion, then who would not consider this insensibility to be worse than all vices? It may, indeed, reasonably be maintained that the perfect blessedness we hope for shall be free from all sting of fear or sadness; but who that is not quite lost to truth would say that neither love nor joy shall be experienced there? But if by apathy a condition be meant in which no fear terrifies nor any pain annoys, we must in this life renounce such a state if we would live according to Gods will, but may hope to enjoy it in that blessedness which is promised as our eternal condition.
For that fear of which the Apostle John says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love,” 717 —that fear is not of the same kind as the Apostle Paul felt lest the Corinthians should be seduced by the subtlety of the serpent; for love is susceptible of this fear, yea, love alone is capable of it. But the fear which is not in love is of that kind of which Paul himself says, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear.” 718 But as for that “clean fear which endureth for ever,” 719 if it is to exist in the world to come (and how else can it be said to endure for ever?), it is not a fear deterring us from evil which may happen, but preserving us in the good which cannot be lost. For where the love of acquired good is unchangeable, there certainly the fear that avoids evil is, if I may say so, free from anxiety. For under the name of “clean fear” David signifies that will by which we shall necessarily shrink from sin, and guard against it, not with the anxiety of weakness, which fears that we may strongly sin, but with the tranquillity of perfect love. Or if no kind of fear at all shall exist in that most imperturbable security of perpetual and blissful delights, then the expression, “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever,” must be taken in the same sense as that other, “The patience of the poor shall not perish for ever.” 720 For patience, which is necessary only where ills are to be borne, shall not be eternal, but that which patience leads us to will be eternal. So perhaps this “clean fear” is said to endure for ever, because that to which fear leads shall endure.
And since this is so,—since we must live a good life in order to attain to a blessed life, a good life has all these affections right, a bad life has them wrong. But in the blessed life eternal there will be love and joy, not only right, but also assured; but fear and grief there will be none. Whence it already appears in some sort what manner of persons the citizens of the city of God must be in this their pilgrimage, who live after the spirit, not after the flesh,—that is to say, according to God, not according to man,—and what manner of persons they shall be also in that immortality whither they are journeying. And the city or society of the wicked, who live not according to God, but according to man, and who accept the doctrines of men or devils in the worship of a false and contempt of the true divinity, is shaken with those wicked emotions as by diseases and disturbances. And if there be some of its citizens who seem to restrain and, as it were, temper those passions, they are so elated with ungodly pride, that their disease is as much greater as their pain is less. And if some, with a vanity monstrous in proportion to its rarity, have become enamored of themselves because they can be stimulated and excited by no emotion, moved or bent by no affection, such persons rather lose all humanity than obtain true tranquillity. For p. 271 a thing is not necessarily right because it is inflexible, nor healthy because it is insensible.
C. 4, 5.268:688
1 Cor. 15.54.269:690
1 John 1.8.269:693
2 Cor. 9.7.269:694
1 Cor. 4.9.269:699
2 Cor. 7.5.269:702
1 Cor. 11.1-3.269:705
2 Cor. 12.21.269:708
Crantor, an Academic philosopher quoted by Cicero, Tusc Quæst. iii. 6.270:716
1 John 1.8.270:717
1 John 4.18.270:718
Next: Chapter 10
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